Ranch Steakhouse

Ranch Steakhouse

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.

There are certain insights to which one becomes privy when one dines out as often as I do, like which days sushi restaurants get their fresh fish shipments in and why stealing a server’s pen is often much worse than leaving a crappy tip. 

But I was as puzzled as anyone when I pulled up to Ranch Steakhouse on a Tuesday night and had to look…HARD…for a place to park. 

Which isn’t to say that I was surprised to see a crowd at Ranch, which calls itself “Oklahoma City’s finest restaurant since 1999,” and has a pretty solid claim. But a Tuesday night is not a particularly busy night for most restaurants, especially a fine dining spot. I would certainly anticipate Friday and Saturday nights are packed to the gills, but think about your normal Tuesday: Does it usually include a USDA-certified Prime steak and a team of highly skilled servers who seem capable of anticipating your every need before you know you have it? If so, you’re living a better life than mine.

After we were led through the packed dining room to a quiet table near the back, I asked our server (Ashley, ask for her by name) if there was a special event or something I didn’t know about.

“No. I think we have a few birthday parties in the private rooms, but this is about right for a Tuesday,” she said. “But we usually have a lot of pharmaceutical reps in here.”

Pharmaceutical reps. I’m not saying that the presence of reps is the mark of a great restaurant, but when you’re taking doctors out for a meal that will wow them and Pfizer & Johnson is picking up the tab, you tend to go for the good stuff. Ranch is definitely the good stuff.

And Ashley was definitely the good server. Take note of folks like these, because they are the key to fine dining. Yes, the food has to be wonderful, but even the best food stays locked in the kitchen without a server who connects you to it. 

The Food

For instance, we were looking over the list of appetizers and, frankly, struggling to choose one. That’s when Ashley told us about an off-menu app that’s almost always available: rock shrimp ($19). 

She spilled the tea and we slurped it up. In a few minutes, she brought by a plate of glistening, lightly battered and fried shrimp in a sweet and spicy sauce. And, while it’s not a challenge to capsaicin addicts, I will admit that it had a really nice low-level heat that built up to a pleasant tingle. 

I mean, I love shrimp and it’s a pretty great time to be an enjoyer of shrimp in Oklahoma City, because we have a lot of chefs who know just how to cook them. These were tender and juicy, but with a nice snap. I’ve had enough overcooked shrimp to last a lifetime. The chefs at Ranch are making sure I don’t have any more.

It doesn’t seem fair how simple, and yet how tasty, the heirloom tomato and burrata salad ($14) is. Similar to a caprese, the famous Italian salad of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil, this salad comes with thick slices of ripe tomato, still juicy and sweet from the summer sun, and an orb of burrata—a cheese made from the combination of cream and mozzarella for a creamier, richer bite. The outside is mozz, while the inside is buttery and creamy. 

(For reference, the photos are of a split plate, since we were sharing the salad. Hey, there was a lot more food coming and we were trying to save room.)

Burrata is a really decadent cheese, but it gains even more life with a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar and the sweetness of tomatoes alongside it. There aren’t many salads that get me to close my eyes in enjoyment, but this is one of them.

Fancy steakhouse, have to get a fancy steak, right? Well, yes and no. I should probably just write an entire post about this at some point, but I am obsessed with sirloin: the forgotten steak. 

There are a couple of benefits to choosing sirloin. One, it’s generally a less-expensive cut…probably because so many people never consider it. Everyone goes for cuts with cachet—your filets and ribeyes—while discounting the powerhouse that is a sirloin. Secondly, a great chef can do great things with any steak. I’ve had terrible filets and amazing flank steaks, all due to the skill of the chef. So, to judge a steakhouse’s acumen, I tend toward sirloins. 

Ranch Steakhouse didn’t let me down. I ordered a 12 oz. Prime-graded sirloin ($38, plus $3 for garlic whiskey au poivre sauce) cooked medium-rare and what arrived at the table was like a child’s football made of beef. The outside had a lovely, rich sheen and a crisp crust hiding a center of medium-rare steak from top to bottom. 

(Tip: For large steaks, I always order slightly less done, because if you take home leftovers, you can reheat it without cooking it to death.)

Sirloin isn’t as beefy as a ribeye or as tender as a filet, but it’s an incredibly balanced cut of meat and Ranch prepared it to a T. 

Much like shrimp, Oklahoma is in a scallop (and oyster and mussel) renaissance. Refrigeration techniques are better than they’ve ever been and shipping is more reliable than ever before, which means when you order pan-seared scallops ($40), you’re getting thick, meaty bivalves with no grit and a smooth, supple texture that you can slice through simply by letting the knife rest on top of the butter-seared top of each one.

