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LA

Review

John Linden

Cassia

John Linden

We all want our own clubhouse. Whether it’s the bar down the street, the treehouse you begged for as a kid, or the Malibu Soho House membership you’re probably never going to have, everyone needs a spot where they can reliably bump into someone they know, and maybe stick a “No Boys Allowed” sign out front. Cassia in Santa Monica doesn’t have one of those signs, but it has become an unofficial Westside clubhouse.

That’s mostly because on any given night, you’ll find a sample size of the area’s population scattered throughout this big, loud Southeast Asian restaurant. There will be double-dating couples talking about their dogs in a booth inside, a family celebrating a birthday on the quieter string-lit patio, and a celebrity pretending he doesn’t notice you taking photos of him at the raw bar.

Cassia is upscale in that very specifically Westside way. Yes, you could bring someone you’re trying to impress here - the servers wear starched white shirts, and the cocktails are in the $16 range. But we’ve also seen people show up in flip flops with sandy feet. The result is a place that feels like a social club, where eating lobster and drinking a bottle of obscure German riesling seem like everyday activities.

Jakob Layman

But you’re not just here for the slight chance you might see Andrew Garfield, or to observe fancy Westsiders in their natural habitat. You’re here for the fantastic food that ranges from seafood platters to noodles to Vietnamese charcuterie to a whole lobster. The pricey and slightly confusing menu can be a little hard to navigate, with dishes hiding in sidebars and headers, but choosing your own ordering adventure is part of the fun here. Worst case, you get too much - but that leftover beef rendang you’ll eat for lunch the next day tastes maybe even better than it did at dinner.

This isn’t to say that Cassia is perfect. It’s busy and loud, so you’ll probably have to shout to communicate and your server will forget you exist at some point. But a lot of that fades into the background once actually-spicy spicy wontons, addictive fried cauliflower, and a big bowl of laksa hit the table. While you’d be hard-pressed to find a restaurant in LA that doesn’t want you to order everything, Cassia is a place where that makes a lot of sense. You’re going to want to try a lot of this excellent food - so you absolutely need to bring your friends.

They’ll like this place even more than the treehouse.

Food Rundown

Jakob Layman
Vietnamese “Sunbathing” Prawns

They’re “sunbathing” because they turn red from hanging out in hot sauce for so long. We didn’t notice the color because we ate these peel-your-own shrimp way too fast.

Jakob Layman
Kaya Toast

If you’d like to feel like you’re eating dessert for dinner, order this buttery coconut jam sandwich. It’s sweet, but it comes with a slow-cooked egg for dipping. If you must, order this for dessert. Whatever it takes.

Jakob Layman
Spicy Wontons

They don’t hold back on the spice with these, and for that we are very grateful.

Fried Cauliflower

Somehow, this fried cauliflower tastes like fried fish. In case you’re confused: this is a good thing.

Grilled Lobster

You can get a half or a whole lobster, and while it’s an expensive choice, the pistachio butter that comes on top is worth the price of entry alone.

Grilled Spicy Lamb Breast

This is a piece of lamb with sichuan peppers, cumin, and sambal, on top of rice, served with an incredible creamy sesame sauce on the side. Ask for extra sauce when you order - you’re going to need it.

Jakob Layman
Beef Rendang

A classic Cassia dish for a reason - this is a great, hearty curry that we can’t not order every time we’re here.

Jakob Layman
Laksa

This spicy Malaysian noodle soup would be annoying to share, except they bring you individual bowls so you aren’t all slurping from the same place. Also, it’s excellent.

Vietnamese Coffee Pudding

A good, not-too-sweet way to end dinner. But honestly, just order another round of kaya toast.

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