Special Review: Cassia ( Modern Indian )
Before you say it, no it’s not quite a Cheap Eat but we’re going to review it anyway because since it’s a small plates scene it’s one of the few places in Auckland where you can sample something by a five star chef for anything close to a Cheap Eats budget.
Cassia has only been open for over a week, but already it is the hottest place in town. It is located in the former premises of the short-lived Mandarin Dumpling restaurant. You step down from Fort Lane into the restaurant which has a smart modern fit out and a large open kitchen. In fact, on the night that we visited, Sid was in the kitchen and we counted at least eight other staff working with him.
We arrived at 6:30pm on a Saturday night and snagged one of the two last tables available. Later arrivals were seated at the bar to wait. However, groups of 8 or more can book, and the large tables at the rear of the restaurant looked perfect for an evening of socialising and eating.
Sid has created his version of “Indian tapas” (my words, not his) – foods from his heritage but with his spin. All the food on the menu sounded tempting, but in an effort to eat within our Cheapeats budget of $20pp, we reigned in our enthusiasm to try more items. The menu starts with entrees and moves on up both in size of dishes and in pricing.
We started with the popular onion kulcha flatbread with coriander relish ($6). The bread came attractively presented in wedges ready to dip into the vivid green coriander sauce. It disappeared within seconds. So far so good.
We had selected the roasted potato and cauliflower ($13), soft shell crab ($16) and beans foogath ($10) to share. The presentation of all three dishes was outstanding, but the flavours were even better. The potato and cauliflower with burata, cauliflower cream, spinach and cashews was the perfect comfort food on a cold winter’s night, the cumin seeds providing a warmth and depth of flavour to the dish.
The soft shell crab was a delight to look at, and it came accompanied by a carrot puree, cumin salt and tomato kasundi. The crab had a light coating and had been fried, so that we just popped the whole thing in our mouths. The carrot puree and kasundi not only provided visual appeal but provided intense bursts of flavour to create a truly outstanding dish. Our dish of beans foogath was a perfect foil to the flavour hits of the other two dishes. The slightly crunchy green beans and individual leaves of brussel sprouts were tossed with both grated coconut and coconut shavings.
The servings were not large, and we could have shared one more dish, but we were satisfied and our total bill came to $45, just slightly over our Cheapeats budget.
I would happily return to try other dishes on the menu, such as the Delhi duck ($26) or the short rib of beef with black cardamom and mughlai flavours ($29). These are the most expensive items on the menu but would be perfect for sharing.
If time and budget allows, plan on starting your evening with one of the unique gin and tonic combinations ($10-$14.50), or one of the delicious-sounding cocktails with a Cassia twist ($18). There is also a good range of wine and beer to accompany your food.
Cassia may stretch the boundaries of our Cheapeats budget, but to have such an amazing quality of food available anywhere close to it is almost too good to be true. Go and experience this stunning food for your next special occasion.