Bryant and Kim Ng had a reputation to uphold when they essentially moved their restaurant Spice Table to the Westside. Cassia, which quietly opened last week to locals and those in the know, will likely become one of the most important restaurants to open in Santa Monica this year.
Consider the space, which is part of a historic Art Deco building from the 1930's. Expansive, airy, bright, and made of the right bones, the multi-faceted place has a bit of something for everyone. There's a bar up front with top-notch drinks by Kenny Arbuckle (La Descarga, Bestia), with cocktails like a lava flow piña colada with housemade coconut liqueur and strawberry balsamic gastrique.
Farther in, a low-flung raw bar stocking fresh shellfish and more, including Vietnamese "sunbathing" prawns, which comes marinaded in garlic, Fresno chiles, and hot sauce. A middle area houses standard bistro seating, which offers kaya toast lifted right out of the Spice Table playbook, a slew of pates, escargot in lemongrass butter, and a not-too-adventurous jellyfish salad tossing shredded chicken and crispy rice. To see more of the menu, check it out here.
Fans of the Ngs' Little Tokyo eatery will recall those weathered birdcages hovering over the large communal table, plus a warm hearth emitting redolent flavors on the grill. It's a part of Cassia's aim to harken back to their past accomplishments, but look forward to new possibilities here on the Westside. Hence a more substantial slate of entrees like whole Singaporean white pepper crab, which has been the social media favorite for early guests.
The Ngs have partnered with Zoe Nathan and Josh Loeb, who've help build an empire of places in Santa Monica, including Rustic Canyon, Huckleberry, Milo & Olive, and Sweet Rose Creamery. Kathryn Coker, who's also building the nearby Esters wine bar concept on the other side of the ground floor, helms the wine program at Cassia, while Montalba Architects is credited with designing the interior of the restaurant.
Hours run Sunday to Thursday, 5:30 to 11 p.m., with a midnight closing time on weekends. Reservations will be accepted beginning June 23 at the website and by calling the restaurant.
1314 7th Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401