To-Go Takes is Resy’s regular feature wherein we quiz the folks behind some of our favorite restaurants about all things related to takeout.
In this edition, we speak to Bryant Ng, the chef and co-owner of Cassia in Santa Monica. While he works on the Westside, Ng and wife Kim live in the San Gabriel Valley, making it — no surprise — where they get most of their takeout. Cassia recently reopened for outdoor dining (make reservations here), but continues its takeout and delivery options. Below, he shares some of his favorite takeout tips, tricks, cocktails, and regular stops.
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Name + Title: Bryant Ng, Chef and Co-Owner
Resy: What’s your favorite dish from the Cassia takeout menu?
Ng: This is like asking which one of your children is your favorite child. You’d hate to say it out loud because it might hurt the feelings of the others (and, possibly, your significant other), but you definitely have one. I’m really liking the spicy minced duck dan dan noodles. The noodles come laced in a Sichuan chile oil, topped with pickled mustard greens, scallions, cilantro, and a sesame-leek sauce on the side to counter all that heat. For me, it’s a deeply soulful dish that hits all the right spots right now.
What about takeout from other restaurants? Where are you ordering from these days?
Kim and I love El Huarachito in Lincoln Heights. There’s an off-menu tacos gobernador, like a combination of crispy cheese that’s griddled on the outside of a handmade corn tortilla, stuffed with juicy shrimp, peppers, and melty-oozy cheese. I also always (like always always) get the milanesa con papas, a perfectly breaded pounded steak served with rice, beans, and potatoes. It’s what Shake ‘n Bake wishes it could be, and I mean that in a really, really great way.
Chong Qing Special Noodles in San Gabriel is a favorite as well. You can’t really go wrong with any of their noodle dishes, all are full of flavor and consistently nicely al dente. We especially love the biang biang noodle, the namesake Chong Qing noodle, and stir-cumin lamb pulled noodles. While you’re there, go next door to Four Sea Restaurant and get the best scallion pancake on the planet. It has the perfect ratio of crispy, soft pillowy chew, salt, and oniony greatness.
What’s a tip someone can do to amp up your takeout?
Don’t be afraid of the microwave to reheat food. With the exception of dishes that have a crispy texture, the microwave will heat up your dish better than you could using any other cooking technique. As a reheating tool, it’s pretty amazing (sorry fancy chefs… you can fight me later). Also, I use the toaster oven religiously for reheating food. You can wrap pretty much anything in foil and chuck it into the toaster oven at the right temp, and it’ll heat up well. 350F is a good all-purpose temp.
What’s your favorite place for to-go cocktails and why?
I’m more of a classic cocktail person, so I’m pretty satisfied with making a simple cocktail at home. Something with two, three ingredients max. Most of the time it’s just bourbon or rye by itself, adding an ice cube halfway through to change it up a bit.
What single restaurant dish would you walk miles for?
I’m thinking the Peking duck at Ji Rong in Rosemead. In my opinion, it’s the best version of Peking duck in all of L.A. All the components — the meat, skin, sauces, pancakes — travel really well. Good thing is we don’t have to walk too far because we live nearby. I’ll send Kim and Teddy (the dog).
What was your first meal out when restaurants reopened?
One of the restaurants we frequent the most is Osawa in Pasadena. We miss regularly going there for an easy, casual, no-pretense dinner. We love sitting at the sushi counter and ordering a mix of sushi, plus other cooked and prepared dishes. It’s the variety, the consistency, and the atmosphere that keep us going back.
What do you miss most about restaurants being open?
The joy and excitement of going out and spending time with friends and family. Although if the food is good, it’s secondary; it just makes the experience of being with people that much better. The pandemic really changed this dynamic for many responsible people (not so much for others).