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Santa Monica has no shortage of pretty streets. Seventh is definitely not one of them. Prior to Cassia’s arrival, its location was most best known for being the creepy block with the library on it. Not an obvious choice for the Westside’s most-hyped new dining destination, but then again, nothing about Cassia is necessarily obvious.

Since opening, Cassia has become a welcome reprieve for those tired of the generic – borderline geriatric – Santa Monica standbys. For starters, the bank-like high ceilings, aggressive use of marble, and hanging bird cages (yes, bird cages) will remind you much more of Downtown LA than Santa Monica. The crowd is a mix of average Joes, agent types, and young hot people who don’t appear to be eating (actors). You’ll look around and ask yourself where some of these people came from. Craig’s. They came from Craig’s.

There are a few other not-obvious things to keep in mind before dining at Cassia. First, it’s not as hard to get a reservation as you think, and if you’re going on the fly, we assure you the walk-in wait is not as long as they say. Put your name in and have a drink at Ester’s Wine Bar across the hall. (Same owners, with a great wine list.) Beyond that, know that the food here packs a lot of heat, and you should plan to order plenty of it.

So go on, venture down that weird block of 7th Street and hit up Cassia in all of its spicy glory. You can make a joke about its location (or the people not eating inside) and pray for a laugh from the date you’re trying to impress.

Food Rundown

Kaya Toast

This is a must-order. The bread is toasted perfectly, and the coconut jam is unexpected and delicious.

Chickpea Curry

What appears to be a basic curry is actually very spicy. Our only complaint is that it’s too small. If you’re with more than two people, order in multiples.

Spicy Wontons

These are seriously spicy. I-can’t-stop-coughing-spicy, to be exact. But delicious.

Cucumber & Mizuna Salad

Two items in this salad are surprising standouts: the croutons (fried pieces of naan) and the charred tomatoes (blistered like a pepper).

Vietnamese Pot Au Feu

This meat soup is the most popular on the menu. While we like it, we don’t think it’s the best thing on the menu. See below.

Charcuterie Fried Rice

Exactly what it sounds like, and our favorite dish here. Really deliciously-salted pork and fish in fried rice. We couldn’t stop shoveling it in and asking why all fried rice doesn’t taste this way.

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