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.
“I never like when a restaurant closes,” my friend Karlie said, upon hearing of yet another local restaurant shutting down.
While I mostly agree, the last few meals at Café Cuvée in the Ambassador Hotel in Midtown have convinced me that there are silver linings even to those dark clouds.
For instance, I was a big fan of The Viceroy, which used to be on the ground floor of the Ambassador. I didn’t eat there frequently, because I run a website about food for a living and I have to eat lots of other places and the pay is hahaaaaaa. But when I did, I loved it.
So, to be fair, I went in to Café Cuvée with a bit of a chip on my shoulder. But then I found out that Kurt Fleischfresser’s team was handling the new restaurant and I suddenly got very interested.
French cuisine is painted all over Fleischfresser’s culinary history, from Montrachet through The Coach House. Cuvée is, in a sense, a return to form.
Much as I wrote about The Viceroy years ago, I am equally intrigued by Café Cuvée’s ability to stay focused on being a restaurant in the midst of a hotel.
Maybe in larger cities, hotel restaurants still stand out as paragons of flavor, style, and elegance, but Oklahoma City’s hotel-restaurant scene has not had the same prestige. The dishes at many hotel restaurants might be expensive, but they fall short of being essential.
Locally, we’re lucky to have spots like Flint in the Colcord Hotel and Park Ave. Grill inside the Skirvin Hilton, but it’s a hard sell to get non-guests to eat at most restaurants in hotels. That is the fate I think befell The Viceroy and it’s a fate I’m hoping Café Cuvée can avoid.
I’m not sure at what age it become normal to love country pate, but I am very that age right now.
Country pate ($8) consists of a plate with big slices of country pate, lovely little toast points, caper berries, and Cumberland sauce. The goal, I assume, is to smear the pate on a piece of toast, top with a caper berry, and drizzle with sauce. And let me tell you, I scored that goal again and again and again.
Country pate is almost like meatloaf, but all the meat is pork and the texture is a blend of sturdy and creamy. It’s extremely fatty, but that’s why we’re eating French food: to indulge. It’s incredible decadent, which should distract you from the fact that country pate is kind of a cold lunch loaf that you as a kid would likely have made a barf face when served.
Cumberland sauce is this delightful British condiment that is usually purple, likely from all the red currants and port wine, and has a lovely tartness that really plays well with the ultra-rich pate. Ditto for the caper berries, which have that funky, briny taste I love.
I’m a sucker for a soup du jour ($5 cup, $9 bowl), especially when it’s something like vichyssoise—a chilled potato soup. The one I got was vichyssoise violet (aka purple potato soup) and it had a cilantro oil on top. The presentation was lovely, but the flavors of the oil were so overpowering I couldn’t really taste the potato. I ended up not eating much of it, though that was probably because my moules frites ($16) arrived shortly after.
Moules frites are mussels and fries, which is a dish I am deeply excited about every time I see it. The mussels were meatier than most I’ve had, and while I missed the more delicate, chewy mussels I’ve had elsewhere, these big guys were full of flavor—especially when dipped in that gorgeous wine broth they were steamed in.
Food is funny. The things we think of as “fancy” or “high class” are peasant food elsewhere and vice versa.
Take frisee aux lardons ($12), which is a salad made with frisee. You know that fuzzy looking lettuce that comes in your bag of salad sometimes? That’s frisee. It’s a type of chicory and it has a nice bite to it. Lardons are pretty much fried cubes of bacon.
So it’s a warm salad, topped with crispy/chewy bacon, dressed with sherry, and topped with a poached egg. And if that doesn’t sound wonderful to you, I think you might be in the wrong place.
Or maybe not, because there’s still the bistro burger ($12) that needs your attention. Cooked to your temp of choice (I prefer medium, bordering on medium rare, because I’m like the Andre Agassi of eating food) the beef is topped with a Stilton bleu cheese, more of those fried lardons, and a few pieces of arugula for a pop of bitterness. This thing hits every flavor zone. It might not be the burger you think of most often, but it’s a burger you’re sure to remember.
Speaking of remembering, you should remember to make reservations for brunch. The crab cake benedict ($17) I had was rich as all get out and topped with gorgeous poached eggs where the white is set and the yolk can run for days. It’s like magic. Delicious magic. Do yourself a favor, though—get some hot sauce. I promise you, the added pop of heat cuts through some of that luscious richness and prepares your palate for the next bite.
The shrimp and tomato crepes ($15) are a very savory crepe option (get the crepes suzette if you’re feeling a sweeter dish) and I thought the shrimp was particularly well cooked. The crepes were thin, tender, and still had a little chew to them.
I’m eager to see where Café Cuvée goes next. I know there have been some turnovers in the kitchen, but after tasting so much of the menu, it seems like they’re on a winning track. Honestly, if all they served was that country pate, I’d still come back on the regular.
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