Subscribe

Osha Thai BBQ brings the flavor on McDowell Boulevard

address: 1390 N. McDowell Blvd., suite A

website: oshathaibbq.com

hours: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and 5 o 9 p.m., seven days a week

Hats off to any restaurant that opened during the pandemic. In the case of the recently-opened Osha Thai BBQ, this experienced restaurant group based out of San Francisco is well-versed in take-out and delivery. It has become a staple during these sporadic indoor dining times, and they also make some pretty darn good food.

First bite

The space is clean and freshly appointed, but is small, with counter ordering, so on a recent Friday night, after a long work week, Osha seemed more conducive for take-out than dining in. That said, during our second visit, a group of us sat outside and had a wonderful dining experience.

The first thing we noticed when ordering our initial take-out order was that their menu and website are expertly set up for fast ordering, and due to the concise menu, they can turn around orders quickly. Even on a busy Friday evening, our order was ready in the time it took us to drive from downtown to Osha's north-end location.

Samosas on the appetizers menu immediately caught our eyes and threw us off as we are used to them at Indian, not Thai cuisine. However, we love them in general, so we gave them a try, and we're glad we did. The shell was doughy and flakey, and the savory filling of fried mashed potato with curry powder and onion was perfect. This is served with a small side of fresh and tangy cucumber salad.

We also ordered the vegetarian crispy rolls, which were still crispy when we ate them at home roughly an hour after pickup. We went with the barbecue chicken, which ended up being some of the best we have had. The Red Curry with beef had just the perfect amount of spice. We also had the Crab Fried Rice, which we found a bit fishy at first, but then seemed to warm up to quickly, evidenced by the fact that it was the first dish we finished. We later learned that the owner's home cuisine favors more pungent flavors, which may explain the Crab Fried Rice's unique taste. The rice itself was light and flakey and went well with all the other dishes.

Second bite

For our second visit, we took some friends along and dined on Osha's outdoor patio. With five of us in attendance, we ordered nearly the entire menu, only passing up on several salads and items from the "Wok."

After receiving our bottles of Singha Thai Beer, we started off our appetizers with our new favorites, the Samosas.

Puck revealed that these particular Samosas are directly influence by Puck's mother's kitchen. "My mom taught some friends the samosa recipe that she sells in Thailand, in a market in Bangkok. Now a friend makes and sells those same ones here to several Thai restaurants around S.F. and the North Bay."

On the topic of beer, Puck tells me that Osha has its own beer on order from a brewery in L.A. "It is kind of like the Thai version of a michelada, but instead of tomato juice, ours has lemongrass."

Next up were the Veggie Crispy Rolls, Chicken Satay, Moo-Ping and Angel Wings. The Rolls are filled with cabbage, shitake mushrooms and carrots and come with a sweet and sour plum dipping sauce. A staple of Thai restaurants, the Chicken Satay was spot on and came with both peanut sauce and Osha's tangy cucumber salad. Moo-Ping is grilled marinated pork skewers with hints of coriander, garlic and black pepper, with a tamarind dipping sauce and sticky rice. The Angel Wings were something new to us and had a hint of fish sauce, as is the case with many dishes from the Northeastern region of Thailand. These are fried chicken wings covered in sweet and sour garlic sauce and topped with captivating crisps of basil.

Soups

Next up were the two soups (Tom Yum and Tom Kha), which come steeped with either chicken or veggies. Tom Yum is a type of hot and sour Thai soup, usually cooked with shrimp, but in our case, we tried it with veggies and were quite happy with it. "Tom" refers to boiling, while "yam" means 'mixed.'

Usually derived from the same broth stock, the critical difference between Tom Yum and Tom Kha is that the latter contains chili paste and coconut milk, hence the white color. Both were perfectly spiced as is, so we did not push it by adding additional spice. Both will also be perfectly warming as we head into our colder winter months.

Somewhat in the same soup category, we also had both the Yellow Curry and the Red Curry. The Yellow was with chicken while we stepped things up with the addition of shrimp to the Red. Both were excellent.

Salads & Wok

Although Osha offers both a BBQ steak and BBQ chicken salad, we were already going to order everything on the BBQ menu, so we opted for the Papaya Salad, which I had never tried before. Made with green papaya, green beans, fresh garlic, cherry tomato halves, crushed peanuts, and topped with a spicy lime dressing, it was a refreshing respite before diving into the deep end of the menu – the barbecue dishes.

We also had the Pad Thai (with prawns) and the Pineapple Fried Rice from the "Wok" menu, including Crab Fried Rice and Spicy Basil, which is the only other dish on the menu, besides the barbecue salads, we have yet to try. Both Wok options were solid, but we were already anticipating the main event – the barbecue, so we saved most of these two for take-home.

Barbecue

Petaluma has some great Thai food options but what sets Osha apart is their barbecue.

