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.
When it comes to classy dining options, you simply cannot have the conversation without including La Baguette Bistro. Over the course of nearly 30 years, this little restaurant has built a reputation for upscale service, delicious French food and a top-notch wine selection.
It feels like a little slice of Paris found its way to May Avenue and grew into a European getaway in the middle of OKC.
There’s history there. Not just for the Buthion brothers (Michel and Alain, who own the restaurant), but for me and you and the rest of the city.
La Baguette is where my parents met my (former) in-laws. La Baguette is where I spent a very confusing, very up-and-down birthday gorging on country pate and wondering what my life was even like. La Baguette is where I buy that chocolate mousse cake for every special event I can.
It’s an institution, for sure, but it’s not like those steakhouses that have been around forever and people talk about them reverently even though the food sucks. La Baguette proves its culinary acumen at breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. No resting on their French laurels. They come to play.
The service is also playfully snooty and I mean that in the best possible way. The waiters are eager to include diners in the club, telling them about daily specials in a way that feels like they’re giving away secrets, but it’s all done in such expert tones that must trust their knowledge and suggestions.
I can count the number of times I’ve eaten escargot on one hand, but if you’re going to enjoy French cuisine, you really have to give them a try. Escargot de Bourgogne ($10) comes out in a dish with six large divots, each filled with a snail absolutely drenched in a garlic and Pernod lemon butter. Fish one out, plop it on a slice of baguette with plenty of the garlic and butter and down the hatch.
If you like shrimp or crawfish, and if you can get over the mental roadblock of eating snails, then escargot shouldn’t be a problem. They’re slightly chewy with that hint of fishiness, but what you’re really going to taste is that sauce. At our server’s behest, I took leftover pieces of bread and dunked them in the leftover garlic and butter like Darryl “Chocolate Thunder” Dawkins. Oh, hello.
But if you can’t quite make it past the idea of slurping down snails, the charcuterie board ($17) is another worthy appetizer. Order some of the cheese of the day alongside the slices of salami, country pate, saucisson sec, Serrano ham and mortadella for a very fancy, very satisfying start to your meal.
Another similar appetizer is the tartine sampler ($12) with smoked salmon, saucisson sec, pate, cheese, tomato bruschetta, olives, cornichons and roasted pecans. For a lazy afternoon of wine and small bites, this is my choice. Sit by a window and just let the sunlight warm your head while you munch on cornichon and pate while sipping a spicy Bordeaux. You just can’t feel more European than this without actually being in Europe.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the beef tartare ($15), which is one of my absolute favorite dishes anywhere, and extremely well done here. Just to be clear: this is raw beef, diced small, and mixed with a housemade tartar sauce, served with thinly sliced radish and green onion. I absolutely adore piling this on toast points with finely minced onions. Diced filet just melts on the tongue in the most amazing way. I can hardly resist.
I took a break from ordering my usual soup at La Baguette—the nigh-irresistible gazpacho ($5 cup/$7 bowl)—and got the French onion gratinee ($5 cup/$7 bowl). I had mixed feelings about this soup, frankly. I guess I was hoping for a darker broth, maybe with a touch more caramelization on the onions, before it was deglazed with sherry. But on the other hand, I’ve rarely had soup that better incorporated the toast and Gruyere into the bowl. I was constantly stirring and re-stirring the cup, watching the cheese stretch and stick to the spoon and sides of the dish before greedily ladling another bite into my mouth.
The sauteed rainbow trout “Okie-Grenobloise” ($22) was a personal favorite. First of all, rainbow trout is a delicious fish in almost any preparation, very clean and firm, but this plate-sized fillet is cooked “Okie-style,” aka beautifully breaded and fried, then covered in a lemon-and-caper butter sauce, in the Grenoble style.
I hope, deeply and truly, that the Buthion boys don’t take this the wrong way, but I thought this dish was like the fanciest plate of fish sticks I’d ever had. Each bite had such lovely breading that supported the fish without completely covering up the taste. The buttery caper sauce on top adds a hint of brininess along with the sweetness of creamy butter and it soaks into the breading in a really delightful way.
