With more than 20 combined years of food service and restaurant experience the owners of Cafetasia had an idea to create a restaurant that the positive things they'd observed in other restaurants — service, quality, price, design and ambiance — and make them even better.
This restaurant really surprised me. I had imagined Cafetasia to be similar to Republic - a casual place with communal tables serving noodles and other simple Asian food. This could be an accurate description, but really the atmosphere at Cafetasia is much more intimate, even with the communal seating. The restaurant is rather dark, with candles hanging at varying levels from the ceiling, kind of like the dining hall in Harry Potter. Similar tall oil candles are on each table. All this combines to make a romantic space, but then you can also be seated at a large communal cafeteria-style table which makes for a much more casual and friendly atmosphere. These two almost conflicting styles combine well actually, even in the rather small dining room. I've experienced both and my only complaint is that the service is a little spotty.
I've been to Cafetasia twice now and tried a variety of dishes. There is a good selection of unique dishes in sizes from extra small to extra large, which makes for a simple way of choosing what you want from the menu. The pricing is equally as simple, with each size dish having a set price-range from $3 to $14.
I've ordered several of the small dishes including the Calamari Fritters with light-spicy ginger-avocado sauce. The calamari wasn't too crispy, but it was cut into strips rather than the typical rings. The sauce was also unique and a little spicy, though it seemed a little thin. We also tried the Sa-Tae Chicken Chicken skewers with peanut sauce and cucumber relish, which were a little more typical with a nice grilled flavor and a great peanut sauce. Another small dish, the Beef, Mushroom and Pepper Teriyaki is a kebab-like skewer topped with ginger-teriyaki sauce that carried a lot of flavor and was a pretty good size for a 'small' dish.
One of my favorite dishes, from the 'medium' list, was the Thai 'Mieng-Kum' Coconut Wraps which are a combination of ginger, onion, peanuts, lime, crispy shallot and roasted coconut flakes in a Boston lettuce wrap. Served with tamarind sauce, which is kind of like honey. You drizzle the sauce over the filling and then eat the wrap in two or three great crunchy bites. Another medium dish was the Salmon Roll Tempura, which is a sushi roll of salmon and avocado with a spicy wasabi-plum sauce. It had a bit of a kick to it but was a great combination of flavors and textures. It was sliced in half on a diagonal, instead of into smaller typical chunks, which made it a little difficult to eat.
From the large dishes my dad had to try the Duck Pad Thai, a special the night we were there. The dish was typical with rice noodles stir-fried w. eggs tofu, bean sprouts, scallion and sprinkled peanuts, but there was good amount of duck and it was served in a interesting molded sandcastle-esque shape (like an overturned pail of pad thai). There are two dishes on the menu with chicken and basil and I had a tough time getting an answer from our server as to which was better. I eventually gathered that one was served with noodles and the other with rice, though the menu itself didn't say that. We tried the rice one, Minced Chicken with Thai Basil, which was kind of a collection of chicken, bell pepper, onion and garlic with spicy basil sauce that could be served over rice. It had some strong flavors which I really liked though the Thai basil is little different from the basil I'm used to in Italian and other cuisines.
One cool thing about the menu at Cafetasia is that you can order in sort of a tapas style, adding more dishes as you go if you're aren't filled up yet. We decided to do just that, but it took forever to find our server to place the order and then it took a while for the last dish to come out that we almost forgot about it as we finished the rest of our meal. Eventually the Baked Striped Bass with shiitake mushrooms, ginger, celery, and Chinese plum and soy sauce was served, and it was pretty good. The fish wasn't as tender or flaky as I would have liked, but the sauces and vegetables were great.
Overall the atmosphere and prices at Cafetasia really make it a great place in my book. The food is good and unique, but could use a little fine tuning, and the service needs a bit of work. I've already been back, and I'll keep this great restaurant in mind for the future because it can fit the bill in many ways.