Granted, you’re also getting a lot more than scallops. This dish begins with a bit of a southwest flair—orzo cooked with garlic, corn, and asparagus, with cherry tomatoes and chili butter, and finished with a splash of habanero vinaigrette. 

Oh, and lump crab meat. Silly me. I always forget about delicious, lightly sweet crab. Lord have mercy. If you’re not getting steak at the Ranch, you definitely need the scallops.

Fun fact: high-end steakhouses generally sell their side dishes…on the side. Which means you have to pick and choose, which isn’t always easy. Ranch does make it a touch easier with the side sampler ($20). It’s the cost of two sides, but you get smaller portions of three sides. I was kind of let down by the onion rings, but the macaroni and cheese was a blend of creamy and stringy (my fave) and the bleu cheese and bacon Brussels sprouts were tender and packed with big flavors. 

Ranch Steakhouse is not my every night or every week or even every month stop. But that’s absolutely a function of my bank account’s paucity. If I could afford to throw down this kind of money more often, I’d be there in a flash. This is a proper steakhouse and they know, oh boy do they know, how to cook the beef. If you’re of a mind to get dressed up and show yourself to a night on the town, it’s hard to beat Ranch Steakhouse. 

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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Oso on Paseo

Oso on Paseo

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’s been a minute since we last checked in on OSO on Paseo, last featured in First Looks, and that seems like the right time to see if it’s living up to the hype.

Yeah, the hype kind of nailed it. OSO is great and it’s great in different ways for different customers.

As predicted, the bar program has continued to evolve and grow, and it’s really become a big driver in the afternoons for happy hour. It’s not hard to see why, either. The drinks at OSO are absolutely geared for sunny, fruity, summer feels and the windows keep everything bright without blowing out people’s eyes. It’s a great way to be in an Oklahoma summer without having to actually experience the misery and brutality and humidity of it all. 

It is a beautiful restaurant, though laid back as all get out, which makes it a perfect choice for Stylish Eats. One thing I love about places like OSO is you are welcome no matter what, but nobody wants to ruin the view by coming in like a slob. A nice linen shirt, a lightweight pant or shorts, maybe even a hat! It’s a quality place. It’s nice to look like a quality person when you’re there.

Chicken nachos (jalapenos on the side)

There are certainly restaurants where the bar gets all the love and the menu suffers, and vice versa. OSO on Paseo is not one of those places. As good as the drinks are, the food is right there with it. 

As chef de cuisine Chris McKenna said when OSO first opened, “We’re just two white guys making tacos.” They’re not worried about authentic; just good. And they’re better than just good. 

The Food

You are not immediately served chips, salsa, and queso upon being seated. Instead you get these crunchy fried pasta wheel things in a tangy chili powder. I dare you to not fall in love with these. I dare you. 

There are chips. There are salsas. There is queso. You will have to pay for these things and I don’t want to hear a word about it. 

For $4 you can pick two varieties of salsa and I promise you, they’re better than the quasi-Pace picante sauce you’re getting for free. The queso is $5 (or $9 for a large) and you can add chorizo or spinach and mushroom to it for $3 extra. The queso is made of real cheese. It is worth paying for. And the chips are thick and crunchy and they make them fresh all day because people keep eating all of them. 

Queso

Honestly, if this is the thing that bothers you, I don’t know how you plan to deal with the rest of the menu. 

Street corn ($8) is a must. I wish they served this in little shot glasses at the bar, because I would be corn DRUNK right now. The corn is roasted off the cob, mixed up with chipotle-infused crema, and sprinkled with cotija cheese and crushed Takis chips. It’s high-class redneck elote and I love every single thing about it. 

OSO has three subsets of tacos: OSO tacos, street tacos, and vegetarian tacos. I do not (despite the rumors) have three stomachs, though it would have helped with the taco-eating, because I had a lot of work in front of me.

Brisket burnt end taco

Under OSO tacos you’ll find two of my favorites. The Brisket Burnt Ends taco ($5) is served with Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce, thinly sliced radish, pepitas, and the piece de resistance: a fried pickle spear. 

This is a barbecue taco that I didn’t see coming, but I was blown away by every bite. It’s not too sweet. The crunch of the pickle gives it great texture and the tartness of the brine balances the BBQ sauce perfectly. It’s an altogether lovely taco and I miss it deeply.

Why? Because I keep trying different tacos. That’s the job. For instance, I wasn’t initially overjoyed by the idea of the Cheeseburger taco ($4) with ground beef, cheddar and jack cheeses, shredded lettuce, tomato, and onion. And it tasted like a cheeseburger. But it also reminded me how close American-style tacos are to cheeseburgers, vs. some of the other tacos on this menu.

Chorizo taco

Of the street tacos, I found the chorizo ($4) and carnitas ($4) were the standouts. The shredded pork was both crispy and creamy in a really delightful way, and the salsa verde gives it a bit of a vinegary bite and holds the fatty deliciousness of chicharrone crumbles to the rest of the taco. 

