Located at the entrance of the Westgate Shopping Centre, the OhCha Noodle Bar, which opened in October 2015, is hard to miss.
As we enter the bar, the hostess who also turns out to be our server, Hannah, checks my reservation and guides us to a table outside. On several different occasions, I have visited the Tapas Ceviche Bar, right opposite the noodle bar; and a smiling Hannah has always beckoned me to the bright and colorful restaurant.
It’s a beautiful sunny day so seating outside seems obvious. But as I go outside, I notice that there was a small step that I cannot get past without any assistance. Once I tell Hannah about this little problem, she promptly arranges for a table to be brought indoors while they swap the taller bar tables outside.
After settling down, I appreciate the atmosphere and décor. The indoor space is small but quite bright and airy. There is a huge build-your-own-noodle-bowl-menu hanging on the wall, under which is an open kitchen behind the counter. Right by the entrance, an entire wall is covered in colorful posters showing scenes and food from various Asian countries. I’m sure you know what that did to me. Yes, that’s right… it has got me wanderlusting about traveling to Asia!
Once we sit down, Hannah brings us menus. The menu seems small but covers an extensive range of Southeast Asian dishes. They have everything from Vietnamese-inspired sandwiches to an array of soups and noodles (as the name obviously suggested). The best part, according to me, is that one can customize a dish as per their own preferences. As we browse through the menu, my mom asks Hannah if she recommends the lemongrass lemonade, which looks interesting. She brings us tasters in shot glasses. It is so delicious and refreshing in the Nairobi heat that we all order one each. It is an Asian-inspired take on a classic American drink.
For the starters, we order Vegetable Spring Rolls and the Papaya Salad. Hannah slightly rushes us to order the mains too, so that we don’t have to wait too long as there was a large group who was ready to order, as well. I don’t mind because that means I don’t have to wait for my food for long. I mean, we all know and hate the struggle, right?
There are three spring rolls, one for us each. Usually, I avoid the spring rolls because I do not like their greasiness. But these were wonderful. They aren’t too oily and the filling of carrots, coriander, and cabbage rolled in a soft rice paper wrap were light and tasty. The dipping sauce, provided with the spring rolls, is a Thai sweet chili sauce that perfectly complimented the salty, fried snack. The papaya salad is basically raw grated papaya with carrots, peanuts, cherry tomatoes, and cilantro in a lime dressing. Light and refreshing, again cooling in the heat.
The mains arrive quickly. Mom had ordered a Tom Yum Soup. It is a spicy and sour broth-y soup with vegetables and lemongrass. I sneak a spoonful and it is delicious. I think it would be perfect to clear stuffy noses when you’ve come down with a cold.
Diva had ordered a Tofu Mix. This is a bowl of stir fried vegetables and crispy tofu with rice and ginger in a soy, chili and sesame sauce. I sneak a bite too, and it hit that Chinese food craving spot. It’s seasoned well and all the flavors came out beautifully.
The noodle bar offers a variety of noodle types, toppings, and sauces to choose from. And with this in mind, I decide to build my own dish, which really gets the child inside of me super excited. I choose the steamed jasmine rice as my base, and then I choose my vegetables – carrots, mushrooms, peppers and broccoli, with some egg added in. All this is cooked in a Singaporean sauce. This is an aromatic mix of Asian spices and sesame oils. I smile to myself as I dig into my bowl. So delectable and flavorsome!
Both Diva and I can’t finish our dishes, so we take the leftovers home. The portions are too massive for me. Next time I shall probably share a dish with someone. However, the restaurant is affordable (nothing on the menu is more than Ksh900/=).
At this point, I am full and satisfied, but Mom drops a few hints that she wants dessert. OhCha, perhaps because it is a noodle bar, doesn’t have many dessert options; however my mom orders the Coconut Panna Cotta.
The Panna Cotta is creamy but not cloyingly sweet and that keeps drawing me back for more, despite being so full. The tree tomato coulis, that I had assumed was a strawberry sauce, perfectly compliments the sweet coconut flavor with its tart notes. I probably would not have ordered this particular dessert, because the combo of coconut and tree tomato seemed too adventurous for my palate, but it is definitely something I’m coming back for, being a coconut aficionado!
We had had a three-course meal within one hour. The service is quick and Hannah is welcoming, making sure we have everything we need. She has got me reminiscing about the wonderful service I had received at Gizani’s Dining in the Dark dinner.
OhCha Noodle Bar is great for someone on the go. (Yes, service is that fast and I saw several people pick up their meals, too). It is also perfect for a group of people who want to enjoy a casual meal together in a relaxing atmosphere. Besides, vegetarians, like myself, have an abundance of choices to order from. So, I know where I’ll be when that spicy Asian food craving hits.
With that, I head home and binge-watch some TV as the food coma takes over…
Photos for this post provided by Diva Shah.
Happy Holidays from Jaini’s Diaries! Hope you have a wonderful festive season with your loved ones and a joyous new year. See you in 2016 🙂