Paired with perfectly cooked asparagus and a tiny mound of jasmine rice, it’s a truly perfect introduction to fish for people who are hesitant to get fishy.
La Baguette has a fine selection of filet mignon daily ($20-45 depending on size and accompaniments), but my friend Jess and I were intrigued by the daily special—an 8 oz. filet topped with lump crab meat and a creamy Bernaise sauce, served with a Tiger prawn the size of a small lobster tail, Brussels sprouts and whipped potatoes.
The crust was perfection. Filets demand extra work, because it’s such a mild cut of meat, and the sear on this was ideal. Your serrated knife will easily find purchase on the crust before gliding through this ultra-tender steak. The crab and Bernaise combo ratcheted up the flavor, very luxurious, while the Tiger prawn added a signature snap of perfectly cooked seafood.
Confit chicken Mediterranean ($24) is a flavor powerhouse. Chicken, usually mild, become ultra-rich when you poach it in its own fat and the bed of sauteed olives, garlic and tomatoes and base of couscous gives your mouth new combinations of tastes with every bite. It’s briny and tart and creamy and wonderful.
Keeping with the fowl, I also think the half rotisserie duck sauce Rouennaise ($29) is a bonkers-level great preparation of one of my favorite proteins. Duck is naturally flavorful with a mild gaminess that I’ve come to treasure. The Rouennaise sauce is a red wine, butter and bone marrow sauce with pureed duck liver mixed in. It’s potent, for sure, but don’t come for duck if you don’t like flavor, son! Duck doesn’t play around.
For dessert, the cakes and tarts in the front grocery section of the lobby are wonderful. I’m partial to the chocolate mousse cake, of course, but they also do succulent cheesecakes and macarons.
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.
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IN 2008, BALCONES WAS DRIVEN TO CREATE SOMETHING
ORIGINAL AND AUTHENTIC
In 2008, Balcones was nothing more than an idea driven by a passion to create something original and authentic, right here in the Heart of Texas. It all started in an old welding shop under a bridge in Waco. For the next year, we replaced the roofing, knocked out walls, laid brick, cut pipes, installed copper pot stills from Portugal, and shoehorned a whisky distillery inside that quaint building. Proud of what we had accomplished on our own, we began distilling in 2009.
I was born in Oklahoma City in 1969. I grew up a few miles from the Mercy Health Center Campus where I currently have an office. I attended Bishop McGuinness High School and played varsity basketball for 4 years. I then traveled to Colorado Springs and attended Colorado College, graduating in 1991 with a B.A. in Biology. I started racing bicycles competitively at CC and continue to ride several times a week today.
I started Optometry School in 1995 at Northeastern State Oklahoma College of Optometry, finishing in 1999. I began working a few weeks later in The Tower on the Mercy Hospital Campus where my Dad, Dr. Jay, has been in practice since the eighties, starting a second office there, after opening his initial office in downtown Oklahoma City in the heart of what is now midtown in 1971.
I have two wonderful children Gavin (Born 2003)and Phoebe (born 2007). When not at the office, I enjoy running,cycling and yoga. I used to swim as well and was a competitive triathlete for about 14 years competing in seven Ironman triathlons, two in Hawaii. I have represented the US as well at the amatuer Duathlon World Championships in 2006. I still ride several times a week and occasionlly race bikes on the weekends both on the road and cyclocross. I also enjoy following Formula one motor racing, skiing, Oklahoma football and the OKC Thunder.
I feel very fortunate to work with my Dad as an Optometrist in The Tower on the Mercy Campus. I have developed many great patient relationships since 1999 and I look forward to making many more in the future, and providing primary eyecare services to the people of central Oklahoma and the surrounding communities.
What I enjoy most about primary eyecare is providing people with good clear vision and comfortable eyes. If people don’t see well, or their eyes constantly bother them, then the eyes become a focal point of stress, in addition to our other daily stressors. The challenge in eyecare is making sure the eyes are not a daily stressor to any patient. This is what makes going to work each day fun.