The chorizo doubles down on the pork-y goodness by adding bacon to the mix with the Mexican chorizo. To provide relief from that extremely heavy duo, an avocado crema keeps everything rich but cools it down. Then finely diced onion and chopped cilantro add a hint of sharp green needed to lighten everything up. It’s a rollercoaster of a taco and yes I am aware of how lame that makes me sound.

I really respect OSO for giving Vegetarian tacos their own spot on the menu and making sure there was a real variety there. I know McKenna loves his meat, but he brings that same level of detail and flavor to non-meaty dishes. 

The wildest flavor by far is the cauliflower picadillo ($4) which mimics a classic ground beef taco in texture—kind of meat enrobed in sauce—but with cauliflower adding the weight and tons of flavor coming from tomatoes, olives, onions, and golden raisins. Pepitas and cilantro add a little crunchy contrast to the otherwise smooth texture. 

Mushroom taco

Mushroom ($4) has that meaty umami flavor with the pop of roasted corn, the bite of salsa fresca, and a sprinkle of cotija and radish on top. It might come off as chewy or spongy for some, but mushrooms are, y’know, mushrooms. That’s the texture. 

When I took my kids to OSO, they were deeply enamoured with the idea of an entire platter of nachos ($10) for dinner. And I can’t blame them, especially when you see these nachos. We added chicken for $4 and it was super-duper worth it. The chips are firm and crisp and can hold SO MUCH STUFF. They’re amazing nacho chips, especially with a blend of liquid queso and shredded cheese melted all over them, providing a foot hold for the other toppings: black beans, jalapenos, chicken, big piles of sour cream, guacamole, and pico de gallo.

If you or the kids are spice sensitive, ask for the jalapenos and pico on the side, but definitely get these. They’re a great big appetizer or a kids dream meal come true.

Left Coast Burrito

Reading the description of the Left Coast Burrito ($14), I knew it was a trap set specifically for my kind of people: dumb gluttons. And I hope that doesn’t come off as a bad thing, because I loved this weird mish-mash of foods. You get a big tortilla stuffed full of grilled shrimp, skirt steak, tater tots, cheese mix, and pico. It’s a wild mess of a thing and I really dug it. The shrimp are especially spot on, texture-wise.

OSO is such a magical little drop of happiness in the Paseo. It’s not that the area is lacking in tacos or great food or tasty drinks or much of anything these days, but there’s something about OSO that just makes me smile. It’s the little touches on the drinks. It’s the bright and airy dining room. It’s those patio seats that I am very eager to try out once the sun stops trying to roast us all into piles of ash. 

So, on the off chance you haven’t heard of OSO, you should get to it. Tasty tacos. Excellent cocktails. A lovely place in a district that is absolutely flush with lovely places. 

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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Cafe Cuvee

Cafe Cuvee

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. 

Shrimp and tomato crepes

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.

The Food

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.

Country pate

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. 

Moules frites

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.

Bistro burger

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. 

Crab cake benedict

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.

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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Lunch at Ludivine

Lunch at Ludivine

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.

Lunch is, paradoxically, the most laid-back meal of the day and the most stylish.

Why? Because we’re adults and adults have jobs (for the most part) and those jobs require a modicum of style (for the most part) to meet dress codes. Yes, there will always be jerks like me who get to wander around life in T-shirts and jeans and socks that don’t match any other part of their wardrobe, but even I like to get gussied up on occasion.

I mean, it’s nice to look nice. And looking nice is, in its way, a sign of respect for those around you. That’s kind of why businesses have dress codes to begin with—it’s a sign of respect for your co-workers and any customers or clients with whom you might interact.

Lunch can be a lowest-common-denominator meal. I have seen many a well-dressed man and woman grabbing fast food from a drive-thru or tempting fate at a messy barbecue restaurant. But options for an upscale lunch in Oklahoma City are few and far between, which is why I was over the moon when Ludivine announced it would be serving lunch in their fancy new space adjacent to R&J Lounge and Supper Club.

The high-end market has grown enormously in Oklahoma City over the last decade, but if you’re looking for a catalyst in our emergence as a “food city,” you really have to talk about Ludivine. Chef and owner Russ Johnson opened the hyper-seasonal, ultra-local eatery with then-partner Jonathon Stranger, who has since left to open En Croute, St. Mark’s Chop Room, Osteria, etc., and the impact on Okie palates cannot be overstated.

Were you eating bone marrow before Ludivine? Were you paying attention to where your beef comes from or how the changing seasons impact the quality of your salad? Because I wasn’t. And food is literally 95 percent of what my brain does. Sometimes I think it’s concentrating so hard on food that several of my higher functions fall by the wayside.

