When it comes to this blog, I’ve been lost in a long slumber since a few months, but now I’m back; back with a promise to write reviews as frequently as I can. I apologise to everyone who’s been waiting to know more about newly opened restaurants in Mumbai – but in my defence, I’ve been working on something new for all you food lovers, and I will share more details about that in my next blog post.
Today, I’d like to share my dining experience at one of the most popular newly-opened restaurants in the city, which is currently being victimised with mixed reviews by vaguely satisfied and tremendously overwhelmed diners. To clear this confusion for myself, and you guys, I decided to dine there last month and here’s a detailed review of what I thought about it.
O:h Cha | Kitchen & Bar
Address: Mathuradas Mills Compound, Lower Parel, next to blueFROG.
Phone: 022 66334455, 022 24939310, 022 266370763
Nestled inside the popular Mathuradas Mills Compound at Lower Parel, where blueFROG and The Barking Deer co-exist, O:h Cha – Kitchen & Bar flaunts its minimalist interiors and claims to be serving solely authentic Thai food, prepared in the meticulous time-honoured manner.
The mastermind behind this magnificently beautiful restaurant is Chef Pipat Niyomsin, who at 57, carries a charmingly friendly personality along with his matured confidence in discussions, and expertise in his cooking. On asking him about his vision for the food he was serving, he said:
“I cook with my heart, I’ve always done that since the day I started cooking, and I would like to invite Mumbai to come and savour the food I’ve have grown up cooking and eating all my life – Thai food.”
|TBB with Chef Pipat Niyomsin at O:h Cha
When I asked him about his favourite dish in the world, or his favourite creation by himself at O:h Cha, he said: “Like you, I am never satisfied with only one picture, I like to keep cooking, I can cook 500 dishes, I have 500 favourite dishes.”
After speaking to the servers, the manager and the chef, I realised that everybody at O:h Cha take their food very seriously, everything is prepared from scratch – from the coconut milk which is extracted in the restaurant – to the freshest of ingredients sourced locally, as well as internationally.
Did the food match up to everything I heard about it that night?
Let’s find out.
Kung Tempura (Thai style tempura prawns)
I enjoy sea food and tempura prawns is probably my favourite dish amongst all the available fried sea food in the world. The prawns were of an acceptable size, beautifully crisp and cooked to perfection effortlessly by the chef. The ‘sweet chili sauce’ that came with it, was a perfect companion for this dish – the prawns tasted boringly bland without it. If you love prawns, do not hesitate to order this appetiser for your first course.
Som Tam (spicy Thai papaya salad)
We like to enjoy every Thai meal with some papaya salad, it’s almost like a mandate for us. O:h cha offers this salad with meat as well, so we decided to order it some with chicken. Unfortunately, the chef forgot to add the chicken and we weren’t feeling any pleased with that. Fortunately, the salad carried many refreshing flavours, combined with enough spice to numb our palates for a while. This dish depicted the simplicity and the praiseworthy cutting skills of the chef’s team.
Satay Ja (wheat proteins & vegetables on skewers with peanut sauce)
The wheat protein and the vegetables were perfectly cooked and marinated beautifully, absorbing all flavours adequately. This is a simple and soulful dish for vegetarians, especially those who like soya or wheat proteins. For those who don’t, please avoid ordering it. Also, I’d like to give zero marks to its lousy sloppy presentation and full marks to its accompanying peanut sauce.
Neua Dad Deaw (jerk beef)
This was undoubtedly the saving grace during our first course, and also the best dish we tried that night. It was sweet, salty, juicy and mischievously crackly. The beef was generously marinated and deep-fried after drying – a perfect snack to go with a pint or two of Tsingtao beer. Please don’t forget to try this one!
Se Krong Moo Ob Tao Se (baked pork ribs with black bean sauce)
Honestly, I had never tried pork ribs in Thai cuisine before, so I was probably a little too excited than it was necessary. The black bean sauce was flavourful and delicious but the meat was overcooked, irritably sticky, and unacceptably chewy. When you go to O:h Cha, not ordering this dish would be a good idea.
Spicy Panang Curry (chicken)
I have spent hours walking through the streets of Bangkok last year, in search for an unforgettable Panang curry but I didn’t succeed eventually. Just before having the first bite, I was praying that it deactivates my craving for it. It had everything it required – dried chili peppers, lemongrass, coriander, garlic and salt – err, a little too much of salt. If only the chef had decided to go easy on the seasoning, for us, it would’ve been the best dish of that night.
Pad Pak Si Sa Hi (asparagus, broccoli, shiitake + white fungus in soya sauce)
Vegetarians, if you’re looking for a new favourite soulful Thai dish, this could be your best bet. Dishes like these depict how simple ingredients can create magic in Asian cuisine. The sauce was mild but delectably earthy, and the white fungus was the best element of the dish. On a rainy day, walk in and enjoy it with hot steamed rice… you won’t regret it.
Kang Keaw Waan Pak Ja (green curry with vegetables)
Just how most of us judge a south Indian restaurant with the sambhar served there, we couldn’t leave without trying the traditional green Thai curry that night. After a mix of hits and misses by the chef, we were hoping for this dish to elevate our moods completely. The mesmerisingly aromatic curry was a little less creamy for my liking but did not lack anything in terms of flavours. The vegetables were cooked perfectly and its combination with steamed rice was undoubtedly a match made in food-heaven.
Tang Naam Chuem Kati (muskmelon & watermelon in simple coconut milk syrup)
At the end of our meal, the chef was apologetic about not being able to offer more than one dessert that night. When this dessert arrived in a fancy glass bowl, it looked interestingly inviting. Thin slices of sweetened musk melon floated with chunks of watermelon in the coconut syrup, with a big ball of ice resting right in the middle of it. This was a perfectly light and refreshing end to our meal; I’ll definitely go back for some more of this simple and soulful dessert.
Two months after its launch in April, O:h Cha finally started opening for lunch in June and here’s what is in store for all of you who work or stay in/around Lower Parel:
O:h Cha Kitchen & Bar is more expensive than its competitors like Busaba, Thai Ban and Nom Nom in the city. However, with Chef Niyomsin, who has decades of relevant culinary experience in hotel chains and as an instructor at the Institute of Culinary Art (in Bangkok), this restaurant has much more authenticity and excellence to offer.
The credibility and expertise of the chef depicts in his food flawlessly.
Lack of consistency through out the menu, could be a concern for the management.
Will I go back?
For some jerk beef with Tsingtao beer… definitely!
Happy hogging! 🙂