March 5, 2016
That was my first thought on walking into Cassia. The huge room was roaring with sound, which bounced off the walls, and ricocheted off the tables until I wanted to flee. And yet…. everyone in the place seemed to be having such a good time that I sat down, had a glass of Gruner and tried to relax.
Then the food began to arrive, and it was so damn good I forgot that the woman at the next table had that irritating laugh and I couldn’t hear anyone at my own table. The seafood platter – I expected the usual tower of raw seafood – was so irresistibly idiosyncratic that I was instantly charmed. First there were the “Vietnamese sunbathing prawns” bathed in chiles, garlic and hot sauce, the heads completely seductive. There were raw scallops in a tangle of peas, dried shrimp and chiles, and a smoked salmon dip that took smoked salmon straight out of loxland. And those herbs….
Custard with sea urchin and braised mushrooms – that’s the deliriously delicious spoonful at the top. I love uni chawan mushi, but it’s always seemed slightly twee. This one wasn’t.
Jellyfish salad with shredded chicken, crispy rice and sesame bacon dressing. For a texture freak like me: pure heaven.
Spreads to accompany those great flat breads: chickpea curry, surprisingly classic. Chopped snails, a Vietnamese twist on the classic French escargots, and a trip into textureville. As for that pate – it’s got an Asian twist and is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted.
Whole grilled sea bass bathed in turmeric, dill, lime, scattered with herbs – and pretty perfect.
Applewood roasted duck. The best part is hiding underneath: noodles and pickled Chinese cabbage.
Grilled spicy lamb breast with Sichuan peppercorn, cumin, jasmine rice, sesame sauce. Oh come on! The chef couldn’t resist, but lamb breast has the fat and flavor to stand up to just about anything you throw on it. Fantastically flavorful.
And then, at the end, the most wonderful little coffee pot de creme, served in a cup. Just the thing to linger over. By this point in the evening the room was starting to empty out, the woman with the bad laugh had left, and we could finally have a conversation. What did we talk about? The food, of course. It had been such a satisfying meal.
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