Can you go get a gyro in a ballgown? Yes. Are burgers still delicious when you’re in a tuxedo? Of course they are. But there’s also something really lovely about having a server bring you immaculately plated dishes when it’s still bright outside. You know what makes for really great Instagram food pics? Lighting. It’s almost as important to making food look good as making good-looking food.

The new Ludivine space is gorgeous, too. There’s a lovely long bar top that wraps around the kitchen and plenty of two- and four-top tables for an intimate tete-a-tete or an informal business lunch while you’re dressed to the nines.

The Food
If you haven’t had the bone marrow yet, get the bone marrow. It’s $12, it comes with toast points and pickled shallots and whole-grain mustard and it’s an experience you will come to cherish. “Meat butter” is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot with bone marrow and that’s about as accurate as it gets. The roasted bone marrow is meaty and creamy and spreads easily on toast. Pop a pickled shallot on top and enjoy the interplay of richness from the marrow and the sharp, vinegary pop of the shallot against the crunchy toast points.

Soup de moment
Soup de moment ($8) is Russ Johnson’s play on the old soup du jour (aka soup of the day, as the old joke goes), except you’re never sure when the moment will end. I had a tureen of smoked tomato and garlic soup that was so precisely what I needed that I was taken aback.

Tomatoes are full of water, which means that thin membrane is just aching to take on smoky flavors. Pair that smoky acidic bite with the sweetness of roasted garlic and you’ve got a perfect rainy day treat. The only thing that would have made it better was a grilled cheese sandwich cut into triangles.

Ludivine’s lunch menu has four different salads and I’d happily eat any of them, but given my druthers, I’d go back to the arugula, blue cheese, and walnut salad ($11) in a heartbeat. Arugula is a seasonal delight, but if it goes too far out of season, you’re stuck with tough, bitter leaves. That’s not something you have to worry about here. Ludivine’s chefs are some of the toughest critics around. They’re not going to let a tough, bitter salad leave the kitchen.

Arugula, blue cheese, and walnuts salad
What arrives at the tables are tender leaves, fairly well coated in a very tangy housemade blue cheese dressing with toasted walnuts. There’s still a bit of bitterness—that’s just arugula—but it balances well with the sweetness of baby leaves and the big, bold punch of blue cheese.

The handmade noodles ($12) come with your choice of pesto, cacio e pepe, or putanesca sauce (though the GM told me they may be changing putanesca for a different sauce). You can’t go wrong with cacio e pepe, but any of the three are a delicious option.

Speaking of burgers (you know, from, uh…10 paragraphs back), the Wagyu burger ($16) is made with trimmings from Ludivine’s excellent Wagyu steaks they get from Ironhorse Ranch in Macomb. It’s a different preparation daily, but if you’re worried that the kitchen at Ludivine can’t handle cooking a delicious burger then I can’t help you.

Wagyu steak sandwich
More wonderful beef?! Of course! While the Oklahoma Wagyu bavette is a dinner-only dish, you can get some more Wagyu via flank steak in the steak sandwich ($16) or the steak frites ($22). The steak sandwich comes with arugula, shaved onion, and chimichurri sauce on a nice hoagie roll with a side of truffle fries. The steak frites is a bigger piece of meat with truffle fries and chimichurri. So either way you’re getting fries and delicious chimichurri sauce with your achingly tender Wagyu flank steak, which means you simply can’t go wrong.

Chicken schnitzle ($15) is a pounded-thin cut of chicken breast coated with buttery bread crumbs and fried, served with a lemon-y caper sauce and a side of sauteed spinach. Capers aren’t for everyone, but they are definitely for me. The meat is juicy and the breading is rich and satisfying, which plays well off the tartness of the lemon and capers.

Galette complete
The galette complete ($16) is a buckwheat crepe wrapped around a core of rosemary-flavored ham and a mix of emmental and raclette cheeses, with a farm-fresh fried egg on top and a side of chef’s perfect little salad. This is such a lovely little dish, with a delightfully tender crepe and seriously wonderful savory fillings. If you’re looking for something both light and satisfying, this is it.

Ludivine is both very local and very seasonal (and, thirdly, quite picky) so if you go in and the menu doesn’t have something on it that I’ve reviewed here, well, it’s because they took it off the menu for a while. They aren’t going to serve something that sucks and a lot of foods suck when they’re not in season, so if it’s gone, it’s because they decided to make something better. Please choose something else and don’t throw flaming over-ripe tomatoes at me because of a menu change.

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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Sushi Neko

Sushi Neko

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.

There is something at once formal and relaxed happening at Sushi Neko. Long considered one of Oklahoma City’s best sushi eateries, Neko was the first to put style at the forefront. From elegantly simple menus and mood lighting to the use of a cartoon cat mascot (“neko” is Japanese for cat), it’s an aesthetic that feels just as perfect for a date night as it does a business meeting or a raucous dinner with friends.

