$80 per person
5 Fort Lane, Auckland Central
Something a little bit unusual and wonderful lurks in a dark, narrow alley in Auckland CBD. Opened last year by Sid Sahwarat of SidArt; Cassia showcases his heritage with flair. This creative fine dining Indian is extraordinary and necessitates a try.
Walking down the steps of Cassia, your eyes lock on the pleasant bare faced brick decor, open kitchen and small bar. It seems to be a style that's popular in quite a few upmarket eateries, though it feels slightly derivative by now.
A cocktail is the perfect start to the evening, with modest but enlivening twists on standard recipes. Cassia's Old Fashioned was a treat with its cinnamon twist.
The variety of dishes tickle the imagination such as Soft shell crab with charcoal oil and tomato kasundi, or the Tandoori chicken with kadhai spices. There are takes on Western Indian classics such as Chicken tikka masala, which add a touch of familiar comfort to the menu. Choices are kept fresh, with constant changes and additions over time. Three courses each, with a side of naan, were more than filling and gave us a wide breadth of the menu.
Masterfully cooked meat comes together with subtle spicing, sauces and verdant greens. Biting into the wafer crust of the lamb chops reveals succulent, medium rare flesh. The crisp Delhi duck pairs beautiful with the slightly nutty, creamy sauce. Brushed charcoaled chicken tikka melts together with milky cauliflower. Deep care and vibrancy is served with every dish, the spicing complimentary and never overpowering.
There were only couple of detractions from Cassia's excellence, one of which being the awful acoustics. The restaurant is mercilessly loud at peak times, making conversation hard. Tables are also too small, resulting in serving becoming a game of horizontal Tetris.