I’d heard great things about Cassis from quite a few people, so I figured what better way to celebrate my birthday than by checking it out.
Unfortunately, it didn’t come anywhere near living up to the hype.
I’d made a reservation for our party of 8 a full week ahead, so they should have known what they’d need in terms of staff. Despite seeing a list of at least 6 other reservations when we walked in, they only had two servers on staff for the entire place. Not sure what the other one was like, but ours could barely handle our table, let alone her half of the restaurant.
We didn’t even get water until 10 minutes after our entire party had arrived.
When only 7 out of the 8 of us got our salads, the server said “That’s so not my fault!” (since the shoddy service up until then had completely been her fault) before going off to fix it.
When one person asked for a refill of anything, she’d fill their glass, and ignore the other empty glasses on the table. We were never asked once if there was anything else we needed – we had to flag her down for every request, and ask specifically for each person at the table, or it wouldn’t get done.
Despite distinguishing between couples at the beginning of the night, and watching her write down our orders under separate headings, we were handed one consolidated cheque at the end of the night. Upon asking her to split it, she took two tries to separate everything, and still did it incorrectly. We became frustrated and settled things with each other in the end after all.
At one point in the evening, apropos of nothing, she asked us at one point where the Dead Sea was. Considering her attention was hard enough to get already, we were less than impressed with her request for random trivia.
One of the owners, Sam Wilcox, did come over once he’d arrived to see how we were doing, and our blunt comment of “terrible service” brought us a round of shots on the house. Unfortunately the waitress became more sombre with the boss around, and her service skills didn’t improve at all. Admittedly though, Sam’s natural charm and quick hand delivering drinks did placate us and diffuse the tension we were all feeling between the first and second courses, and divert our attention to something other than our server’s lack of attention.
Cassis boasts itself as serving “French Comfort Food with a West Coast Flair.” The food we did end up ordering was delightful, however nobody was able to order their first choices, since the kitchen was out of Oysters, Foie Gras, French Onion Soup, Canard a L’Orange, Smoked Black Cod, Rice Pilaf, Green Bean Almondine, Navy Bean Cassoulet and Yukon Potato Pave. That’s 9 items off a 21-item menu. Nearly half! And this was on a Friday night! The restaurant’s order should’ve arrived on Thursday, and they still had the rest of the weekend to get through. I’m curious about what exactly they served on Saturday. Squab special perhaps? There are ample pigeons around the patio out back…
The food I did order, thankfully, was exactly what I expected. The “CrabApple” Salad (Dungeness Crap, Apple, Avocado, Butter Lettuce & Honey-Lemon Vinaigrette), Coq au Vin, and the Flourless Chocolate Cake were all fantastic and could stand up to any menu items at any of the restaurant’s peers. Simple dishes, fresh ingredients, rich flavours and a well-appointed wine list are clearly what made Cassis as popular as it’s become in the recent past. It’s hard to find great, stewed comfort food in a place that isn’t your own kitchen or a greasy spoon somewhere. Cassis definitely fills that local culinary niche.
Unfortunately, I can’t say I’ll be back unless someone specifically requests my presence there. While their Coq au Vin was incredibly tasty, I’m sure I could whip up a comparable version at home. That’s the risk you take with comfort food – it’s comforting because people like your mom or grandmother used to make it. At Cassis, while the food is definitely delicious, I can make it at home. The distinguishing factor must be the ambience and service – which was clearly lacking.
Hopefully last Friday was simply an “off” night for the otherwise charming restaurant. Should you want to try it out for yourself, their details are as follows:
420 West Pender St.,
Open for Lunch, Dinner and Weekend Brunch