Of course, all the place setting in the world would be useless without the substance to back it up, and Sushi Neko has cooking talent in spades. Part of the Western Concepts restaurant group (which includes previous reviewee The Hutch on Avondale, Lobby Bar, Musashi’s, and The Tasting Room), Neko combines all the service skills you demand from fine dining and one of the most Instagrammable sushi menus in the state.

And there’s something to be said for being seen at Neko, too. It’s a hob-nob friendly spot, especially at lunch, so if you’re trying to network while chowing down on tasty nigiri, this is the place.

The Food

The appetizer selection at Sushi Neko goes from mild to wild real fast. $10 may seem like a lot for spicy miso soup, but check the ingredients before you rule it out. There is green mussel, shrimp and scallop floating in that gorgeous, umami-rich broth. And I love it. I love that this restaurant recognizes its own quality and doesn’t care what others are doing. Run your race, sushi cat.

The mini blossom filet ($22) and the hamachi kama ($16) are well worth the price, especially if you want to balance the cooked with the raw.

And, it feels weird to say this, but you should get the pommes frites Neko style ($6) on the side. It’s french fries, but they’re tossed in this sweet and spicy sauce that is just sticky and wonderful. Plus, the fries are just top-notch. Crispy and hot and a joy. Get some.

That said, we are at Sushi Neko and it’s high time we got to eating the sushi.

If you’re on a tight budget (believe me, I’ve been there), you’ll want to stick to the rolled sushi menu, which has some value options–Big Roll ($7) is packed full of veggies and the California Roll ($6) uses a crab salad instead of crabstick.

But if you’re wildin’ out, let your fingers do the walking down to the hand-rolled sushi and the Neko specials.

Nuclear Handroll

If you haven’t tried a handroll before, it’s at once familiar and totally different from most of the sushi you’ve had. The Nuclear Handroll ($7.50) is a long cone of nori filled with rice, kaiware (daikon radish sprouts), diced green onion and tuna with a “nuclear” sauce that is HEAVY on sinus-clearing heat. Seriously, I had to take a deep breath before each bite.

And then, like magic, the searing sting is gone and you’re just back to grabbing sushi rolls off your friend’s plate.

Fun-ish fact: Did you know it’s perfectly acceptable to use your fingers when eating sushi? It’s the Japanese way! (Please wash your hands first, though.) But when you’re eating sashimi–that’s raw fish without rice–use your chopsticks. Also, generally, you’re supposed to eat each piece of sushi as a single bite. That can be hard with some of these monster-sized rolls, but it’s meant to be experienced all at once.

Speaking of MASSIVE pieces of sushi and wildin’ out, let’s talk about the Sea Monster Roll ($29). Yes. An almost $30 sushi roll. But wait’ll you see this thing.

Sea Monster Roll

Okay, now you’ve seen it. It’s huge. Inside it’s stuffed with tempura-fried lobster, crab stick, chili sauce, cilantro, and roe. Outside is a slathering of avocado, eel sauce, and black sesame seeds.

But wait, there’s more! You also get a martini glass filled with seaweed salad covered in more lobster meat, spicy sauce, radish, cucumber, and roe. I’m not usually a proponent of getting just one roll, but if you get this, you really don’t need more. It’s enormous. It’s complex. It’s full of lobster.

The Cowboy Roll ($16) is a beautiful mess. The inside is full of tempura-fried shrimp with cream cheese and a spicy sauce, while the outside it topped with crab salad, tempura crispies, roe, and eel sauce. This is as American as sushi gets and I’m not about to tell you I don’t love it.

Look, do I love the taste of fish? Yes. But if you want to stick cream cheese, tempura salmon, and jalapeno in a roll with some spicy sauce, as they do in the Atomic Tootsie Roll ($8.25), I’m going to eat it and I’m not going to feel bad. It’s okay to eat the foods you like. It’s okay if it’s not always “authentic.”

That’s a lot of sushi, folks.

I mean, I don’t know that Japanese chefs make a lot of smoked trout nigiri ($4.99), but I loved it and I’ll keep ordering it. Firm, smoked trout, with that sweetness imparted by the fire laying atop a ball of perfectly cooked sushi rice–there’s nothing there not to like.

Getting away from cooked fish, the Kamikaze Roll ($7.25) is another delicious-yet-dangerous dish. Yellowtail, jalapeno, nuclear sauce, and cilantro combine for a powerful bite that will have you reaching for your water.

