Last week went to Osha (corner of Leavenworth and Geary) before a matinee play. We tried it on the recommendation of a friend who spent 2 years in the Peace Corps in Southern Thailand and came back with an intense love of the country and a corresponding desire to replicate its bold flavors. I am very wary of eating Thai food in the US. As with any food that you love that you've eaten in its native land, it's almost close to impossible to replicate elsewhere. Well I am Thai, love Thai food, love Thai food in Thailand, and have not yet found GREAT Thai food in the US. After moving from NYC to SF a year ago, my faith is being renewed.
Osha bills itself as a Thai noodle house and they certainly had many noodle dishes as well as rice dishes. As it was only a quick meal we split a large bowl of tom kha gai as a starter. I followed this by lard nah (rice noodles) with beef and my husband had beef sauteed with basil and chilies.
The tom kha gai was excellent. I actually don't like tom kha gai as many restaurants just seem to add too much coconut milk to the purer-in-flavor tom yum. I don't like it because it dilutes the flavors of the lemongrass. However, this one was a contender. There was a balance between the lemongrass and the coconut flavor that I haven't encountered before in the States that to me, was very impressive. I'd definitely order it again, but not before trying the tom yum. I bet that's out of this world.
My lard nah with beef was also excellent. It was a very close reminder to what I've had in Bangkok where I like to eat the street food or in little dives. In fact, the best lard nah I've ever had was in Bangkok about 11 years ago. My brother was there also and ever since then, we've eaten in countless Thai restaurants, hoping to recapture that flavor and never succeeding. Well, Osha brought it home! Not only did they use Chinese broccoli but the accompanying "gravy" for the noodles was plentiful. However, the kicker was that the rice noodles were coated with this gravy through and through - a sign that these noodles are sauteed with this sauce before plating instead of just having it dumped on top of the noodles. The noodles were brown in color from the top of this heap to the bottom. That may not sound significant but it's an extra step in the cooking of this dish (or any pasta dish) that makes a huge difference in flavor. I nearly wept to see a plateful of brown noodles. I had to call my brother after we saw the play to tell him about my discovery. He's hasn't left NYC yet but the promise of brown noodles is moving him in the right direction.