People who think they know Indian cuisine may be in for a surprise with the opening of Cassia in Auckland’s Fort Lane.
Inspired by his deep affinity and love for the food of his native India, Sid Sahrawat’s contemporary Indian restaurant opens its doors today. It draws on the renowned chef’s cultural heritage growing up in Chandigarh, India combined with his passion for New Zealand produce.
Located in the heart of Auckland’s CBD, the sleek, contemporary design combined with detailed service complement a menu of quality fresh New Zealand produce prepared using sub-continental flavours.
Cassia’s philosophy is based on the marriage of seasonal New Zealand ingredients with the flavours and cooking techniques of India creating refined Indian dishes that challenge traditional notions of Indian cuisine.
Cassia’s menu changes according to the seasons and also reflects the regional diversity of both India and New Zealand.
The kitchen features a clay oven where all meats are cooked in the traditional tandoor style finished with charcoal.
Dishes include a fennel and caramelised chicken brioche which is inspired by traditional Indian breads eaten predominantly in the north of the country.
New Zealand seafood features in the form of scallop with foie gras, curry emulsion, apple and mooli and dessert comes in the form of chocolate kulfi with date, banana and curry.
Other dishes include pickled fish with garam masala, chickpeas, tamarind, fried bread and mint dressing. And in support of its New Zealand heritage, lamb chops are matched with fenugreek, onion rings and coconut chutney.
“It’s about taking the best of New Zealand produce and giving it an Indian slant,” Sid says. “People think they know what Indian cuisine is because they’ve had a chicken tikka masala – but that’s not the Indian cooking I grew up with.
“Having travelled extensively around India as a child, I have been influenced by dishes from throughout the entire country.”
The restaurant dining room merges smart design elements with the increasing popularity of social eating with two communal tables and a menu of sharing plates.
A 16-seater private dining room is designed to accommodate intimate celebrations, whether corporate or personal, and is available for exclusive hire for larger functions.
Sid has assembled a talented team who share his vision. They include Fijian Indian sous chef Lesley Chandra who joins from Baduzzi; restaurant manager Matthew Aitchison, formerly of MASU and The French Café; and Barney Toy, formerly of Fukuko and winner of best bartender at the Lewisham Awards 2014.
The restaurant drinks list has been created to enhance and complement the menu with Kingfisher Indian beer on tap as well as a hand-crafted selection of local beers.
“Barney has used his knowledge and experience to create an eclectic cocktail list inspired by flavours from our menu,” Sid says. “Likewise, the international wine list has been created to suit the style of the dishes.”
The restaurant opens for dinner today 17 July, and for lunch and dinner from 18 July (lunch – Wed-Fri, 12.00 – 3.00pm; dinner Tues – Sat, 5.30 – late) with a smaller selection of dishes available between 3 and 5.30pm.
Meaning of Cassia
The name Cassia comes from the aromatic bark of trees commonly found in India and South- East Asia and is often known as “the true cinnamon”. It has a different strength and quality to classic cinnamon, and is commonly used throughout Asia as a spice in many dishes; including pasties, desserts and particularly with meat and in curries. It is a dark, rough, single layered bark, dried into quills which are generally ground into powder before flavouring an extensive array of traditional dishes.