Meanwhile, the Grasshopper Roll ($8) is, in name and reality, the greenest of the rolls we tried. Inside is shrimp, avocado, asparagus, sesame seeds, wasabi mayo, horseradish, and cilantro. The shrimp is really there for the meaty texture, because the avocado and cilantro really stand out in this one. It’s kind of like a guacamole sushi roll, which sounds amazing, right?

If you’re a drinker of things and an occasional haver of fun, like me, I really dug the sake bomb. Here’s a video of me drinking one. Don’t worry: the server instructed me on the proper way to drink a sake bomb and she was standing by with a wet towel to clean up the mess.

Service on point, guys.

Just as you can dress for any occasion, Sushi Neko is a restaurant for any occasion. Dressed up or down, alone or with a group, this eatery adapts to whatever you ask of it.

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 reviews by Greg at
https://www.iateoklahoma.com/reviews

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La Baguette Bistro

La Baguette Bistro

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.

Escargot de Bourgogne

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.

The Food

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.

Tartine sampler

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.

Beef tartare

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.

Rainbow trout Okie-Grenobloise

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.

Crab and Bernaise covered 8 oz. filet

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

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.

Duck in Rouennaise sauce

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.

Read more reviews by Greg at
https://www.iateoklahoma.com/reviews

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Patrono

Patrono

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.

Patrono is my kind of fancy.

There used to be an Italian restaurant in Edmond and it was opulent. It was also empty a lot of the time and the food was…ehn…so it didn’t stick around. But remembered walking in there and immediately feeling like no matter what I was wearing, it wasn’t right.

Some upscale eateries are about the spectacle, and that’s great. Like, you don’t go to Vast without looking out the windows. And if the food is just as spectacular, all the better.

But there’s also a kind of understated, intimate fanciness that makes me feel at home. Sometimes, that means lights a bit dimmer and a dining room that’s a little smaller. Music that inspires you to listen and have quiet conversations. Tucked away just around the corner from the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Patrono is that kind of place.

This bread is very good. Like…very good.

And maybe it’s just me, but Italian food seems better suited to little bistros like this than to grand dining rooms.

While it’s not primarily a special occasion spot, Patrono is a good spot for a special occasion. So when my friends wanted to celebrate a birthday recently, we happily piled into a booth and began greedily drinking in chef Jonathan Krell’s exquisite menu.

The Food

Krell has been #Krellinit at Patrono for more than a year now, taking over from the original chef and transforming it with his own vision for high-end Italian food.

I’d met him a few times over the years, but my real introduction to his culinary genius was at Design Appetit in 2017. I had the dream job for a fat kid, getting to judge all the dishes, and in a year filled with ringers, it was Krell’s food (with my spiritual guru Scotty Irani as his sous chef) that blew us away.

That’s why I’ve been slightly baffled by the lack of buzz surrounding Patrono. Those who have been rave about it, but it’s still under the radar for most Oklahoma Citianiters. And if you’re a foodie who grumps about how fake Olive Garden is, Patrono ought to be your panacea.

Beef carpaccio

If the menu showed up and it only listed the appetizers, I’d probably be just fine. It’s hard to express how delightful the beef carpaccio ($12) is without simply resorting to a series of near-pornographic moaning. The beef is sliced so very thinly and comes with dots of garlic aioli connected by drizzles of olive oil and bits of microgreens.

Pull at a piece and watch as it shreds itself before you load it onto your fork. This barely requires chewing. I’m fairly certain the moaning alone is enough to extract the flavor from this dish.

Even simpler, and all the more daring for it, are the white Sicilian anchovies ($5). Literally it’s a plate of white anchovy filets with just a bit of olive oil. Not that the anchovies need the lubrication — they’re deliciously oily little fish — but the green notes of the olive oil bounce off the subtle flavor of the fish in wonderful ways. I could shovel all five in my mouth at once, but this is an appetizer for savoring.

Suppli al telefono

Suppli al telefono ($8) are semolina-crusted balls of fried risotto, stuffed with a core of molten Provolone and served with a roasted red pepper pomodoro sauce. Oh, heavens. Everything works in such concert that it’s difficult to parse the experience. The crust has bite, but it’s quite tender, giving way to creamy risotto and even creamier cheese. All that richness is cut by the pomodoro, which has a spicy vegetal taste with a touch of smoky sweetness. You might plan to share these, but it’ll be hard if you taste one first.

Speaking of decadence, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a dish that embraces its over-the-top nature more than the carbonara. The bucatini noodles are served with gorgeous pieces of guanciale — a cured meat, kind of like bacon, but made from the pig’s jowls — which had my head reeling. The chew of the meat pairs with the pop of fresh peas and the creaminess of a whole egg yolk waiting to be stirred into a rich sauce with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Carbonara

This is coma food. Like, you eat this and you just want to fall asleep and dream about eating it again.

The birthday girl ordered spaghetti ($20), which may seem like an odd choice, but a) it was her birthday and b) spaghetti is a standard dish for a reason.

