What used to be Tachibana has now changed names and menus again, becoming Ocha. (We missed visiting it during the short period it was House of Thai.) They're now Thai/Japanese, an increasingly common commingling these days, not just here but across the country. Perhaps it's because it appeals to groups with both metalmouths and non-metalmouths.
A friend had muttered about the kitchen being over-vigorous with their seasoning, and when this guy says food is too hot, it's hot. That's intriguing. No dampening-down of the seasoning? Time to investigate.
A little sushi to start out, fresh, a generous cut of fish on the yellowtail, some moist eel. And on to the tom kha soup. What the menu calls rich and creamy is a chicken broth with coconut milk, making it opaque, but was really surprisingly light, full of lemongrass flavor and chunky with lots of straw mushrooms, tofu and rings of green onion for color. Spicing was mild to moderate.
Vegetable puffs from the Thai Appetizers section of the menu brought two pastries, crisp and light with a vegetable mixture inside held together, seemingly, with mashed potato. Seasoning was mild, gentle hits of fish sauce, garlic, probably a little galangal, in these fried dumpling-ish charmers.
The only inquiry of "how hot" was for the seafood hot pot, the dish that had astounded my friend. He'd said hot. My order was my usual "somewhere between medium and hot", and that's how it arrived, far calmer than what the pal, who was sitting across the table, had previously tasted. The clear broth was a good temperature, sitting over a small burner, steaming and full of squid, shrimp, mussels, a couple of small clams,some fish and, oh, yes, the near-inevitable faux-krab sticks. The broth was so good it made even the krab taste good, and the seafood wasn't overcooked. The broth showed evidence of the almost licorice-like Thai basil as well as lemongrass and cilantro.
An order of tempura , appetizer sized but used as an entree, brought a shrimp, slices of sweet potato, an onion ring and some broccoli. It had been allowed to cool too much before arriving at the table, and while lightly battered, was greasier than it should have been. But mussels, breaded and fried with a different coating, were excellent, lots of flavor, with bean sprouts for crunch, onion to add sweetness, and a small dish of a sweet and sour sauce that was mostly superfluous.
At the end of the meal on Saturday evenings, something very different can be ordered. Made to order using rice flour, small, round sweets are cooked on a griddle with indentations, much like that used for the Danish ebelskever. Some of them contained a sesame filling, some have the sweet red bean paste are plain. The batter browns here and there, caramelizing the sugars in the batter a little, the rice flour leaving an interior that's a little gooey, a little chewy, very different, quite good.
12967 Olive Blvd., Creve Coeur
Lunch & Dinner daily
Credit cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: Fair
Entrees: $9 - $17