I remember a time when it was hard to find good Thai food in the San Antonio area; now there are a number of good places from which to choose. Thai O’Cha is one of the smaller Thai restaurants, but it has a lot to offer.
To be honest, I drove by Thai O’Cha several times before I decided to try it. Located on E. Aviation in Universal City, the restaurant is located in a small, older strip mall, and most of the parking is in the back. Situated close to the Randolph AFB front gate, Thai O’Cha is unpretentious, but the food served there is really good.
Thai O’Cha is open Monday through Saturday, serving a bountiful buffet at lunch for $8.95 and a full menu at dinner.
If you love good Thai food, the noon buffet at Thai O’Cha is for you. Or if you are new to Thai dining, the buffet is a wonderful introduction, as it allows you to sample over a dozen good Thai dishes to find your favorites. There are 12 hot dishes; two salads; fresh veggies including lettuce, tomato and cucumbers; cheese rolls and spring rolls; chicken wings and pork ribs; Thai pumpkin and coconut milk, warm coconut tapioca, fresh cantaloupe and watermelon; plus ground peanuts, oils and sauces. Hot dishes on the last day I was there included cashew chicken, yellow curry chicken, panang beef, mixed stir fry, pad Thai, fried rice, pork laab, eggplant delight, and pad woon sen.
There was so much to choose from that I managed to devour three plates of food with no repeating.
I am used to buffets with a half dozen or so offerings, but the buffet here was extensive, and its offerings were balanced to provide a good cross-section of its regular menu. The dishes were kept refilled and all of the food was good. And then there was dessert, for which I chose the warm coconut tapioca.
On a nighttime visit, we tried the Thai O’Cha spring rolls.
These come deep-fried in a crispy rice-paper wrapper that gives the rolls an interesting texture. The veggies and noodles in the rolls are complemented by the thin, savory sauce and the crisp pieces of lettuce that accompany. Wrap, dip and eat. Repeat. Yum!
I like pad kee mao, often referred to as drunken noodles.
The wide rice noodles, chicken, holy basil, onions, tomato and chiles are stir-fried together and the results are amazing. The fish sauce/soy sauce flavorings nicely accent the chicken and veggies. The helping was so generous that I took half home, and it reheated beautifully the next day.
The Thai fried rice with pork was also very good and the ingredients were extremely fresh. Again, the serving size was quite generous.
On another visit, I tried the crispy pad Thai, a dish that is not on many Thai menus. The Thai O’Cha version was excellent.
In this version, the pad Thai noodles are fried to a golden crispiness, and then are combined with bean sprouts, then accented with a savory sauce. Nine plump medium shrimp were added to the dish, and some chopped peanut was added on top. The results were incredible. The crispy pad Thai was crunchy, but the sprouts kept the dish moist. The fried noodles held up well to the sauce. Even though the portion was huge, I managed to finish — I could tell it wouldn’t heat well — but that was just an excuse. I finished the plate because the dish was just that good! I would order it again in a minute!
The regular pad Thai was also good.
The noodles were moist and the sprouts and chicken were fresh and tasty. While I liked it, the crispy version, with a heavier sauce, would be my choice of the two. Still, when I hit the buffet, the regular pad Thai always ends up on my plate.
In addition to the warm coconut tapioca, there is some excellent coconut ice cream on the dessert menu.
Available with or without the sticky rice, this ice cream is rich and has a strong coconut flavor. This is probably my favorite coconut ice cream in the city.
Thai O’Cha is open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. Prices for dinner dishes run in the $7-12 range. Recommended highly!