1314 7th Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401
By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief
A restaurant that has sat on my list of places to try for a long time has been Cassia. I’ve heard glowing reviews from friends and co-workers, so with Safer at Home orders in place, what better time than now to grab a to-go meal and see what Cassia has to offer?
Cassia is a member of the Rustic Canyon Family of restaurants and a partnership between husband-and-wife duos Bryant and Kim Ng and Zoe Nathan and Josh Loeb, who has ties to Rustic Canyon in the Palisades. The family of restaurants also includes Tallula’s, Sweet Rose Creamery and Birdie G’s.
The restaurant takes roots from the Ngs’ culinary heritage and experiences, according to its website. It “celebrates the fresh, vibrant flavors of Southeast Asia, striking a unique balance of soulful, ancestral cuisine and a California sensibility, utilizing the best quality of ingredients from local farmers.”
When deciding what to do to get through the pandemic, Chef Bryant shared an interesting perspective.
“From my point-of-view, the main reason to stay open during this pandemic is so that we can continue to provide healthcare for our employees,” he said to the Palisadian-Post. “Believe it or not, it’s a rarity in the restaurant business to provide healthcare for employees, something that in many other industries is standard and taken for granted.”
He said that when deciding whether or not to stay open during COVID-19, the driving force was how to continue to provide healthcare for Cassia’s employees, especially during a viral pandemic.
“There’s a small group of us here at Cassia, mainly our managers and few other employees, who are literally working just so we can provide healthcare for all the others,” Bryant said. “It’s the right thing to do.”
In order to make picking up orders extra easy, Cassia has two meters designated in front of the restaurant, so restaurant-goers do not have to get out of their cars when picking up dinner. Meals can be passed through the window or placed into the trunk—whatever diners feel more comfortable with. All employees are wearing masks the entire time and practicing social distancing within the restaurant.
We kicked off our dining-at-home experience with Fried Cauliflower, which is served with a side of fish sauce. Each plump chunk of cauliflower came expertly coated with a thick, crispy casing. What could have been too heavy of a dish was helped by pairing dense bites with the fish sauce, which varied up the flavor.
Next up was Spicy Wontons—cod, shrimp, country ham, Napa cabbage, roasted chili oil. The wontons had a nice texture, filled to the brim with the meat and vegetable combination. Again, the sauce matched the dish well, and the chili oil rounded out the bite nicely. Although those who skip spicy dishes should not be too wary when ordering this dish, as I found them to be relatively mild and not overly spiced.
For our Rice & Noodles portion of the meal, we began by diving into a bowl of Laksa, a spicy coconut-seafood soup with rice noodles. I could see why this is one of Cassia’s most popular dishes.
The broth was thick, rich and creamy, but not overly heavy when cut with the coconut flavor. The noodles were chewy in a good way and filled the soup out nicely. The bowl comes topped with one half of an egg, which was a nice variation on the texture, as well as pieces of seafood. Each shrimp was the perfect texture—not overly cooked and full of flavor.
The portion was very generous. I was nervous about saving half of the soup and heating it up the next day for lunch, but the flavor and texture worked well even when reheated as leftovers, making it a good option for takeout.
Up next was Kon Loh Mee, egg noodles, Chinese broccoli, ground pork, pork belly char siu. This was probably my favorite thing that we ate over the course of the meal. A highlight of this dish is the pork belly char siu, which was both sweet and soft, tying the dish together nicely.
We concluded the meal with Vietnamese Coffee Pudding, which made for the perfect sweet note to conclude the experience on. The flavors of the pudding were light and refreshing when contrasted to the Kon Loh Mee and Laksa, serving as a nice palette cleanser.
Other offerings at Cassia that are special to this time include Family Size Dinners, as well as Wine, Beer Growlers and Cocktails to go.
Family Meal options include one salad, two appetizers and two rice/noodle dishes. Three tiers of sizes are designed to serve two to four people, five to eight people or nine to 12 people.
Offerings in the Salads section include Green Papaya Salad and Vietnamese Caesar Salad. Appetizers feature Kaya Toast (coconut jam, butter, slow-cooked egg) and Chickpea Curry (coconut milk, cilantro, with housemade organic tandoor bread).
Cassia is currently open for curbside pickup and delivery from Sunday to Thursday, 4-8 p.m., and Friday-Saturday, 4-9 p.m. Phone orders are accepted beginning at 1 p.m.
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