Monday, June 18, 2018

Private Event @ Osha Lounge

I've long lamented the lack of great thai cuisine in San Francisco, which is not to say we don't have a lot of options, at all levels of the price spectrum, but, compared to the incredible thai food I've had in Sydney, I just can't find myself really that enthusiastic about options in San Francisco.

When you mention thai food in San Francisco, one of the very first places that people will mention is Osha, a small chain, with several concepts, including full service restaurants (in upscale or tenderloin locations), an "Express" version (in a food court), and a more recently rebranded and modified northeaster thai restaurant (Lao Table, which I've reviewed before).  They also used to have a fast concept place, After Osha, where I used to love trying desserts, but it sadly has closed.

I've visited different Osha restaurants many times over the years, and always found it to be reliably decent, just, not rave-worthy.

But now I have a reason to rave.  They do an amazing job with private events in their space at the Embarcadero location.  I do not hesitate to enthusiastically endorse it.

They really delivered on all fronts: a beautiful space, good food, incredibly reasonably priced, and ridiculously easy to work with.  They made organizing a large event remarkably easy, and I can't wait to work with them again in the future.
Thai Feast!
Everything we had was good.  Very solid execution of classic thai dishes.  Nothing mind blowing, but all good, and, particularly if you consider this was buffet style for a large group.

I highly recommend for large group private events, no caveats at all.

Setting

The location we picked as in their Embarcadero Center location, in the private lounge.
Private Entrance.
There are two private entrances to the space, one from inside 4 Embarcadero Center, one from the walkway near the front of the restaurant.

Signage was placed out saying that the lounge was reserved for a private event, and they even made a sign with our logo on it -- which I didn't even provide!
Lounge Seating.
One large area was all couches and comfortable seating, with lots of low tables.  Very comfortable for group conversations.
Fun Seating.
Another area had ... this.

I'm not sure if this was practical, but it was a pretty cool piece of furniture, and with the ottomans and side tables, it actually did work out well!
Food Serving Room.
Food was all laid out in the other large room, two different buffets, each serving different items, with lots of space to flow around them.

Drinks

For a drink package I had the option of just beer/wine/soft drinks, or I could add on a bar package for $15 more per person, which I did.  The package included basic well beverages for standard liquor, but I also asked to have a few signature cocktails and mocktails added.  My requests were easily accommodated, at no extra charge.
Private Bar.
Our space had a private bar, with multiple bartenders working.  They worked efficiently, we never had long lines.
Drink Menu.
Our custom printed drink menu had a single offering for sparkling, white, and red wine, and a single beer.  Everyone seemed happy enough with these, even though not much variety.

In addition to the basic soft drinks, I also asked for more interesting non-alcoholic offerings, since we had a number of people who do not drink, plus many who were driving that night.  Classic Thai iced tea was on offer, plus Lychee Iced Tea and a Mango Mojito.

On the cocktail side, they offered up three signature drinks: Thai Smile, Lychee Martini, and Bangkok Mule, plus basics made with vodka, rum, gin, and tequila.
Thai Smile.
"Jack Daniel's Whiskey, Amaretto, Fresh Orange Juice, Cinnamon Stick, and Lemon."

For my first drink, I went for the "Thai Smile".

It was too sweet for me, far too much orange juice, not enough whiskey.  I liked the maraschino cherry in it though.
Lychee Rocks sub Gin. 
"Absolut Vodka, Lychee Juice, Peach Schnapps, and Drop of Grenadine."

Next, I went for the "Lychee Rocks", but, not being a vodka lover, I asked to have it made with gin instead.

This was better, fine, and I liked the huge lychee inside, but, still not a very remarkable cocktail.  Still, I was glad they had signature cocktails available, it made things a bit more fun.

Food

The cocktail package normally comes with 7 items, served buffet style, ranging from appetizers to more substantial noodle and rice dishes.  The lineup covers all standard dietary needs: gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, along with a beef, a chicken, and a seafood option.

I asked to make a couple small tweaks, substituting pad se ew for the pad thai (uh, because I like it more) and crab rangoon for the firecracker prawns (again, uh, cuz I like it more), and these requests were easily accommodated, free of charge.