Perfectly al dente noodles are tossed with a rich tomato basil sauce with house-made meatballs and dollops of ricotta and slivers of fresh basil on top. This is the platonic ideal of spaghetti and meatballs. For a few bucks more, they’ll add Italian sausage to the mix, as well, but that might be overkill.

My dinner was just one long gigglefest, because not only did the concept of braised rabbit over a carrot risotto ($29) have me tickled, but the reality of the dish was even better than I’d imagined.

Braised rabbit and carrot risotto

Never underestimate a playful chef. Krell’s pairing of rabbit and carrot (along with mustard greens and a garlic dulce de leche) is a silly garden pun, but his culinary ability turned the joke into a legit powerhouse dish.

The rabbit comes as both a braised leg and thigh and as a piece of rabbit sausage, showing the versatility of the animal. While the sausage was savory, the braised leg and thigh (yes, there are tiny bones, so be careful) had a subtle sweetness to them that I found entirely enchanting. The carrot risotto was creamy, but still had some of the carrot’s sweet crunch — not entirely unlike a traditional risotto — and the garlic and greens added spice and a hint of bitterness that tied everything together.

I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure I remember giving this dish an honest-to-god slow clap as I ate it.

The desserts change frequently, but I had a butterscotch budino that I wish was forever on the menu. It’s like a super-rich pudding topped with whipped cream and cookie crumbles. I might have started moaning again.

Patrono is the real deal. OKC has plenty of great Italian options now, thank goodness, but Patrono pairs that sensibility with the kinds chef-driven dishes you’ll find at some of the city’s better-known eateries. It’s been an under-the-radar hit for a while now. Time for it to be on a lot more of your radars going forward.

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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Brunch at The Hutch on Avondale

Brunch at The Hutch on Avondale

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.

On a blustery Sunday morning in Nichols Hills, I sat in my car listening to podcasts and watching as couples who were bundled up against the wind approached the locked door to The Hutch on Avondale returned, chastened, to their vehicles to wait for 11 a.m. to roll around.

The wait for an 11 a.m. brunch is a struggle, regardless of where you are, but it’s especially hard to deal with the hunger pangs that precede a meal at The Hutch, because you just know it’s going to be worth it.

Cheddar and chive biscuits

Executive Chef David Henry isn’t the household name in Oklahoma City that he deserves to be. While several of the state’s best chefs passed through the kitchen at The Coach House, home to The Coach House Apprenticeship Program, it was Henry who became the full-time head of the kitchen.

When the owners decided to close the restaurant in 2016, they weren’t about to lose Henry. He worked doing pop-up dinners while the old building underwent renovations and rebranding, emerging later that year as The Hutch on Avondale.

Even now, customers in the restaurant still talk about The Coach House, which is completely understandable. But as Western Concepts culinary director Kurt Fleischfresser said at the time, it’s not like the dedication to fine food and creative presentations was going away. Rather, reborn as The Hutch, Henry’s skilled palate would be on display for a larger audience who aren’t quite so cowed by The Coach House’s high-end reputation. And don’t fool yourself—some folks gave that storied establishment a wide berth because they simply didn’t feel like an occasion was special enough to book a table. That’s how good restaurants die.

The Food

Brunch is far from the only meal at The Hutch, and I highly recommend you visit them for lunch and dinner sometime. But if you’re looking for a meal worthy of your Sunday best, brunch is where it’s at.

Let me tell you a love story, if I may, about a young man who had a forbidden desire. Each time he visited a restaurant, his eyes would lock lustily on that unknowable and forever out-of-reach section of the menu…

Appetizers.

Pancake fritters

Oh, how his heart yearned to know the seductive touch of a shrimp cocktail or the loving embrace of a bowl of guacamole. But it was not meant to be. Like Montagues and Capulets, his parents could not accept his love for appetizers.

“Just eat chips and salsa,” they said. And he did. But his thoughts never strayed far from those forbidden apps.

And that young man…was Richard Nixon.

It also sounds like me, as well, because I love some appetizers. And there are only two on The Hutch’s brunch menu, so I got them both.

Pancake fritters ($10) are a plate of tiny dutch baby pancakes served with luscious lemon curd and ripe berries. They look cute, but I took a bite and just straight up cursed (Sorry nearby tables!) because I wasn’t ready for that jelly. The pancakes were light as air and that lemon curd was so smooth I think it took my wallet.

I made my friends try them next and they also started up with the salty sailor talk. Maybe I just need better friends…

No, that can’t be it, because Kevin said, “We should get the white cheddar and chive biscuits ($6), too.”

Breakfast burrito

And I said, “How did you make that parenthetical show up when you talked?” but he wasn’t listening. He was eating one of the finest little biscuits known to man.

