I’m back at it again with another food review. I think I’m starting to slowly realize that this blog is mainly going to be about food. But hey! You never know.
The weird part is that I don’t even plan most of the places I eat at. What happens is, I get out of work or class and my boyfriend will spontaneously suggest to go eat someplace new. We do have a list of streets and cities we are working our way through, so it’s usually a restaurant or cafe within those.
Today we went to Kasai, located in New Brunswick, NJ. (Kasai means fire in Japanese).
Kasai is a Japanese/Asian-Fusion inspired bar and restaurant. If you take anything away from this place, it’s going to be the gorgeous interior. It’s very spacious inside with moody and intimate lighting. However, the best part definitely has to be the art on the walls.
There a variety of gorgeous Asian-inspired art pieces that adorn the walls of Kasai. The black lights in the location bring the artwork to life, since many of them glow neon to highlight certain points. I have a few examples at the bottom of this post! I need to find the name of the artist or supplier that they source these paintings from because I really would like one. Oh! There are also koi fish that swim in a fountain/stream on a side of the restaurant. We were lucky enough to be seated right next to them so they kept us company throughout our meal.
Now, let’s get to the food.
A P P E T I Z E R S
This was a pleasant surprise. The dish is rice that’s fried and topped with spicy tuna and serrano peppers. I was expecting the rice to be mushy inside but it held its shape and was really delicious. I didn’t realize I needed these things in my life before. They came plated on a miso sauce and spicy mayo. I highly recommend them. The concept of deep frying rice never occurred to me before and in small batches it’s pretty good. My boyfriend LOVED these and we’re going to try making them at home. They’re carby goodness without being too heavy or greasy. In fact, they weren’t greasy at all.
Sweet Potato Tempura Roll
We LOVE tempura. The batter is always so mild and crispy and this type of roll is one of our classic favorites. One thing I want to mention about Kasai’s take on this is their attention to proportion. Many sushi places that I’ve gone too, either under-stuff or over-stuff the rolls and everything ends up falling apart. That wasn’t the case with these. You could see the impeccable technique of the chef quite clearly. The filling, ratio of rice and nori was perfect all around.
I’ve been wanting to try bao ever since I read about Eddie Huang’s BAO HAUS in NYC. I’m not going to visit that location anytime soon so this was an unexpected opportunity that presented itself. Bao is basically a steamed bread roll that can be filled with different meats, vegetables, and sauces. Our bao was stuffed with shiitake mushrooms, carrots, golden avocados (THE BEST PART) and caramelized onions. The bao itself is super soft and squishy so its very, VERY satisfying to bite into. The golden avocados took this bao to the next level. They were breaded and fried so they added a crunch to the softness of everything else. There were also sweet pickles that built on the flavor of the whole dish. This was my favorite dish out of our menu tonight.
E N T R E E
Pad Thai is my favorite food. Whenever I see it on the menu at a new place, I usually order it. I like to compare all of the pad thai I’ve had just in case I find a place that makes it better than my go-to restaurant. You could say I’m on a quest to find the perfect pad thai…
ANYWAY, the pad thai here was distinct. First off, they used seasonal vegetables, a lot of them being zucchinis and squash. The best parts of the dish were the texture of the noodles, the smokiness, the peanut sauce, and the heat. The noodles were perfectly chewy. There was a smoky aroma and taste to the whole dish that amplified the depth of flavor. This smokiness paired so well with the peanut sauce, which was spicy, tangy, sweet, and salty, all components of a great pad thai. There was also some kind of spice or oil used within the dish that gave it a subtle but memorable kick. I couldn’t identify exactly what it was but it tied the whole thing together. This dish was meant to be savored and it was. IT IS. (As I finish off leftovers while writing this post).
That’s about all of the savory food that we ordered. We split everything so we didn’t need to order too much food. Now, of course, we can move on to dessert; the quintessential essence of my being.
D E S S E R T
Kasai Dim Sum Cheesecake
When I was looking over the dessert menu, I pretty much had most things in some form or another. I know each restaurant has its own take on desserts but I want to try new things. This stood out to me because it literally mentioned the name of the restaurant. I honestly did not know what I was expecting but this was quite an interesting dessert. Basically, they filled dim sum with house-made graham cracker cheesecake. The dumplings were crispy on the outside and the cheesecake filling inside caught me by surprise. They were sprinkled with pink or purple sugar, but this didn’t make them too sweet. Again, everything was well-balanced. These were a bit on the richer side so I could only eat a couple before I was full. They came with a berry sauce which I kept thinking was chocolate, so every time I dipped a dumpling into the sauce, I would be caught off guard. The dessert also came with fruit which was a nice sentiment to tie everything together.
Molten Chocolate Lava Cake
My boyfriend wanted to originally order the Chocolate Trilogy dessert but they were sold out. This was his next option. The cake itself wasn’t molten through, so that was a little bit disappointing but baking mistakes are easy to make. Again, it all comes down to technique. Other than that, the cake was decadent, dark, and delicious. It definitely wasn’t overly sweet and paired well with the rest of the plate. One thing I noticed again is the way balance is presented within the dishes. Nothing is overpowering but when eaten together, completes the whole picture.
T E A S
Kasai had their own tea menu, which mentioned that they sourced all their teas from the Numi Tea Company. Numi teas are all organic and fairly sourced. We choose their Golden Chai and Iron Goddess of Mercy teas.
This was a black tea, with hints of cinnamon, cardamon, and ginger; elements of a classic chai tea. I added milk to my cup because I grew up on chai milk tea and it’s a bit strange for me to drink it without any dairy. The tea had a comforting and spicy aroma but it was a lot milder in actual taste. The weather today was chilly so this was a nice and warming cup.
Iron Goddess of Mercy
This tea has an eye-catching name. On the menu, a brief background is given: “The Ancient Goddess of Mercy appeared to a humble farmer and guided him to nurture for a particular tea plant. This ended up bringing prosperity to his village and is the namesake of the tea.” The menu described the tea as reminiscent of toasted grain and dried figs. This description was pretty spot on. The tea did give off the aroma of figs and had a nutty, grain-like taste. Overall, the tea was smooth and delicate. I actually preferred it over my Golden Chai.
Overall, Kasai was a great experience. Everything from the atmosphere, our server, and especially our food was fantastic. A special shout-out to our server, who was very attentive and kind throughout our dining experience. Thank you! A final point I want to mention, presentation was a key part of our experience in this establishment. We’ve gone to a lot of places that are beautiful inside but they lack when it comes to their food. Kasai delivered not only visually with their ambience and the plating but gastronomically as well. If you’re in the area, we highly recommend you check them out!
Now for some pictures of the decor and ambience!