In addition, since our group was large, we were able to include dessert, complimentary.

I was really pleased with the food lineup, everything was hot and fresh, items were replenished constantly, and the signage was extremely clear for dietary needs.

Service was also excellent, dishes were cleared out of the way as soon as people set them down, and when the event was winding down, we were even offered boxes and doggie bags to pack up whatever leftover food remained.

Appetizers

Our buffet started with several appetizers.  The standard package included one seafood, two veggie, and one beef appetizer.  I subbed out the seafood one for a different seafood one.  Osha has a ton of starters on the regular menu, and I suspect I could have changed out more of these if I wanted.
Dungeness Crab Wontons.
"Crispy wonton filled with Dungeness crab meat, cream cheese, water chestnuts, onion, carrot served with plum dipping sauce."

The cocktail menu normally came with simple grilled firecracker prawns, but, when looking at the restaurant appetizer menu I saw bacon wrapped scallops and crab wontons, and asked if we could have those instead.  The bacon wrapped scallops were available for an additional fee, but, the crab wontons were a free of charge substitution, so I went with that.  Why?  Well, I like crab?

The wontons were fine, nicely crispy, and generously filled.  I didn't really taste crab though, mostly just cream cheese with some kind of other flavors.   I was sad to not really taste the crab, but they weren't bad exactly.  I almost had a second one, but didn't, so, I guess that is saying something?
Vegetarian Thai Samosa.
"Potato, carrot, curry and onion in a pot sticker wrapper."

A thai samosa?  What is that exactly?  I don't know, but these were surprisingly good.  I almost didn't try one, and didn't have one until my final round through the savory buffet (after I had moved on to dessert even!).  These are a signature item, from the regular appetizer menu.

The filling was very familiar; yes, it was a samosa, with potato, carrots, and onion, curry spices.  Warm, soft, comforting filling.

But the wrapper?  Not a standard Indian samosa wrapper, but instead, a kinda flaky pot sticker wrapper.  Yeah, what?  I know, they were different.  But very good.

The size of each was quite large, larger than an Indian samosa, and they were loaded with filling.  Not a dainty bite, particularly as they were fried.

My favorite of the appetizers, and I gladly took extras home with me, and they reheated easily.
Vegetarian Gyo-Za.
"Pot sticker wrapped with minced vegetables."

The final fried appetizer was gyoza, an item on the Happy Hour menu, but not on the regular restaurant menu.  I almost subbed it out for spring rolls (fresh or crispy), and rather wish I had opted for the fresh rolls, so we could have a non-fried item.

This was my least favorite of the appetizers, fairly greasy, the filling just minced veggies, none of which stood out.
Sauces.
On the side was two sauces, I think one was the plum sauce for the rangoon, and the other the dipping sauce for gyoza.  Neither were labelled, a bit odd given how well labelled everything else was.  And neither had spoons to serve, again, a bit odd given how well everything else was done.

I did ask a server for spoons, and they were quickly fetched.
Kobe Mini Burgers.
"Kobe beef sliders served with Asian slaw."

The sliders did surprise me.  The menu said "kobe mini burgers", and I expected sliders more like burgers.  Not that burgers are thai style at all, but, that is more what I thought they would be.  These are not part of the regular menu.

I didn't end up trying one of these, I was somewhat saving it for round ... 4 or 5 after I had the dishes I wanted more, but when I went back finally, they were gone.  Doh.  The only item we ran out of, otherwise, quantities were great.

The rolls did look like generic soft buns, but the pulled beef did look saucy and flavorful.  Next time, I'll be sure to get one!
Fresh Spring Rolls with Shrimp (Gluten-Free).
"Shrimp, lettuce, mint wrapped in fresh rice paper and homemade peanut dipping sauce."

These weren't served at my event, but, at another event I attended at Osha (along with the crab rangoons and the dreamy thai samosas).  Also on the regular menu.

They were good, fresh spring rolls.  The lettuce was very fresh and not wilted in any way.  The rice paper was soft and not dried out nor too soggy.  Clearly very freshly made.

I really liked the peanut sauce, but wished there was extra served on the side.

