Photographs: David Straight
Cassia opened a few months back in the space that Mandarin – a beautiful restaurant that should have been a hit but somehow wasn’t – vacated last year in ignominious circumstances. Then Sid Sahrawat (who owns Sidart in Ponsonby) and wife Chand took over the space and announced their intention to do a “modern Indian restaurant”. And we got excited.
The room is beautiful – all brick and concrete and festooned with pendant lights, you step down off the street into a warm, bright, brick bunker. The service is brilliant – pacey, knowledgeable – and the cocktails are better and I have always loved the fact that you feel a world away from Auckland, and yet so distinctly in it. Though on our first visit, something was off: too many things in sauce, not enough modern, though we loved the fennel brioche ($8).
The thing about the Sahrawats, though, is that they never rest and so we left it for a while to let the place settle in. In short: it’s perfect. The menu is split into to start and to follow – the starters are dry and the follows are sauced – and there is a dish of “beans foogath” ($10) with shaved coconut that is one of the simplest, most elegant things we’ve eaten this year. We ate pani puri ($2), or a version of it: delicate little containers made of chickpea flour, filled with cool tamarind water. Not just clever – they taste brilliant.
We also ate the roasted cauliflower and potato with burrata and spinach ($17), and marvelled. We loved a fabulous tandoori chicken leg with Kadhai spices ($32). The Bengali-style fish, meanwhile, is a triumph: marinated, then cooked with mustard seeds and coconut cream and curry leaves, all sticky and rich yet somehow balanced – and served with crispy kale. Which says everything, really. SFG
HOURS Lunch Wednesday to Friday, 3pm to 5pm; Dinner Tuesday to Saturday from 5.30pm.
ADDRESS 5 Fort Lane, City, ph 379-9702. cassiarestaurant.co.nz
IMPORTANT DETAILS They’ve just started taking bookings.