A large white signboard bearing the restaurant’s name sits above a tunnel-like entrance. Like a night market in Phuket, where indistinct doors lead you to rooms full of surprises, this passage leads you to the delightful restaurant O:h Cha, which literally translates to “scrumptious”. The décor of this newest Thai restaurant in the city, inspired by the emerald green paddy fields of Thailand, has faux grass on the walls and wooden panels along with bamboo lanterns hanging from the ceiling.
The head chef, 57-year-old Chef Pipat Niyomsin, is from Thailand and this indigenous knowledge of the cuisine shows in the dishes. Niyomsin has been an instructor at a culinary school back home and he brings his instructor-like quality to the table too. Before we place our order, he chats with us about how he likes to feed spicy food to patrons, and warns us the spice explosion that we were in for.
As the menus were handed out, a jar of Krob Kheam — wanton fries — was placed on the table along with fish sauce and peanut sauce. At first these seem like fun munchies, however they will soon become a life-saver.
For starters, a serving of fresh Som Tam (Rs 250) — a spicy raw papaya salad and Satay Kai (Rs 350) were ordered. The chicken satay had a gentle drizzle of peanut oil and came with a side of pickled cucumber and peanut sauce. The salad is also available in grilled chicken and grilled prawns variants. Upon the chef’s recommendation, we ordered Tom Yum Kung (Rs 300), a spicy prawn soup and Tom Kha Kai (Rs 300), a herbed coconut soup. Most dishes on the menu come with the level of spice denoted by number of chilies against the item. If you are not a spicy food junkie, we suggest you make it a point to mention this to your server, because the chefs in O:h Cha’s kitchen take their spices very seriously. The prawn soup was intensely spicy and extremely tasty, which left us oscillating between wanting to give up and taking quick sips of it. The chicken soup provided relief with the sweetness of the tender coconut adding to it. The fried wanton munchies helped our tongues settle down.
The mains comprised Pad Phed Neua (Rs 450), stir fried beef with gravy served with steamed jasmine rice (Rs 350) and a portion of Kang Kew Waan Pak Kai (Rs 475), Thai green curry with chicken. The gravy in the beef dish was a perfect mix of sweet and sour, which had worked its way through the meat and the aromatic jasmine rice complemented it well. The Thai curry had a stew-like consistency, much better than the creamy version served at most oriental restaurants in the city.
To end our meal, we skipped the usual dessert fare and instead opted for traditional Thai sweetness and ordered Kanom Fad Feng, a baked flourless pumpkin and coconut cake and Tum Tim Krob (Rs 225), which comprises water chestnut dumplings in light coconut syrup with crushed ice. Our favourite was the latter for its freshness.
In a city where Thai fare is limited to curries and satay, O:h Cha is a pleasant introduction to Thai cuisine with enough options for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians.
Meal for two: Rs 1800 (without alcohol)