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Restaurant reviews in Tyson's and surrounding area... mostly

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Cassat's Kiwi Cafe - a taste of New Zealand - Arlington, VA

4536 Lee Highway
Arlington, VA 22207
(703) 527-3330

If you put pico de gallo on a waffle, does it become Spanish? If you put wasabi paste on a grilled cheese sandwich does it become Japanese? If you serve burgers with curry, does it become an Indian burger? In all three cases, perhaps (but definitely not with the Indian burger); however, what these illustrations do prove is when cuisines can adapt it can work. When there is very little food that is “indigenous” to a particular country or region, you wind up with a menu that is disjointed and confused. Case in point – Cassat’s Kiwi Café. What cuisine indigenous to New Zealand? Lamb? Kiwis? No. This is a classic example of why there are no Canadian, Hawaiian, or even Sri Lankan-themed restaurants in the DC area or anywhere to be found outside those particular countries. New Zealand and Cassat’s fits this example.

We were simply confused. We found out that the place was owned by a Philadelphian who took some trips to New Zealand and converted a Philadelphia-themed storefront to a Kiwi café. Walking in the place seems more like a café/bistro than anything else. A small bar which holds a half dozen is halfway down the place surrounded by 15 dining tables. The restaurant is narrow and popular among the locals (especially on the weekends when they remove a few tables and have a house band play mostly folk and lighter music). The wait staff were friendly and the manager was engaging and talkative (perhaps a bit too less of the former and too much of the latter).

On to the food that we did not find to be particularly good. Here’s the rundown:

Calamari for appetizer. While we thought the appetizer we shared was void of the typical breading and deep fry was unique, the spicy sauce and bean cake lacked taste. 

Entrees. We both ordered meat pies but in retrospect, we’d probably order something else if we knew ahead of time. We ordered different types of pies—Elena ordered the chicken curry, Bill ordered the chicken, spinach, and cheese. Both served with a side salad and homemade tomato chutney sauce. The salad was typical and the chutney sauces perhaps a bit too sweet. The Chicken Curry pie was too sweet and dry, the Chicken Spinach was ok, but nothing special. Interestingly, depending on the pie, it’s either homemade or shipped in from the owner’s other establishment (can’t remember which ones are made on site).

Perhaps Cassat’s needs to rethink the whole Kiwi thing and go back to cheesesteaks.

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