It shouldn’t have taken me this long to dine at Cassia considering my enthusiasm for Vietnamese foodways and Chef Bryant Ng’s talent, but alas, here we are two-plus years post-opening and I’m just getting to it.
Cassia, which is named after the Vietnamese cinnamon tree, opened in the summer of 2015. Previously, Chef Ng owned and operated the now-closed Spice Table in Little Tokyo (see: lunch, brunch, dinner).
We left the ordering up to Diep—she has the meanest palate around and this was her second visit to the restaurant. She selected a parade of dishes—a bit of this and a bit of that from each of the menu’s various sections.
From the “Chilled Seafood Bar,” we delighted in the Vietnamese “Sunbathing” Prawns ($24), head- and tail-on shrimp brushed in a spicy sauce that stained our fingers.
Next up from the “Clay Oven Breads and Spreads” portion of the menu was a soulful bowlful of Koda Farms Chickpea Curry ($19) served with a simple flatbread and fresh herbs.
Moving on to the menu’s heartier dishes, we shared the Grilled Pig’s Tail ($19). The tender and caramelized tail meat was pulled from the bone table-side and served with Bibb lettuce, herbs, and a fish sauce vinaigrette for wrapping, garnishing, and dipping, respectively.
Diep’s favorite dish from her previous visit was the Whole Grilled Sea Bass ($42), turmeric-kissed, crispy-skinned, and blanketed with fresh herbs including dill, cilantro, and mint.
On the virtuous vegetable front were wok-tossed long beans with avocado, preserved turnips, ginger, and chile oil ($12). The “breath of the wok” left an unbeatable flavor, while the combination of long beans and avocado was deliciously different. Thank you for insisting that we order a vegetable, Minh!
Rounding out the spread was a duo of carbohydrates. The Singaporean Kon Loh Mee ($20), stir-fried egg noodles with Chinese broccoli, ground pork, and pork belly char siu, left our lips properly glistening and our bellies completely satisfied.
The Charcuterie Fried Rice ($18) with Chinese sausage (lap cheong), salted pork, salted fish, and lettuce was solid too. I can’t say I’ve ever met a fried rice that I didn’t like.
The final savory dish of the night was the Vietnamese Pot Au Feau ($46), a tremendous claypot brimming with short ribs, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, and bone marrow. Served alongside was grilled bread, a Bird’s Eye chile sauce, walnut-mustard, and pickled onions.
While the marrow slathered on toast was certainly something, the best part of the dish had to be the soul-warming soup that we savored while we sipped.
To close out dinner, we shared the Vietnamese Coffee Pudding ($12) with dainty dark chocolate cookies served on the side.
Dinner at Cassia was a joy from start to finish. I loved how Vietnamese flavors played alongside French, Singaporean, and Chinese ones in both familiar and unexpected ways. I’ll be back again before long.
1314 7th Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401
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