Cassia — the Spice Table Is All Grown Up (and has rich friends now)

12 Mar

It was sad day when Bryant Ng’s Spice Table closed.  It was my favorite lunch place in Little Tokyo (and DTLA), and Bryant and his staff were wonderful all around.  That’s why I was excited to hear that Bryant was teaming up like Voltron with Zoe Nathan and the Rustic Canyon/Huckleberry crew.  Apparently, a ton of money was involved, because the new venture, Cassia, is beautiful.

Looking around at the marble countertops and airy environs, I was struck by how different in feel Cassia is from the Spice Table.  No more Bryant grilling each burger himself, no more long chats with the staff.  The place is bustling with dozens of staff from the bar to the kitchen to the tables.  I’m sure to most patrons, what will stand out is how beautiful the surroundings are.  But compared to the intimate Spice Table, Cassia feels corporate.

I also couldn’t help but notice the difference in clientele.  It’s the Westside and SaMo in particular, so basically everyone was white or Asian, and really, mostly it was white blondes.  Where were you horde of yoga moms when the Spice Table needed more diners for lunch?  (I know, the answer is obvious: “in yoga class, duh.”)  Cassia feels like a place to be seen, which is a stark contrast to the Spice Table (which was so intimately lit that it was hard to see the food or your companion).

Anyways, on to the food.

Cassia kept a couple remnants from the old Spice Table menu, including one of my favorites, the Kaya toast.  It’s unchanged, thankfully!

The flatbreads are wonderful and you can get them with Bryant’s pate.  It’s a little different from what he used to put on his bahn mi, but is wonderfully rich and funky.

The fried rice is a wonder, with slices of lap cheong sausage and bits of salted pork and fish.  It surprisingly doesn’t suffer from being too salty, but instead is just delicious.

We got the half grilled lobster, which is more Chinese than Western.  It’s tender and meaty and topped with pistachios and basil.  If you’re here on a date, you may want to skip it because it’s a messy eat.  But if you don’t mind your date looking at you like you’re disgusting, go for it.

And then the highlight of the meal, the pot au feu.  Shortrib, bone marrow, grilled veggies, a side of grilled bread, and mustard and pickled shallots as condiments. Every reviewer has swooned over this dish and for good reason.  It’s hard to describe how perfect it is.  A beautiful broth like pho.  A slight char on the veggies.  The richness of bone marrow on wonderfully spongy bread.  But the tartness and acid from mustard and pickled shallots to cut through.

Seriously, this is the dish of the year.

For dessert, we had the wonderful Vietnamese coffee pudding, which is just like it sounds.  Not too sweet, but a nice deep coffee taste.

Just a wonderful meal.  It is a great date night place, especially if you have a pre-dinner drink at the next door Esters wine bar.  Yes, I miss the intimacy and lack of fuss of the old Spice Table.  But Cassia is a worthy sequel.

Cassia
1314 7th St
Santa Monica, Calif. 90401
310 393 6699

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