Day 6 of Santa Monica

I’m finally reaching the tail end of my trip, and though I have loved it here, I’m definitely ready to go back home. One thing I don’t have back home, though, is boba tea. So that was the first thing I went out and got today. There are quite a few places in the area, but the closest one was a place called Boba Lab.

The side of a building. A mural of a baseball player is painted on the wall. There's a circle next to him that says

Athena ScalziI was perplexed by the painting they had on the side of their building.

I was curious about what constituted this boba place as a “lab”, but figured it out once I went inside. There were beakers and safety goggles laying around as decoration, and a periodic table of elements on the wall, with the bottom row of the table being different types of boba. They had two self-serve computer stand thingys to order at, and you just customized your drink however you wanted it, and then paid at the stand with your card (they are a cashless business). Once they finished making my drink they just put it on the end of the counter. So I actually didn’t interact with the workers at all.

There was no room inside to sit down, and no outdoor seating either. It was a very small place. But the tea itself was great! I got brown sugar milk tea, which is sort of my go-to.

After that, I walked back home and read webcomics the rest of the day until dinner rolled around. It actually ended up being pretty late by the time I realized I wanted dinner, so a lot of places had closed already, or would have been closed by the time I walked there. After some looking around, I decided on a Vietnamese restaurant called Cassia. Well, actually, Apple Maps says its Vietnamese cuisine, but Google says its a Southeast Asian restaurant. I’m not sure which is more accurate.

I’ve never had Vietnamese food before, so I was excited to try something different.

When I got there, I was surprised to see how lavish it looked. The outside seating area was incredible, and probably the nicest I’ve seen in LA, or possibly ever. There were string lights, outdoor heating lamps, and a black gate-type-wall thingy with greenery wrapped all around it. The inside was open and spacious, with a modern and “too cool for you” feel. It was crowded, so I had to sit at the bar. Though, I was the only one sitting at the bar, and remained the only one throughout the hour I was there.

The first thing I got was a limeade.

A tall glass filled with limeade and ice, as well as a slice of lime and a metal straw.

Every place I’ve been to so far has given me paper straws for my drinks. This was the first time I’d been given a metal straw, and for some reason I found that really interesting. I kept hitting my teeth against it, though. The limeade itself was good, though. It was very refreshing. And it had nice ice cubes. I was told that everywhere seems to have nice ice here because nicer places use filtered water for their ice. It makes a difference, I think!

Someone the other day in the comments mentioned I should try a green papaya salad, so I ordered that first.

A white plate piled high with green papaya, topped with a few walnuts.

There was a TON of green papaya on this plate, it was a huge portion. I wouldn’t say I actively disliked it, but I didn’t really care for it either. It had a pleasant enough fresh flavor, though admittedly kind of odd, but the papaya was sort of tough to chew, so I didn’t really like that. Plus, the walnuts were fuckin’ SPICY. I had to down like the last quarter of my limeade to stop the burning. So, after a few bites of that, I decided just to try something else.

Next up was something called Kaya Toast.

A white plate with two pieces of something that closely resembles French toast, alongside a fried egg yolk in a cup.

The menu says it has coconut jam, butter, and a slow cooked egg accompanying it. This shit was fucking delicious. I was absolutely shook by how good this was. It was crispy on the outside, fluffy, buttery goodness on the inside. The waiter told me the chef recommends I break the egg yolk in the cup and dip the toast in it. Lord have mercy, it was unbelievably tasty. The egg yolk was pure, runny gold. I could eat this dish every single day. Arguably one of the best things I’ve tasted in my life.

Following that sweet, incredible goodness, I put in an order for cold sesame noodles. The menu says you can order them spicy or not, so I went for not.

A white bowl, filled with noodles, edamame, matchstick cucumbers, and heaps of cilantro.

Underneath all that green, there are noodles, and a lot of them. This bowl was another giant portion. Though, it was listed as an appetizer, so I guess it’s meant to be shared? The noodles came with edamame, walnuts, cucumber, and a whole lot of cilantro. This was also an incredibly tasty dish. The whole time I was eating it, I thought it tasted a strange amount like peanuts, or peanut butter. Then I realized that’s just the flavor of sesame. Peanut butter adjacent. I mostly avoided the walnuts since they pain me to eat, but the edamame and cucumber were great fresh additions to the noodles. I thought eating cold noodles would be odd, but it was actually really light and refreshing. I would love to eat this on a hot summer day instead of something like a burger or hotdog. Seriously, why do we hot foods on hot days?!

Here’s a better shot of the noodles, since I felt like they weren’t really visible with all that cilantro on top.

I wish there was a place that served this kind of stuff around me back home, I would for sure frequent this dish.

I was going to get a dessert, but I thought the bar looked so impressive that I should try a drink, especially since the bartender was my waiter. I got a piña colada, but the menu said “try it as a lava flow”, so I did. Apparently that just meant they add strawberry hibiscus syrup to it for a dollar more.

A tall glass with a pink slushy liquid in it. A slice of pineapple sits on the rim of the glass. There's a metal straw in the cup.

