The Uptown dining scene is full of thriving Asian restaurants. Roat Osha’s opening almost a year ago seemed to be accepted simply as a matter of course. Its sister restaurant, nearby Tum Rup Thai, features a similar upscale minimalism, and shares many of its basic dishes. When one gets the craving for the kind of comfort food only Thailand can provide, Roat Osha’s unique attraction seems to be its seafood, which is both reasonably priced and excellent.
It was evident immediately from our starters—Scallops with Oyster Mushrooms ($10) and Thai Crispy Calamari ($8)—that Roat Osha’s soul has fins. The scallops were pleasantly fresh, sautéed in a butter reduction before their bath in fragrant peanut curry sauce, and topped with crushed dried onions and mini chili peppers. It may require the skill of a gluttonous ninja to pop one entirely in your mouth using only thin chopsticks, but I am here to tell you such a thing is possible. If your tolerance for spice is very low, have your server deliver your dish as-is. However, if your palate has room for a little bit of sizzle, be a dear, and ask for extra peppers.
It’s always difficult to gauge how spicy to order something, no matter how the menu attempts to go about clarifying the issue. Roat Osha has a numbered heat gauge of one to five, with several dishes starting out at around two. I found that three offered a nice moderate heat that didn’t have me reaching for my water. The next time I dine there, I’ll probably up the ante to four. Feel free to discuss your spice tolerance with your server without embarrassment—after all, it’s Minnesota, and he or she has heard it all before.
Your own spice preference should be your guide with the lightly breaded calamari. If you’re of my persuasion, you will find that the accompanying homemade jalapeño dipping sauce is truly divine. If not, the sweet and sour sauce offers the mildest of kicks.
A happy accident resulted in a wonderful wine pairing: Overstone Sauvignon Blanc ($7.25/27), which is fruity and well-rounded, seems to draw out a kinder, gentler simmer from the jalapeño.
An Uptown eatery would not be complete without a lusty signature cocktail list, and Roat Osha still is experimenting with its libations. Perhaps on an upcoming menu one might find the Sake-tini: a medley of cucumber-infused Opulent vodka and sake that probably will be priced between $8 and $10. Unlike many sake cocktails served elsewhere, where a sprinkling of sake seems to be added simply to make the drink sound more Asian, this drink boasts a sufficiently healthy dose to add depth and character. Our table’s favorite, however, was the Spicy Mango Mojito ($7-$8), partly because it manages to wrangle bold mango together with mint, which can be finicky. Roat Osha’s secret weapon in this case is chili, and before you say no, try it.
Our server soon followed suit with House Specialty Mango Salmon ($17), marinated with mango and citrus fruits before meeting the grill. The result is delightfully flaky and tender, served atop sautéed peppers and basil in lemongrass wok sauce. Sauvignon Blanc also holds court here, with its tropical notes and fresh finish.
We ordered Red Curry with a meat combo of chicken and shrimp ($19.50). Despite our choice of meat, a red wine seemed to hold up best to the bold and velvety sauce. Our server brought a Chilean Carmenere, which is currently off menu, but offers a lovely lingering finish.
I know it is rare to save room for dessert unless it is a special occasion, but Fried Thai Bananas ($5)—served in a shallow pool of warm honey—are truly worthy of a bit of forethought and strategy. Order these miniature beauties alongside Sebastian Joe’s homemade Coconut or Ginger Ice Cream (my personal favorite, at $4.50) for a rare treat that comfortably would serve four.
Sadly, the bananas we typically find in the United States are but bulky shadows of what the fruit can be. I learned this in Egypt, where a tiny, zestier banana often is served plain as dessert in many Cairo restaurants.
We are the land of plenty, but not necessarily the land of quality. We’re getting better, thanks to chefs across the Twin Cities who value fresh seafood, homemade sauces, and seasonal produce. How nice to find that very same philosophy not just at the priciest establishments, but also at obliging Roat Osha, where Thai comfort food is available to anyone with $20 and a spare hour to fill.