Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A no-go at Osha Thai Kitchen

Sunday evening, AV and I continued our perennial quest for good Thai food by visiting Osha Thai Kitchen on the UES. I had heard about Osha, a new addition to the neighborhood, a few weeks ago and wanted to check it out, so off we went.

Osha is a tiny sliver of a storefront, but the restaurant itself sports some spiffy decor. The marble tables have an interesting pattern, which distracts only briefly from the ornate chandeliers and empty picture frames on the wall. If you visit Osha, take a quick jaunt to the bathroom, which is one of the nicer in recent memory. Just try not to tip over the serene floating-flower-birdbath next to the toilet.

But seriously folks, a beautiful dining room only gets you so far. How was the food? Regrettably, not as great as we had hoped. We started with two appetizers-- AV with the chicken satay and me, of course, with the veggie dumplings (listed, inexplicably, as "J dumpling" on the menu). The satay came with four generous skewers, a pro in AV's book, and some high-quality foliage. However, AV deducted points for the peanut sauce format-- rather than a container of sauce on the side, Osha had pre-slathered the skewers with sauce, eliminating the ability to control your own sauce-to-meat ratio. Also, AV wasn't a big fan of the chopped peanuts sprinkled over the top. A small taste of the peanut sauce revealed that it was pretty good but nothing knock-your-socks-off amazing.

Like tropical birds. Or fish. Or something.

Things went from mediocre to bad on my side of the table. My J dumplings came four to an order and were an appealing emerald color. But one bite revealed tough, hard dumpling skin at the top of each dumpling, as though the skins had not cooked through at the point where each dumpling was pinched together. But more importantly, the filling was--well-- just plain weird. There are many different types of veggie dumpling fillings, from mostly greens to minced veggies to peanutty goodness, but this could barely be called a filling: it was as though the kitchen had opened a bag of frozen Bird's Eye veggies and wrapped them, unaltered, in dumpling skins. Each dumpling held approximately one whole pea, one corn niblet, two or three carrot dices, and a forlorn shred of spinach. Whaaa? The whole thing was flavorless, an unfortunate condition made even worse by the fact that the pomegranate dipping sauce had absolutely no flavor either-- not salt, not spice, nothing but a faint, watery sweetness. Fail.

Lots of promise

Note the uncooked skin at the top

Still, we had high hopes for our entrees. AV chose the Kea Moa with chicken, a mixture of wide ribbon noodles, egg, chili, garlic, onion, and bell pepper. He seemed to enjoy it, noting that it was pretty darn spicy, but just on this side of mouth-incapacitating.

Gotta love wide rice noodles

My choice was, as always, papaya salad. It was a pretty good rendition, although not a huge portion, and also quite spicy. It satisfied my Thai food craving, at the very least, which the dumplings had failed to do.

A nice mixture, but beware of spice

When we went into Osha, we unconsciously or not were pitting it against Sala Thai, the reigning Thai-food-within-a-few-blocks-of-AV's-place champion in our books. As we ate our Osha food and gazed at Sala just a few hundred yards across the street, we felt wistful. At least from my perspective, Osha failed to unseat Sala in either the dumpling or papaya salad categories. It's cheaper, yes, and the dining room offers a nicer eat-in experience, but it really comes down to the food. That leaves Osha with two Offset Spatulas and the caveat that it's still new and may need some time to work out a few kinks.

Osha Thai Kitchen
1711 Second Avenue, between 88th and 89th Streets

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