I am someone who does not enjoy the taste of alcohol, even a tiny bit. When people say “oh you can’t even taste the alcohol” or “it tastes just like juice”, I never agree, because alcohol always tastes like alcohol, no matter what. So when I say this did not taste like alcohol, I fucking mean it. The alcohol was completely undetectable, it tasted like a sweet, creamy dessert in a fancy glass. Never in all my one and a half years of drinking have I ever had anything where I couldn’t taste the alcohol. It was glorious. And delicious!

Finally, I got my bill, and it came attached to a post card.

A black and white photo of a man on a motorcycle.

I asked if I could keep it, and the bartender said “of course!” I’m not sure yet who I’ll send it to.

My total came out to $84 (before tip), though twenty of that was for the cocktail. So, $64 for three dishes and a limeade. It’s not cheap but it isn’t terrible. I would definitely recommend this place if you feel like having bougie noodles and the best toast of your entire life. And try to sit outside, if you can.

So, that was my whole day, really! Lots of chilling and noodle-eating.

Here, have another Lily picture! You deserve it.

A fluffy gray cat laying on a red rug.

And have a great day!


18 Comments on “Day 6 of Santa Monica”

  1. I wish there was a place that served this kind of stuff around me back home.

    Each area of the country pulls this act, it’s so you’ll come back and visit us!

    I love your restaurant reviews. Reminds me that I need to go visit more of my local places. Plus, I need to be a bit more adventurous like you.

  2. I have eaten a lot of Vietnamese food, and Thai food, and other Asian food, and I’ve never heard of this amazing toast thing. So snaps to you for discovering and loving it! I’ve also never ever heard of walnuts in a papaya salad. Boo to that.

    I’m sure you will be happy to be home, but I’m so glad you had such a great trip.

  3. Fun review of restaurants. Interesting choices of dishes.

    Love the pictures.

  4. Viennese food is the french cooking of Southeast Asia. The French were there for a long time and their food was made better by it.

    Hope you enjoyed your time there, it’s a shame that you didn’t fins beach for a bit.

  5. Athena,
    The baseball player was Tyler Skaggs, a pitcher for the L A Angels. He died at age 28 accidentally of opiates. You can read more on wikipedia for the full, sad story. I am assuming this is a memorial mural for him.

  6. We get cold sesame noodles regularly in the warm weather. We ask for the sauce on the side, as there is usually too much. Plus, that way we can save half and make our own noodles and eat it a second day. The sauce definitely has a peanutty taste.

    We get papaya salad in Thai restaurants and have never had that chewy problem. Ick. Usually it is pretty thinly shredded and very tasty.

    So…no beach, then?

  7. While reading this chapter I suddenly realized what your style is! Well, at least, what style you can aspire to: you can be a “flaneur” (or, using properly sexist French syntax, a “flaneuse”). Read the excellent wikipedia entry and I think you’ll agree it fits!

    especially note the section on “female counterparts” to the originally masculine conception of this life-style.

  8. Thank you for the info on the Kaya Toast, that sounds quite nice! There’s a Vietnamese restaurant in El Paso that I love to visit when I get my car serviced at the dealership called Pho Tres Bien, but they don’t have a full wide menu, mainly pho, various rolls and dumplings, and banh mi sandwiches. What they have is top notch, but no kaya toast.

    My wife is addicted to sesame noodles from her college days at Penn State, we can’t find them done proper out here in the South West.

  9. There was a great Vietnamese place in Tucson AZ back when we first started going out there in the winters. Also did standard American breakfast food, but the Asian meals were the bomb. Closed/sold owners retired, I forget what’s in the space now.

    There’s also a great Thai place not too far from the University of AZ called Bangkok Cafe. There are a lot of SE Asian places, once I find a great place I tend to stick with it. Love the food in Tucson, huge variety from Sonoran Mexican, seafood, sushi, Korean, etc.

  10. Wow, I thought my husband and I were the only ones who had that problem of always being able to taste the alcohol in drinks where other people said it was impossible to detect! Every now and then we ask a bartender to make us something we can’t taste the alcohol in, and they’ve never managed to do it, so since neither of us can stand the taste, we always wonder why, for instance, someone would ruin a perfectly yummy drink like a pina colada by adding rum to it.

    Unfortunately we’re on the east coast, so it’s unlikely that this will change anytime soon.

  11. Glad you enjoyed the kaya toast which I grew up with. Some specialty shops sell kaya (coconut jam) in jars. There are also online recipes if you ever feel inclined to try making it yourself. There’s quite a bit of stirring involved. The only ingredient that might be challenging to find is the pandan (screwpine) leaf, though it is possible to buy the essence in bottles.

    The green papaya salad doesn’t look very authentic to my eyes (walnut is not normally part of that dish) , so maybe give the traditional version a try sometime?

  12. Chalk me up as another who can almost always taste the alcohol in drinks and hates it. Probably saved me from a life of alcoholism because I tend towards excess in anything. Anyhow, that drink sounds yummy, but not for $20 (the other thing that keeps me from drinking my way to oblivion, the only decent drinks cost WAY too much).

  13. It’s not hard to make sesame noodles at home; there are lots of recipes around. We like the NYT “Spicy sesame noodles with chicken and peanuts”. You can pretty much add whatever topping you want (cucumber, carrots) and it can be eaten warm or cold.

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