When Oma’s Takeaway emerged as a takeout tent outside pseudo-Indonesian spot Gado Gado, it felt like a tiny, contained party: A disco ball turned over packed orders of Flamin’ Hot chicharrones and popcorn shrimp in sweet chili mayo, where music would blare and plants sat perched on tables in the parking lot. For those who know Mariah and Thomas Pisha-Duffly, the owners of Gado Gado, it felt very true to them: At a 2019 Feast after-party, the two set up fire pits in the front parking lot and served meats roasted on a spit — it felt like something between the best backyard barbecue and a hip pop-up, with a psychedelic, effortlessly cool energy.
So stepping into Oma’s Hideaway, the newest iteration of the couple’s second restaurant, feels very true to that same spirit: The restaurant sports two separate bars tiled with rhinestones, iridescent shelves, shiny gold-embossed table coverings. Black-light posters, collected by Mariah, hang on the walls, alongside ‘70s-style light fixtures. Rainbow lights are screwed into the restaurant’s chandeliers.
“If there was any timidity with Gado Gado, Oma’s is taking it up even further a few notches, into this very playful, fun, vibrant place,” Mariah Pisha-Duffly says. “I can guarantee that no one has walked into a restaurant that looks like Oma’s looks. Even my family that’s really out there said, ‘Woah, this is crazy.’”
Back in April 2020, when Gado Gado was closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pisha-Dufflys launched an “Asian stoner food” pop-up called Oma’s Takeaway. The pop-up became a hit, and when Gado Gado reopened for outdoor dining later that summer, the couple decided to move Oma’s Takeaway into the former Whiskey Soda Lounge space. But Oma’s had changed significantly, becoming something more like a new Americana: Tom Pisha-Duffly worked with sous chef Ian Schoening to pull inspiration from their various backgrounds to create dishes like five-spice tater tots with curry ketchup and Ambrosia salad with matcha whipped cream, served on the restaurant’s back patio.
But in the beginning of 2021, the couple decided to close the restaurant, to re-imagine what the space could be. On May 22, the restaurant reopens as Oma’s Hideaway, with a full new menu, cocktails from Eem’s Eric Nelson, and a ‘70s pop art wonderland aesthetic.
The opening menu at Oma’s will include a few new dishes and a few of the greatest hits from chef Thomas Pisha-Duffly’s roster: Oma’s corn fritters and the Oma-zing burger with fried shallots remain on the menu from the Oma’s Takeaway days, and the chef will be making his own noodles once again. But the couple’s initial plan — to lean into night market, Chinese barbecue culinary styles — remains in place. The restaurant has a glitzy corner dedicated to lacquered meats: charcoal roasted belly and shoulder arrives with lettuce and herbs for wrapping, chicharrones, pickles, dark soy gula jawa, sambal terasi, and the shop’s quintessential aromatic rice; pork spare ribs come in a fish sauce caramel, with sour tamarind and tomato sambal. The restaurant will charcoal-roast game hens, stuff sausages with foie and Chinese duck, and stack fried soft-shell crabs on a sandwich with salted egg yolk mayo and green papaya slaw.
For dessert, customers can choose between things like durian tiramisu and fruity pebble treats. It’s hard to categorize; then again, so is Thomas Pisha-Duffly. “Tom’s menus can be really hard to pin down, hard to explain conceptually because they’re so specific to him. They’re very true to him and his family, the way he explores his identity through food,” Mariah says. “If you know Tom, this is totally him. The first time Tom’s sister ate at Gado Gado, she said ‘This is great — it’s not authentic to Indonesian food, but it’s very authentic to our family.’”
Throughout his time as a chef — from his years cooking in New England to his time designing Oma’s menu — Thomas Pisha-Duffly has incorporated techniques and recipes from the cooking of his Indonesian-Chinese grandmother, Kiong Tien Vandenberg. She died of COVID-19 in 2020 and is the oma that inspired the name of the restaurant.
For the bar menu, the couple will do things a little differently; in the past, Mariah Pisha-Duffly has generally spearheaded the cocktail program at Gado Gado pop-ups and Oma’s. But Eric Nelson, the co-owner of Thai barbecue bar Eem and bar maven behind the pop-up Shipwreck, asked to tackle some of the cocktails at Oma’s. “Every time we partner, we have such a good time, and we thought it’d be really rad to connect Eem and Gado Gado somehow,” Nelson says. “[We made] just a bunch of really easy patio pounders, no Old Fashioneds, Manhattans. They wanted to have fun, playful drinks.”
Those drinks feel true to Nelson’s style, which often takes a foundation of a classic cocktail and adds something perplexingly delicious. Take, for example, the One Thing Led to Another, a margarita the puckering sweet bite of Thomas Pisha-Duffly’s turmeric bread-and-butter pickle juice, or the Bellwether, which lands somewhere between a Penicillin and a creamsicle. The bar’s daiquiri gets a hit of absinthe and fresh muddled mint and basil, and the gin and tonic also gets some vermouth and oregano.
When the restaurant opens, customers will be able to dine inside at one of four tables or take one of the patio’s new covered dining pods, replacing the original tent on Oma’s patio. And, true to its origins, Oma’s will offer delivery and takeout, for those who feel unready to dine onsite. Oma’s opens Saturday at 3131 Southeast Division Street; look inside the new space below: