Paseo Grill

Paseo Grill

Written by Greg Elwell

Stylish Eats reviews are brought to you by Steven Giles Clothing, the menswear store for those with discerning taste. Style extends well beyond the confines of clothing, so Steven Giles is teaming up with I Ate Oklahoma to bring you reviews of eateries with a refined palate across the state.

It blows my mind that Paseo Grill has only been open for 12 years. Not that anything in the building seems old or worn out; I just can’t imagine the Paseo Arts District without it.

The restaurant is a fascinating paradox. Step inside and you’ll see old friends meeting for lunch, a romantic rendezvous, a business meeting over drinks and everything in between. It’s not a place where you’re required to dress up, but it definitely makes one want to look nice. Paseo Grill is comfort fancy. And that extends to the food, as well.

Portion sizes are spot on. You might have some leftovers if you order too much, but generally you’ll finish what’s on your plate and leave sated. I know lots of us enjoy giant portions, but it’s also nice to eat somewhere where you’ll leave happy with how tasty everything was and not miserable because you ate so much your belt is not cutting off the circulation to your legs.

Yes, I am speaking from experience.

And, of course, you can overdo it at Paseo Grill if you so choose. Just follow the patent-pending Elwell Method:

1. Go alone.

2. Order like there are three of you.

3. Finish everything.

4. Dessert? Oh, well, I shouldn’t, but let’s just look at the menu.

5. Repeat forever.

Before we get to the food, let me make one more recommendation: get a reservation. And if you want one of those nice curtained tables, the ones where you get a little extra privacy and romance, ask.

The Food

Some dishes remain on the Paseo Grill menu ever after more than a decade in business. That’s a pretty good sign you’ve got a classic on your hands.

Gazpacho with shrimp

While they’re certainly not afraid of keeping beloved items around, the restaurant is always working on new specials and seasonal meals. If you go this summer, I highly recommend the gazpacho ($7) with an added shrimp ($3).

Gazpacho is what happens when somebody says, “What if you could drink salsa?” It’s a chilled, slightly chunky fresh tomato soup with lots of cucumber and red bell pepper and garlic and garden-y goodness that finds that sweet spot between big flavors and small form factor. You can fill up on gazpacho, but it takes a lot of work.

Paseo Grill’s version includes some lovely slices of ripe avocado, which adds a creaminess and a little balance to the tomato’s acidity. There’s also some poblano chile flavor, but none of the heat, which is a nice trick. All in all, I think it’s one of the best gazpachos I’ve had in quite a while.

The shrimp isn’t mandatory, but man, it’s good. The restaurant uses U-12 shrimp, which are enormous.

In shrimp, much like in golf, a smaller number is preferred. U-12 shrimp mean there are less than a dozen shrimp in a pound. They big. If you got three of them and stuck them between your fingers, they’d look like a delicious version of Wolverine’s claws. SNIKT!

This shrimp was cooked perfectly. Just the right amount of snap without any rubberiness from spending too much time in the boil.

This is a specialty of Paseo Grill. These folks know how to cook shrimp, as I found when I tried the shrimp and crab johnny cake appetizer ($6) alongside the scallop and crab johnny cake appetizer ($9).

Diver scallop with crab johnny cake

These aren’t on the menu, but I wish they were, because more people need to try them. But now you know, you smarty you. You’ll stroll in to Paseo Grill and casually say to your server, “Hey, I heard about the shrimp and scallop johnny cakes. I’ll have one of each…OR ELSE.”

Johnny cakes are thin, corny pancakes, and they add a mild, hearty sweetness to each bite. Each one is topped with either a U-12 shrimp or a diver scallop, which is then stacked with lump crab and drizzled in beurre blanc (aka white butter sauce).

Shrimp with crab johnny cake

The scallop is buttery and smooth, but it’s a mild flavor that lets the sweetness of the corn and crab to come through strongly. The shrimp is a bit more briny, more assertive, but it’s gorgeously seared and has more texture, too.

I absolutely gobbled these down like a monster and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. My pal Elise told me they can even fashion it into an entree of sorts for those who request it and, you know, I endorse that decision unreservedly.

But, if you’re looking for something a tad more filling, might I recommend the duck breast over a raspberry bourbon sauce ($27)? Of course I might. I just did and there’s nothing you can do to stop me!

[flashing lights and sirens take over]
Sauteed duck breast with raspberry bourbon sauce

It’s too late! The cat’s out of the bag and I wish you’d stop putting him in there to begin with! It doesn’t matter how many cops you send it, they can’t stop me from telling everyone about sauteed duck breast from Maple Leaf Farms. You can get it medium rare or medium (or more done, if you’re crazy). It’s such a lovely flavor. Duck is often accused of being “gamey,” but this is nothing of the sort. It’s a singular taste and I think you ought to try it both with and without the sauce to really get to know what good duck is like.

The raspberry bourbon sauce is rich and darkly fruity — it’s a nice sweetness that plays off the richness of the duck without becoming saccharine. You’ll see some crisp, almost Cheerio-looking garnish on top. Those are slivers of the duck skin that have been deep fried. Oh, yes. Try one on its own and then pair it with a piece of the meat.

On the side you get sauteed green beans, tender but with a nice snap, and a toasted pine nut orzo that adds more subtle flavors to each bite.

This is the kind of mix-and-match plate that I love. Every element is great on its own, but as you test each one in concert with another, you really develop an appreciation for the thought and care that went into its creation.

Crème brûlée

If you think you’re done, haha, no you’re not. Paseo Grill’s desserts are not something you’re allowed to miss. I got the crème brûlée ($8) and I’m happy to report it was an excellent decision.

Crème brûlée has long been one of my most-favorite indulgences, and considering my entire job is about indulging myself, I hope you understand the weight of that statement. It’s not always the easiest dish to serve, however. It requires skill and precision, lest you end up with a runny custard or, worse, a dish of sweet scrambled eggs.

The vanilla custard here is set perfectly, lightly quivering in anticipation of your spoon. On top you get a perfect shell of caramelized sugar to crack open. Scoop up some crunchy sugar, custard and a slice of tart strawberry and take your taste buds for a ride.

Paseo Grill might seem like a place of effortless class, but I know for a fact there’s a ton of effort going on behind the scenes to make everything feel stress-free and spectacular for diners. That attention to detail is why the restaurant feels timeless and timely all at once.

Stylish Eats are sponsored by Steven Giles Clothing, a high-end men’s fashion store in Classen Curve providing expertly tailored suits, timeless casual wear and everything in between. Visit them online at stevengilesclothing.com to schedule a fitting or stop in at 5850 N. Classen Blvd. to browse their selection in person.

Read more of Greg’s reviews at http://iateoklahoma.com/reviews

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The Drake

The Drake

Written by Greg Elwell

Stylish Eats reviews are brought to you by Steven Giles Clothing, the menswear store for those with discerning taste. Style extends well beyond the confines of clothing, so Steven Giles is teaming up with I Ate Oklahoma to bring you reviews of eateries with a refined palate across the state.

If there’s a single problem with the oysters at The Drake, it is this: They are far too easy to eat. And since they are purchased by the oyster, that can quickly rack up a hefty bill.

Which is why, in those fleeting daydreams in which I’ve won the lottery, I tend to imagine walking into that establishment, removing my monocle and ordering shell after shell of freshly shucked oysters until I am at risk of being arrested by Aquaman.

A colony of oysters

It’s not that The Drake is the only place in town to get oysters — if anything, since it opened in 2015, I’ve noticed more and more restaurants serving them — but it’s the only place where you can get a variety of types to try.

Is that important? Imagine if every bar in town only served one kind of wine. It might be a good one, sure, but it’s hard to imagine finding a deep and abiding love for wine if all you’ve ever had is cabernet sauvignon.

And much like we talk about “terroir” when it comes to wine — aka, the taste of the land — when we discuss oysters we can consider “merroir”: the taste of the water. Different species of oysters look and taste different, but it can also depend on where they’re grown and how.

You might not delve that deep into it while sitting at the oyster bar, but for people who are interested in expanding their palates, dining at The Drake is a real opportunity. (That said, if you want to split a dozen gulf oysters with me at Brent’s Cajun or Pearl’s, just say the word.)

The oyster selection is part and parcel of being A Good Egg restaurant. Owners Keith and Heather Paul have a golden touch when it comes to opening new eateries. In the past several years they’ve expanded from Cheever’s Cafe to a portfolio that runs the gamut — RedPrime, RePublic, Tucker’s Onion Burgers, Kitchen No. 324 and others. The thought and care put into their establishments is renowned.

You can see and feel that eye for detail all over The Drake. The long oyster bar. Sparse decorations. Wide, circular booths designed for parties to share plates. While that “family-style” aesthetic has quietly faded into the background, I still firmly believe this is a restaurant that begs you to taste and trade with your friends.

The Food

I’m not going to pretend to be an oyster expert or imagine that I can cajole you into trying them if you aren’t into it. That said, I am pretty obsessed with trying the oysters at The Drake.

Look: oysters are weird. They’re slimy and briny and you’re not supposed to chew them really. And I think that’s amazing. I legitimately cannot fathom how we came to eat so many different foods, but to drag this one up from the bottom of the sea and pry it open and then decide, yep, I’m going to suck this slimy thing out of this rock is bonkers.

