Charcuterie is grounded in French and Italian culinary tradition, but Bryant Ng redirects such meaty matters toward Asia. At Cassia, the Santa Monica restaurant he runs with wife Kim Luu-Ng, Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan, the charcuterie platters ($18 to $36) riff on Singaporean bak kwa, and the results are dynamite. Pork belly strips are candied with palm sugar, brown sugar and chiles, and wood-grilled until chewy. Ng cures top round from a leg of lamb with chilies, Sichuan peppercorns, sugar and salt to create silky Sichuan lamb ham, which delivers a spice-tingling finish. Juicy Vietnamese meatloaf combines pork, egg, glass noodles, wood ear mushrooms and cured ham in an egg-yolk casing. Smoked red sausage nods to Northern China, and pork butt is lightly smoked with mesquite and resembles bologna — but spicier. The salted pork is like lardo, the rendered pork fat topped with anchovy sea salt, shaved onions and scallions, which is great slathered on grilled bread. A cabbage relish mixed with Anaheim chilies, onions, mustard seed and peppercorns balances the savory platter. So do scattered herbs including laksa leaf, cilantro and Asian basil. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more creative and tasty charcuterie plate in town.
Credit: Josh Lurie