Date Night at Cassia

If you live in west LA, then you’ve definitely experienced at least one of the eateries associated with the Rustic Canyon Family of Restaurants. Huckleberry Cafe, Milo & Olive, Rustic Canyon, Sweet Rose Creamery, Esters Wine Bar and of course, Cassia. The restaurant has been open for some time now, but still maintains it’s superior quality.

Cassia was born from a partnership between two husband and wife duos, Bryant & Kim Ng and Josh Loeb & Zoe Nathan. The cuisine of Cassia focuses on the heritage of the Ng’s and incorporates the complex flavors of Southeast Asia. The words that come to mind when describing the feelings the food imparts – comforting, elevated, and imaginative.

C and I had the chance to sample Cassia’s pan roast at the LA Weekly’s The Essentials food festival and were instantly sold on checking the place out. C booked a table and there we were having a quiet Sunday night dinner before resuming our hectic work schedules for the week. I cant think of a better way to spend Sunday nights (aside from watching The Walking Dead, of course). I had been to Ester’s Wine Bar, located just across the hall, and love the clean modern decor of both venues. The detail of the honeycomb tile which lined the seafood bar, cherry blossom lanterns on the patio, and accents of asian flare shows that not only was the cuisine distinct in taste, but also the decor.

Bar

We opted to share a small seafood platter between the two of us and it was just the right amount. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Raw spicy scallops, English peas, dried shrimp, ham, mint, chili oil

Raw Spicy Scallops

Vietnamese Sunbathing Prawns, Fresno Chilis, Garlic, Vietnamese hot sauce

Sunbathing Prawns

Snow Crab Claws, Charred Tomato & Almond sauce, Asian basil, grilled country bread

Snow Crab Claws

Smoked salmon dip, pickled shallots, horseradish, grilled country bread

Smoked Salmon Dip

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As part of the small seafood platter, you also get a half-dozen of the daily selection of oysters. The three varieties being offered that night were:

  • Minterbrook from Henderson Inlet, WA
  • Kusshi from British Columbia, Canada
  • Shibumi from Henderson Inlet, WA

Shucked clean and served cold. Just the way they should be. Paired with a chilled glass of Gruner Veltliner and I was in heaven. I should have been wearing a sign that read “Not listening – Eating oysters”. I had to admit, dinner conversation had to take a pause once the food began to arrive.

When I saw jellyfish as an option on the menu, I knew I had to order it. I immediately had nostalgic memories of attending Chinese wedding banquets as a child and picking at the noodles of jellyfish from the cold appetizer platter. The unique texture may be an acquired taste for some, but it gave this salad a mouth feel that you’d never get from just adding chicken or steak.

Jellyfish salad, shredded organic chicken, crispy rice, green-leaf, sesame bacon dressing

Jellyfish Salad

After my first taste of Oyster Bar’s seafood pan roast, I was hooked! Waiting two hours in an old hotel in Las Vegas just to chow down on a bowl of the stuff. We’ve searched all over LA for a local spot whose pan roast comes close to the delicious bowl of goodness. Cassia offers itself up as a tough competitor. Although the flavors are very different, I think I may have found a new comforting addiction for cold nights. A warm bowl that soothes the soul. A variation I’d highly recommend, if you can handle spice, is to add some chili oil to kick it up a notch.

Crab and oyster pan roast, coconut milk, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf, oyster cracker

Crab Oyster Pan Roast

There definitely were a few more dishes we were eyeing but received confirmation from our waiter what had ordered a sufficient amount for two people. I guess we’ll have to make another trip out in the near future. Two additional dishes that caught my attention were –

  • Vietnamese Pot Au Feu – Creekstone farm short rib stew, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, bone marrow, grilled bread, bird’s eye chili sauce, walnut-mustard
  • Beef Rendang – Beef Cheek Curry, Jasmine rice, sambal, kaffir lime, peanuts

No proper meal is complete without a few libations. I had some wine (as usual) but C was a bit more adventurous and tested out a few specialty drinks from their cocktail menu.

Smoked Cocktail – Scotch, Cassia infused cardamaro, bitters, apple wood smoke

Smoked Cocktail

Cassia Martini – Gin, Imbue Vermouth, Blanc Vermouth, lemongrass tincture, orange bitters, smoked quail egg

Cassia Martini

It’s the perfect spot for this strange LA weather transition from summer to fall. Grab a few al fresco drinks on the patio at Esthers next door while you wait for your table. Then as the beachside weather starts to cool, warm yourself up with something toasty at your soon to be new favorite spot.

Cassia
1314 7th Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 393-6699
http://www.cassiala.com

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