Osha's barbecue plates all come with a side of papaya salad and a choice of steamed, fried or dark sticky rice. We thought after our first visit that we would always choose fried rice in the future; however, our first try of the dark sticky rice was a real eye-opener. Not only fascinating to look at, but it also went well with the BBQ dishes and was a particularly nice addition to my reheating of the curry for lunch the next day.

The five barbecue options are chicken, beef, pork, pork ribs and lamb. All were excellently seasoned and prepared, with each of us having our favorite. I liked them all, but the tender juiciness of the Chicken topped my list, followed closely by the lamb.

Dessert

We finished our meal with the always refreshing Thai Sticky Rice with Mango dessert.

Leftovers

With healthy portion sizes and prices, both of our visits resulted in plenty of leftovers. And after the overnight stay in our fridge, we would swear that the flavors get even better with all the soups and curries, likely because the extra time allows the diverse flavors to expand and mix. Add the leftover sticky rice and barbecue and blend all the dishes to make for an incredible day-after lunch.

Catering & Penngrove pick-up

During our lunch, we learned from a happy returning customer that Osha offers catering, having catered her lunch party the day before. This is an excellent and innovative choice for any kind of home or office party as Osha's menu offers both great finger foods as well as main dishes. And due to Osha's excellent turnaround time, it makes for a great dinner option for Penngrovians, either direct from home or stopping in on their home from work, as they could easily place a phone order as late as the Novato Narrows and the food will be hot and waiting for them upon their exit of Highway 101.

Osha also compliments Petaluma's already great Thai restaurant choices by adding something different – a broad selection of Thai barbecue choices, as well as tried and true classics, such as Pad Thai, a couple of curries and a yummy Tom Yum Soup.

What is "Thai Food"?

What most of us know as "Thai food" comes from Thailand's Central Plains, which hosts the capital city of Bangkok along its southern edge. Stir-fries and noodles are popular here, as well as many of the curry dishes we are used to here in the U.S.

However, Thai food is more of a general term as the four main regions of Thailand produce distinctly different foods and flavors. Because Thailand has been along many historic trade routes, the cuisine benefits from contact with other cultures, adopting curries and samosas from India, stir-fries from China, and braised meats from Cambodia. They have even adeptly integrated chiles and peanuts into their dishes, both of which are relatively new to Thai cuisine, originating in the New World.

The northern region is heavily forested, so there is plenty of fuel for cooking, leading to a lot of grilling, the weather is not hot enough for coconuts, so dishes must rely on water or broth for moisture instead of coconut milk, and because of the availability of several bitter herbs, the cuisine has a hint of astringent.

In the south, seafood is king, but without easy access to firewood, much of the cuisine revolves around sun-dried items, such as shrimp paste. The south is also known for being the spiciest Thai region and relies heavily on coconut milk due to the coconut tree's proliferation in the hot weather.

The owners

Chalida O'Ranratana, the founder of Osha Thai, is from Northern Thailand, where strong and pungent flavors are popular, including fish sauces. Additionally, grilling is prevalent in this region, which inspired Chalida's newest restaurant to feature Thai barbecue.

At 22 years old, Chalida (pronounced "sha-LEE-da") joined her sister Lalita Souksamlame in Los Angeles, working in restaurants to support themselves and gain experience. The two moved to the Bay Area, launching their first restaurant, OSHA Thai Noodle Café at Geary and Leavenworth in San Francisco. Since that first location, Chalida and Lalita have gone on to open several more Thai restaurants, usually with the "Osha Thai" in the name. Their other restaurants include several Osha Thai Express restaurants, Osha Thai Noodle, Osha Thai barbecue, the fancy Osha Thai at the Embarcadero, Lao Table (serving food from Laos) and Bann (a resort-style bed and breakfast in Napa). Chalida discovered Petaluma while helping open another Sonoma County restaurant for a friend and immediately liked the town and the people and so wanted to open a restaurant here.

With Chalida having so many plates in the air, my first contact with Osha Thai barbecue was Pollapak Anantakunupakorn, known as "Puck." Puck grew up in Bangkok before spending his teens in England going to school.

According to Puck, "Osha" means tasty, delicious, feel-good eating. "It is an expression we say when we taste something and say, "oh, delicious!". Puck has been helping Chalida with construction and set-up for the past couple of years, including opening the new Osha Thai Express in Oakland and the quick opening of Petaluma's first Osha Thai barbecue. Yes, I said 'first' because they are already in the process of securing an additional location rumored to be in the "New" Lucky's shopping center (on Lakeville).

Osha Thai BBQ is located at 1390 N. McDowell Blvd. A in the old "OSH" shopping center at the corner of N. McDowell and Old Redwood Hwy. It is in the corner spot at the opposite end of the same building as Caffe Giostra. Most recently, this space was a short-lived Thai restaurant and, before that, an Indian restaurant.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

The Press Democrat
Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Sonoma County Gazette