Vietnamese Iced Coffee
Piña Colada – Rum, housemade coconut liqueur, pineapple, coconut cream
Chopped Escargot Clay Oven Bread – Lemongrass butter, herbs
Jellyfish Salad – Shredded organic chicken, crispy rice, green leaf, sesame-bacon dressing
Kaya Toast Coconut jam, butter, slow cooked egg
Chino Valley Egg Custard Sea urchin roe, braised mushrooms
Vietnamese Pot Au Feu – Creekstone farms short rib stew, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, bone marrow, grilled bread, bird’s eye chile sauce, walnut-mustard
Laksa Rice noodles, spicy coconut-seafood soup
Grilled Corn – Coriander-scallion butter
Charcuterie Fried Rice – Lap cheong, salt pork, salted fish, lettuce
Black Cod – Anchovy broth, Chinese romaine, lychee relish, herb salad
Strawberry, Blackberry Napoleon – Green Tea Bavarian Cream
Chocolate Banana Tart – Banana chips, candied walnuts, vanilla whipped cream
Vietnamese Coffee Pudding – Coconut shortbread
Deep Fried Paris-Brest – Housemade lemongrass ice cream, candied lemon
Lemon Lime Coconut Tart – Lone Daughter Ranch Passion Fruit, Toasted Coconut Sorbet
Owned by the team behind Huckleberry and Rustic Canyon with the newly launched Ester’s Wine Bar located directly across the hall, it was alongside friends old and new that dinner was had at Bryant Ng’s Cassia, the former Spice Table chef showing off an innovative approach to modern Asian flavors in a lively upscale environment not unlike the Brasseries found throughout Paris and parts of France’s South.
Low-lit and up-tempo with a patio for those desiring to dine amidst Santa Monica’s ever-pleasant outdoors, it was at a large round table in view of both the raw bar and fiery grill that our group of five was sat and greeted by a charming server happy to describe each item at length a baker’s dozen plates were selected, not one failing to offer a good depth of flavor, not to mention sharable potions and a favorable bang for the buck.
Immersed in conversation as mixed drinks and sooth Vietnamese coffee arrived it was mere moments before plates began to trickle from the kitchen, the snail spread thankfully allowing the mollusks brine to peak out amidst the lemongrass while jellyfish chicken salad displayed a great diversity of tastes and an even greater number of tantalizing textures.
More than a little enamored by sweet-meets salty Kaya toast that far outshines the version at Mudhen Tavern it was onward to an enormous chawanmushi that tasting progressed, the double-dose of umami offered by both mushrooms and uni perfuming the palate while the custard itself came across smooth and silky.
Hitting a small snag with pot au feu that was delicious, albeit difficult to share and serve given the size of the bowl versus the bone, but recovering quickly with rice noodles adrift in a spicy seafood soup that challenged but didn’t overwhelm my general sensitivity to such things, it was in charcuterie fried rice alongside buttered corn and a complex bowl of tender cod that savories wrapped up, another coffee ordered up en route to one of each dessert.
Recently swapping up the sweets, but retaining the Easternized-French focus that seems to have been present from the start, it should be obvious that the pudding was essentially just a thicker version of the drink already in hand, and although only it and the chocolate-banana pie were particularly well matched to the flavors of coffee it was citrus soaked tart and lemongrass ice cream amidst fried choux that actually proved best, the napoleon unfortunately the victim of too much cream and not enough crunch.