O-Cha Bar & Grill, on Main Street in Damariscotta, first opened its doors Jan. 16. Now that owner Pongsakorn “Job” Hanjitsuwan has his feet firmly planted at his new restaurant, he is making some revisions and sprucing up his restaurant, both literally and figuratively.
For starters, Hanjitsuwan said he wants past, present, and future patrons to know he’s aware some changes were in order.
“When we first opened we had a lot of things that were not in place, and we have had some disappointments since then. I want people to know that we’ve been working very hard to improve our menu and our team. We’re working on consistency and we’re making progress every day,” he said.
The changes started in the kitchen with a new chef. One of the new chef’s specialties is ramen bowls, large bowls of noodles with a choice of four or five broths and meats. Ramen bowls, still something of a rarity on Maine menus, are becoming increasingly popular, in part due to their rich, flavorful broths that are simmered for up to 24 hours. The kitchen is still perfecting that broth at O-Cha, so the ramen bowls aren’t on the menu yet, but will be soon.
Meanwhile, other noodle dishes are available, with a choice of Thai vermicelli, vegetable, or udon noodles, and broths, including curry and a coconut- and miso-flavored one.
Another new, out-of-the-ordinary menu item at O-Cha is a bento box. Traditionally considered a type of “lunch box,” the bento box originated in Japan, where, according to timeline.com, it was typical for fifth-century Japanese farmers, hunters, and warriors to carry them to their places of work for lunch.
O-Cha’s bento boxes contain a variety of noodles or rice, an appetizer, a choice of meat, seafood, tofu, or vegetables, with a sauce, and a small salad, all arranged in four separate compartments in a square vessel. The presentation is as much fun to look at as the food is good. The lunch boxes are served from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
O-Cha is also offering a new children’s menu and new spicy Thai salads. The create-your-own grill section of the menu allows a choice of meat or seafood, with a variety of sauces to accompany it.
If the menu updates and changes at O-Cha aren’t enough to draw customers in, the restaurant has a new patio, with seating for 16 at tables with umbrellas. It should be a popular spot on a warm summer evening.
O-Cha offers happy hour every day from 3-6 p.m., with reduced prices on drinks and appetizers.
Hanjitsuwan, 26, also owns Best Thai in Bath, and his father, Chanint Hanjitsuwan, and sister, Thanyalak Rojpanichkul, own Best Thai in Damariscotta. O-Cha’s menu isn’t Thai, but Thai-inspired, a fusion of classic American and traditional Thai fare.