They’re also good with horseradish.

I tried the quilcene, sunset and emerald shoals oysters last time I was there. I’d give you a bunch of recommendations, but there’s a very good chance they’ll have different oysters when you go in. What I will recommend is that you eat at least one of these sans any accoutrement and just taste what an oyster really is. Then you can go crazy with the hot sauce and horseradish and mignonette sauces offered by the restaurant

Shhhhh. Hushpuppies.

If you simply cannot bring yourself to dine on mollusks, there are other worthy appetizers for you. Lona Faye’s 4 ‘H’ Club ($13) are crunchy hushpuppies served with hot sauce, ham and honey butter.

Our server recommended either breaking the hushpuppy in half and making a ham, butter and hot sauce sandwich or wrapping a hushpuppy in ham and then dragging it through the butter and sauce. Of the two, I think the former is the best method, because you get to enjoy the flavorful skin of the hushpuppy unsullied before you get into the savory country ham and the sweet butter.

For entrees, we first tried the lobster roll ($23) with fries and, I mean, this is hardly fair. Think of all the rolls you usually encounter — Tootsie, dinner, my stomach, cinnamon if you’re lucky — and then imagine a tender, buttery sandwich roll stuffed so full of lobster slathered in tarragon mayo that I’m sweating even thinking about it. And that’s before you get to the shot glass full of drawn butter.

Lobster roll

Look at this thing! There’s a claw! This is really good lobster in a sandwich! Oh, it was heaven. I’ve had lobster rolls here and there, but this one took the cake. The meat was tender and light with enough mayo to keep everything well lubricated, but not so much as to overwhelm the delicate taste of the lobster. $23 is a lot for a sandwich, yes, but I don’t think anyone walks away from this plate feeling less than satisfied.

People often think blackened means hot, but that’s not always the case. Blackened spice is a) not black and b) more focused on flavor than heat. A blend of onion, garlic, paprika, salt, pepper and cayenne (among other variations), it certainly can give your tongue a jolt, but it all comes down to the proportions.

The Drake’s blackened redfish ($27), for instance, has tons of flavor — necessary on a mild fish like this — but I didn’t find it particularly scorching. Ditto for the lovely dirty rice that accompanied the fish.

Blackened redfish

Redfish is ideal for those who don’t like their fish too fishy and blackened spice lends it a lively warmth. The fish itself is firm in texture, but yields readily to the fork, flaking apart into big chunks. Load up a fork with a nice piece of fish, be sure to get some garlic herb butter and pile on the dirty rice.

While I generally eschew ordering non-seafood items at seafood restaurants, this is Oklahoma, which means The Drake is bound by law to offer chicken and beef, as well. My personal weakness is for the black mac and chicken ($15), which has been a stellar menu item since opening night.

Unlike the blackened redfish, black mac gets its name from the squid ink pasta — which is actually spaccatelli, instead of macaroni. Don’t worry about your noodles tasting like squid, however. The flavor of this dish comes from big chunks of chicken, red pepper flakes and Grana Padano cheese.

Black mac and chicken

Oh, Grana Padano. I will forever love Parmigiana Reggiano, but this Italian cheese is truly captured my heart. It has the same nuttiness as Parmigiana, but it melts so much nicer, coating the pasta to form flavorful sticky clumps of noodles and chicken. My friend Megan bravely took a few bites, despite my growling, and she seemed to enjoy it before I grabbed the dish away from her and began licking it.

At this point, even the waitress only jokingly asked, “So did you save room for dessert?” because we obviously had not. Saving room is not one of my skills. But stubbornly forcing more food into my body than should be able to fit is one of my skills, so we split a slice of lemon cloud pie ($8).

Lemon cloud pie

The crumbly crust is made of crushed Biscoff cookies — a gourmet touch that is much appreciated — which gave the pie a lovely sweet and salty base. On top is a blend of limoncello and whipped cream that has a tart sting followed by a gentle, sugary embrace. It’s like getting slapped and then immediately kissed. And then going back in for another slap. Truly, it’s no wonder this has become such a staple at The Drake.

And The Drake, in its short time, has become a staple in Oklahoma City. Seafood will never be the norm in our landlocked state, but I’m glad to have places like this to give us fine dining options beyond beef.

Stylish Eats are sponsored by Steven Giles Clothing, a high-end men’s fashion store in Classen Curve providing expertly tailored suits, timeless casual wear and everything in between. Visit them online at stevengilesclothing.com to schedule a fitting or stop in at 5850 N. Classen Blvd. to browse their selection in person.

Read more of Greg’s reviews at http://iateoklahoma.com/reviews

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