Review: Cassia

30 May 2016

I always know whenever I go to eat something from the kitchen of Sal Marino, it would be the best meal of any LA trip. I was certainly right about that. Even a few of my usual “to go” places for lunch turned a bit shoddy, like the venerable Hawai’ian diner Rutt’s Cafe this kalua-kalbi-charsiu plate lunch was really poorly done, far below their usual goodness. Sigh… But I did have a good dinner with dear friends Simon & Sybil — whom I just saw a few weeks ago in Maine — at the under-rated Viviane. I will have to come back and do a review of this place…

For my final meal in LA on this trip I decided to go to Cassia in Santa Monica. It had been on my list earlier, but a friend whose food advice I trust very much tried to warn me off this place — at least warn me about the poor prep on some dishes such as the grilled pig’s tail. It was early so it wasn’t too busy as I chose to sit at the grill counter…

Warm day (for me) and I’m sitting at the grill. I needed a cocktail as I looked at the menu. I decided to just start with the charcuterie plate and see where it goes. Then the cocktail arrived…now why is there salmon roe in my cocktail?! Oh if that’s not a metaphor for this evening I don’t know what is… Soon the charcuterie plate arrived…

1-charcuterie

Well, there are meats under the veg, I assure you. A small tasting of all of their charcuterie items. However, to be very honest, the veg was better than some of stuff on this plate… For instance the “smoked red sausage” tasted like a poorly-flavoured bologna, and the “smoked curried duck” really lacked any punch. The “salted pork” lardo was also very weak in flavour; and frankly the only thing these ultra-thick toasted bread did was to scrape the hell out of the roof of my mouth. The “Singaporean candied pork” wasn’t bad, but that’s about it.

I’m sorry, but that was a bit of a sad plate, especially when I remember the excellent charcuterie at Toups’ Meatery in New Orleans, or the utterly fantastic one at San Antonio’s Cured. In any case, I needed to order a main, and I asked about portion sizes. They stress a lot of stuff on the menu was designed for family-style meals, so I went with one of them anyway.

After a bit of slow-sipping on another cocktail that didn’t quite work, the dish arrived — the grilled lamb breast.

2-lamb breast

If that came as a family style dish I’d complain. It was not condusive to sharing the way it was designed/plated. And without using the hot sauce on top the meat was flavourless and overcooked. Lamb breast is usually a rather fatty piece of meat; I remember having spectacular, flavourful ones in NYC at the rebuilt-after-burned-down Byblos. But this was far from that…

I finished off the extremely dry piece of meat and finished my meal. I now concur with my friend who tried to steer me away from this place. This didn’t work at all. Every time I go somewhere “trendy” in the LA area the food turns out to be totally underwhelming (like this) to just awful (like at Tar & Roses nearby) to just unbearable (like at Bestia). Now why places like Viviane don’t get more people than these places just shows that it’s all about PR these days…

The LA food scene has frustrated me. It frustrates me. It will keep frustrating me.

Cassia
1314 7th Street
Santa Monica, California

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3 thoughts on “Review: Cassia

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more! One time at cassia was enough for me…as was tar & roses and, by the way, rustic canyon too! I also agree that one of our best is Sal Marino & how I miss both of his places in Santa Monica! PR pushes these places. Thanks!

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