Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Osha Thai - Scottsdale

I love Thai food. When I think of "comfort food", I don't see chicken and biscuits, mac and cheese, or a chicken-fried steak. I see panang and tom kha gai. I don't know why, as I'm a bald white boy from Maine, but for some reason the complex, fresh flavors of good Thai cooking get the endorphins running. Seth recently reviewed Osha Thai at Shea and Frank Lloyd Wright in Scottsdale and mentioned that their tom kha might be the best in the Valley. That sentence alone put it at the top of my To-Do list.

Sunday afternoon we set off to give them a try, but unfortunately they were closed. Tara being Tara, she decided that Joe's Real BBQ in Gilbert would be a good alternative, and since they are a favorite, we went there. It was great, as usual.

Having been thwarted for Thai on Sunday, Monday night we went to our usual Thai favorite, Chanpen in Glendale. The satay and peanut sauce was great as usual, as was Tara's garlic chicken (vampires beware!) and my yellow curry. Tuesday night we had to go get 99 one ounce bottles of suntan lotion for a marketing thing Tara was working on (don't ask) and she suggested we try Osha, since were were going to be nearby. That sounded great to me, so we headed over.

Osha is in a strip mall in the NE corner of Shea and FLW. We got there a bit after 7pm and there were two or three tables with people. It's a smallish space. A young girl got up from a two top near the kitchen and showed us to a booth. She said her sister would be back shortly to serve us. As we looked over the menu, her sister (whom we later learned is Maybelline) came over and took our drink order. Tara went against type and just got a water while I got a Coke. Lots if items looked good. It took us a few minutes to take it all in. Mabelline came back and since we were still looking at entrees, we ordered chicken satay and the Osha Golden Pockets for appetizers. Unlike a lot of Thai places, you can order the soups by the bowl. I took advantage of this and got a bowl of tom kha gai. Since that would take care of my spicy cravings, I decided to get the Osha Barbequed Chicken. Tara went back and forth over a few entrees. When Maybelline came back to take our order, she answered all our questions and made suggestions as to which noodles went better with which meats. Tara finally settled on the pan-fried noodles, sans the bed of lettuce it's normally served on. She didn't want the lettuce to cool it down.

Shortly after that, our appetizers arrived. The plate of satay held four skewers of chicken, a bowl of peanut dipping sauce, four toast points, and a cucumber salad. The Golden Pockets were four pouches about the diameter of a silver dollar with a bowl of spicy sweet and sour sauce for dipping. The satay was excellent. The peanut sauce was exceptional. It had a strong peanut flavor, was blended smooth, and warm. We both rated it as better than Chanpen's peanut sauce, which we both love. My only complaint is the pieces of chicken were smaller than the ones at Chanpen. Tara didn't mind that, since they were so good. The Golden Pockets were very crunchy. I broke into on and immediately got a sensation of being at an Indian restaurant. The finely chopped chicken, onion, potato, and curry was very good and smelled heavenly. Tara really enjoyed them as well.

As we were digging into the appetizers, my highly anticipated soup arrived. It was very hot, so I set it aside to cool. As I mixed it with the spoon, I found and removed a huge slice of galanga, a bit of lemongrass stalk, and a kaffir lime leaf. All very good signs. After we finished the appetizers, I was about to dig into it when our entress were delivered. It was still on the hot side, so I set it aside again. Patience is a virtue.

Tara really enjoyed her noodles. I tried a few bites and it was pretty good. My barbequed chicken was a half-chicken marinated in herbs and then roasted. It came with the same spicy sweet and sour sauce as the pockets. I really liked it. The bone-in chicken had been hacked into pieces. It had really good flavor. Slits had been made and the spice paste was spread into the cuts. It left a yellow curry residue on my plate. I was very happy overall with it. I had the leftover barbequed chicken for lunch cold, and the flavor was even better the next day. After a few bites, I switched over to the tom kha.

It was worth the wait. I'd ordered the soup with mild spiciness and I didn't detect any heat at all. However, the rest of the flavors were all there. I loved it. The full spectrum of tastes spread through my mouth and I savored each spoonful. This is definitely the best tom kha I've had in the valley. Since the spicy heat factor was not there, I offered a taste to Tara. Big mistake, as she loved it as much as I did and had quite a bit of it. We both agreed this was the big winner of the night. All the food was really good or better. I can't wait to go back and try the panang.

Another fun part was the service. Maybelline was very friendly and answered our questions on the food and other things. We had a long conversation about the state of dim sum in the Valley. Towards the end of our meal we were the only customers, so there wasn't a rush. Apparently they drive to Los Angeles a couple times a year for supplies and ingredients they can't find easily in the Valley. The food definitely benefits from this.

Our final bill came to $41.40, which I thought seemed low for all the food and leftovers we had. We had no problems at all and the soup alone will lure me back.

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