Osha is a famous chain of five Thai restaurants in San Francisco that’s been around for 17 years. Late last year, its owners, who are Thai, decided it was time to open a venue in Bangkok, causing quite a buzz with their B1,500 version of the humble pad krapao (more on that later).
The kitchen used to be helmed by Thaninthorn Chantrawan, aka Chef Noom of the TV show Iron Chef, but while he’s no longer in Osha’s kitchen, his menu of modern Thai cuisine remains the same. At times the food is brilliant, with modern touches that are equal parts theater and lab experiment: glass dome lids filled with scented smoke, savory sauces turned into ice cream and steampunk contraptions at your table. The setting is equally luxurious and worthy of special occasions: stellar service, lavish banquets, a plethora of gold-accented materials and a superlative wine list.
We’re all for experimentation, but it can be difficult to forgive some of the restaurant’s treatment of Thai staples. The aforementioned krapao, dubbed the Volcanic Beef (B1,500), comes with Kagoshima wagyu beef that could be more tender and a jam that tastes like a non-descript sweet chili sauce. We’re also unimpressed by the king basil leaves smothered in a thick layer of batter. The tom yam goong (Thai spicy soup with prawns, B400) sees liquid infusions of galangal, lemongrass and kaffir lime poured through a coffee syphon into a tiny bowl at your table. It’s quite the performance but the results are nothing short of bland.
Instead, we’d recommend you embrace the more creative though less attention-seeking dishes. The pad Thai chai ya (stir-fried noodles with salted egg and king prawns, B450) bursts with sweet and sour flavors. The salted egg yolk is perfection, too. The spicy ice-cream sauce that comes with the Dancing King Prawn (prawn ceviche with chili-cilantro granite, B380) is also a tangy hit, while the aromatic duck spring rolls (spiced duck confit in rice paper smoked with roasted coconut shell along with ginger and plum dipping sauce, B450) add a fun take on Peking duck. Another red meat dish, the spicy beef salad (B850), gets it just right too: nicely seared with the juiciness of well-marbled beef.
It’s hard to find this much style and comfort outside of a luxe hotel. We wish the menu, which has its ups and downs, were more predictable. But for those wanting a stimulating and grown-up dining experience, Osha is a unique presence on Bangkok’s Thai finedining scene.