Kassara Intarapanich, manager of Oki Bowl, is known as “Mom” to pretty much everyone.
Not only because she tends to her young employees. The Thai restaurant on Wisconsin Avenue is a frequent after-school hangout for her daughter, Yada, and her Georgetown Visitation classmates.
Even the headmaster, Daniel Kerns, drops by for Oki Bowl’s classic ramen noodle dishes. “He’s one of our VIPs,” says Intarapanich.
This familial atmosphere is what draws others to Oki Bowl, which opened in 2016, after Intarapanich and her partner decided to buy the space from its former owner. The concept is straightforward and relaxed: Asian fusion dishes served in a cozy café atmosphere at neighborhood bistro prices.
The food, Intarapanich tells us, is a labor of love, steeped in her background as a Bangkok immigrant who came to the U.S. so Yada could have the best schooling. Although she herself had a good education, she never went to culinary school, despite her years as a Thai food caterer.
“I live to cook,” she admits, explaining that her best dishes are derived from spontaneous kitchen experimentation.
The food of her native country is popular not only for its exotic flavors, but also for its relative health benefits. “We don’t use any butter,” she says.
Like many of our Georgetown eateries, Oki Bowl is a popular choice on Uber Eats, the meal delivery app. But part of the experience of Oki Bowl is dining there — the ceiling is bedecked with a variety of lanterns, lampshades and birdcages.
Quirky accents and fun colors give visitors the sense of being in a cross between an Asian garden and Alice in Wonderland’s tea party. The servers, in jeans and hoodies, look like the kids next door, but all are under the close supervision of “Mom.”
Yada is often there. She hasn’t tired of the food, seeing it as part of her family life. She knows the menu and can help you select … maybe the octopus leg appetizer or the house favorite, the Oki curry ramen.
For those less adventurous (like me), Oki Bowl has the requisite rice bowls on the menu — beef, chicken, pork and vegetarian — each for $14.
Intarapanich’s go-to dish is the tom yum, for $15, a chile-infused lemongrass soup served with bean sprouts, mushrooms and lime juice, “swimming” with fried prawns. Maybe not the kind of thing your mom made you as a kid, but this “Mom” is so endearing, you’ll try anything at Oki Bowl.