Salad, Noodles, Rice

Our menu was rounded out by a salad dish, a noodle dish, and a rice dish.  The noodle dish I changed from the original menu, but only slightly.  All of these dishes come from the regular restaurant menu.

No curries were offered as part of the standard lineup, which surprised me a bit as they seem particularly buffet friendly, but perhaps less easy to eat while standing and walking around.

These items were all well executed, very standard, decent versions of classic Thai dishes.
Chieng Mai Larb (Gluten-Free).
"Famous northern-style chicken larb lettuce tossed with aromatic herb and onion served with Artisan romaine."

I don't like chicken, so I skipped the larb, served with really nice looking large romaine lettuce leaves.

While this wasn't for me, I appreciated that the standard lineup had something gluten-free and low carb for those members of my party who preferred this.
Vegan Pad Se Ew.
"Rice noodle stir-fried with broccoli, black soybean sauce."

I switched in pad se ew for the pad thai from the standard cocktail party menu.  I wouldn't normally opt for it to be vegan, but, this is what was suggested to handle the most dietary constraints, and I didn't really mind.  And why pad se ew?  Well, I like it more.  The special event coordinator admitted that it actually works better in buffet steam trays too, but they have pad thai on the standard offering as it is more of a crowd pleaser.

It was, well, classic pad se ew.  Large, thick rice noodles, chunks of broccoli (not asian broccoli though), and cubes of tofu, in a black bean sauce.  The noodles were not clumped together, not mushy.  The broccoli wasn't too mushy, nor too crisp.  Flavor was mild.

Overall, solid, decent pad se ew.
Pineapple Fried Rice.
"Fried rice with egg, tomato, onion, green onion, cashew nuts, raisins, pineapple, chicken and prawns."

Fried rice isn't really my type of dish, and I didn't have any interest in the chicken nor prawns in it, but, I could appreciate it for being totally loaded up with goodies.  There were so many things packed in, all generously distributed.

I did try a small serving, mostly for the cashews and raisins, and it was good.  The rice wasn't clumpy, there was plenty of flavor, and I liked the textural elements of the crunchy nuts and the sweet plump raisins.
Crab Pad Thai.
"Rice stick noodles stir-fried with chicken, egg, bean sprouts, chives, tofu, and ground peanut served with fresh lime."

One diner had a number of food limitations (no onion, garlic, or gluten), and was able to order off the main menu, since the buffet items all contained at least one of these things.

He selected the pad thai, crab version.

The serving was ... massive.  So he shared with me.

It was my favorite dish of the night.  The base was fairly standard pad thai - rice noodles, sorta sweet sauce, decently cooked,  bits of peanut.  But on top ... that was tons and tons of stir fried crab.  Wow.  The dish carried a $5 premium for the crab, but, they really did give you your money's worth.  I liked it quite a bit, and would have loved just a big plate of stir fried crab!

Served with fresh juicy bean sprouts, a lime wedge, and, uh, a flower.

Dessert

Desserts are normally an add-on of $5 per person, but, given our group size, complimentary.  The more exciting Osha desserts, like the shaved ice creations, tempura ice cream, fried bananas and ice cream, and warm chocolate souffle are not really suitable for large banquets, so, our options here were limited.
French Macaroons.
The package included macaroons.  I ... don't like macaroons.  But others seemed happy with these, easy to grab, and in assorted colors and flavors.

Uh, not so Thai though, really, a bit random, and not part of Osha's regular menu.
Mango Sticky Rice.
"Sweet sticky rice served with mango topped with coconut cream."

Mango sticky rice is obviously *the* dessert of choice at a Thai restaurant, so I was happy they also offered this for our group.

Served appropriately formatted for a cocktail reception, in cute little glass parfait cups, sticky rice on the bottom, cubed mango on top, garnish of sesame seeds.

I've had Osha's mango sticky rice before, and it is always pretty good.  This was no different.  The sticky rice was, well, sticky.  Coated in not too sweet sweetened coconut milk.  Those elements I really liked.  The mango though, eh, mango in the US just isn't great, not very flavorful, not very juicy.  Not Osha's fault, but not great.

Overall though, I still liked this, and gladly downed, uh, 3 of them.  They were small, really.
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