Creative, Cool Cassia…

Escargot
Chopped Escargot with Clay Oven Bread

Santa Monica is popping out new restaurants at the same pace as overpriced rental apartments, making room for all the young trustafarians who are flocking to the overpopulated city by the sea.

Ox & Son, Aestus, Cadet, Belcampo Meat Company, SMYC and now, Cassia, have all emerged over the past year.

Cassia
Cassia

Cassia, located on 7th Street between Arizona and Santa Monica, in an art deco building from the 1930’s, was on my foodie bucket list as I had enjoyed their former downtown Vietnamese restaurant, Spice Table. 

Bryan Ng  photo:laweekly.com
Bryant Ng photo:laweekly.com

Cassia is a partnership between husband-and-wife duo, Bryant & Kim Ng and Josh Loeb & Zoe Nathan whose Santa Monica restaurants include Rustic Canyon, Milo & Olive, Sweet Rose Creamery and Huckleberry.

Taking its roots from Bryant and Kim’s culinary heritage and experiences, Cassia celebrates the fresh, vibrant flavors of Southeast Asia with the best quality ingredients from local farmers.

Cassia Bar
Cassia Bar

We tried for a spur of the moment reservation on a Friday night, but 10pm was the earliest. We decided to wing it because Cassia has an ample bar area.

Cassia Dining Room  photo:laeater.com
Cassia Dining Room photo:laeater.com

Parking was a cinch. We found a spot directly across the street. Casia, designed by Montalba Architects, is modern minimal…in other words, my style and very attractive.

Cassia Raw Bar
Cassia Raw Bar

There is a large open dining area, a raw bar and a counter for dining in the back by the clay oven.

Cassia Patio
Cassia Patio

If we wanted to dine outside it was wide open. On a balmy, humid-free evening in LA, who wouldn’t want to dine under the stars.

In fact, the few people outside were cold and requested the heat lamps turned to high…west coast weenies. I was melting and asked for a turn down.

The wine list is eclectic and reasonably priced. Kathryn Coker, who’s also building the nearby Esters wine bar concept on the other side of the ground floor, helms the wine program at Cassia.

I was interested in tasting the full bodied, well priced Portuguese red. In actuality, Portugal needs more financial support than Greece so who am I to deny aid to a lovely country in need.

The Delaforce La Colheita 2011 was wonderful and only $30/bottle.

Oysters
Oysters

We decided to study the menu and requested Oysters to get us started. They were delectable, sweet and not briny. The Black Duck Salts from Virginia were exceptional (1/2 dozen $19).

We finally got down to the relevant issue at hand…ordering.

Escargot
Escargot

Our daughter and her friend, Kim, had beaten us to the punch and had dined at Cassia while we were in NYC. She highly recommended the Chopped Escargot served with clay oven bread and lemongrass butter ($18). It was A-mazing…seriously.

Fried Cauliflower with Fish Sauce
Fried Cauliflower with Fish Sauce

Courtny had also suggested Fried Cauliflower with fish sauce and again, another home run ($10).

Cucumber Salad
Cucumber Salad

We decided to skip the larger main courses (black cod, whole grilled sea bass, grilled lobster, whole Singapore white pepper crab) and ordered the delightful Cucumber Salad with mizuna, grilled avocado, charred tomatoes and clay oven bread croutons ($14).

Charcuterie Fried Rice
Charcuterie Fried Rice

When Cassia is good, it’s very, very good and when it’s bad it is very mediocre as was the dry and uninspired Charcuterie Fried Rice consisting of Chinese bacon, lap cheong, salted fish and lettuce ($16).

Scallion Mushroom Mee
Scallion Mushroom Mee

The Scallion-Mushroom Mee with wheat noodles, mushroom ragout and scallions was also a disappointment even though the server said it was her favorite dish. The ingredients resonated, but after one bite, we passed ($15).

Wok-Tossed Sugar Snap Peas
Wok-Tossed Sugar Snap Peas

The Wok-Tossed Sugar Snap Peas were outrageous with pea tendrils, preserved turnips and coconut ($9).

Vietnamese Pot Au Feu
Vietnamese Pot Au Feu

I would definitely make a return visit for the escargot and cauliflower…they were that good. Also, the Vietnamese Pot Au Feu looked fabulous with short rib stew, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, bone marrow, grilled bread and bird’s eye chile sauce ($28).

Other meat and poultry dishes included grilled pig’s feet tail, grilled flattened half chicken and grilled Creekstone Farms steak and frites.

Cassia is definitely worth a visit…just order discerningly.

Cassia 1314 7th Street Santa Monica, California. Open Tuesday-Saturday: 5:00pm-11pm, Sunday: 5:00pm-10pm, Closed on Monday. Ample street parking. Reservations on OpenTable.com.

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