You get six mini biscuits and some honey butter and, sorry, but you should throw that honey butter away. It’s not bad. Not at all. But the sweetness of the butter is a distraction from the savory, tangy, magical flavor of the biscuits. Maybe regular whipped butter would be better, but these don’t actually need anything else to make them perfect. Just…wow. WOW. I could eat several dozen of those in a sitting and David Henry knows it. It’s part of his genius plan to take my millions of dollars I earned running a food blog.

Kevin ordered the breakfast burrito ($15) for his entree and this is one of those times when I am legitimately floored with how well a great chef can elevate an already wonderful dish.

I love breakfast burritos. I wish I could pour them out of a box into a bowl every morning. And a mix of scrambled eggs, sausage and cheese with a little salsa is all I need. But The Hutch’s version was just better.

Eggs benedict

It’s huge, for one. Inside are eggs scrambled with white cheddar and onions—scrambled to creamy perfections, btw—and served with beef tenderloin and potatoes inside a tortilla, then topped with fresh picante. It’s a knife-and-fork burrito, but even the steak was cooked just right. This kind of care isn’t what most of us are used to in a dish seemingly designed to be eaten while you’re driving to work.

Because I’m a fancy lady, I ordered the eggs benedict ($16).

I know, okay? I know that eggs benny are played out. There are too many benedicts and we’re all supposed to be over it and onto whatever the new breakfast thing is. But, again, this is David Henry’s eggs benedict.

Perfectly poached eggs. PERFECT. Whites set. Yolks oozing out. A base of crisp english muffin topped with really real ham. Smoked ham. Like ham jerky, but more tender. A hollandaise sauce so light and lemony that I didn’t want to waste a drop. Pile on some lightly dressed arugula, with just a hint of bitter bite, and a pile of gorgeous breakfast potatoes and it’s heaven. This is where brunch goes when it’s lived a virtuous life.

Chilaquiles

Chilaquiles ($15) are a special item. You can’t get them every week, but something tells me these will return frequently to the menu.

Fried corn tortillas are simmered in a spicy red sauce, giving them a tender texture, and then covered in pulled pork, black beans, cheddar and a pair of poached eggs. If everything else we’d ordered was prim and proper, this was like Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn showing up on a motorcycle with his sleeveless leather jacket, ready to pitch for a down-and-out Cleveland Indians team.

…sorry, I just really love “Major League.” Give it a watch sometime.

The spice was perfect. Enough to dazzle the taste buds, but not so much that you’d have to order a glass of milk to extinguish the flames. The egg yolk and the pulled pork mixed in perfectly and the beans added a nice heft. All in all, a spectacular version of a Mexican classic and one I’d like to see make the regular menu one of these days.

There’s a full bar and general manager Kyle Fleischfresser takes great pride in keeping the wine selection exceedingly well curated. If you want a cocktail to go with your cocktail casual dress, you’re in luck.

One word of advice: reservations. Okay, maybe a few more context words of advice: you should make reservations. Whatever problems The Coach House had filling its dining room, The Hutch doesn’t share them. Sunday brunch gets packed in a hurry. One taste and you’ll understand why.

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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En Croute

En Croute

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.

One of the first places I thought of when I started writing #StylishEats reviews was En Croûte, in part because I think the restaurant truly shares an ethos with Steven Giles. Both know that style is nothing without substance, but that substance is made better with style.

If you’ve never been to En Croûte (or, heaven forfend, you’ve never heard of it), let me set the stage for you. It’s not a particularly large restaurant, but it never fails to accommodate large parties. When you walk in, you are immediately confronted with the cheese case and I wouldn’t blame you if that’s where you stopped.

Le Loupe plate

Cheesemonger and managing partner Crosby Dyke knows her stuff. Oklahoma is no longer the cheese backwater of the world, thanks in large part to her former employers at Forward Foods, but she’s going above and beyond with daily cheese plates and paired charcuterie. And if you want to buy a slice of fancy fromage to take home with you, she can help you find just the right semi-soft washed rind Alsatian sheep’s cheese for your next wine-tasting/Dungeons & Dragons party.

If your group of half-elf thieves somehow makes it past the Lair of the Cheese Ogre, you’ll be faced with an epic decision: belly up to the bar or grab a table along the wall? I hope you brought your 20-sided die with you, because this is one choice I cannot make for you.

That said, if you’re more interested in keeping your quest to find The Great Meal of +5 Charisma secret, the privacy of a table is ideal. But if you’d like help from the tavern keeper in choosing the Flagon of Drunken Invisibility, the bar is a great choice to get advice on the best wines of the night.

That…that’s about all I know about role-playing games, so I’m just going to go back to the review now, if that’s cool with you.

The Food

It’s not that En Croûte is outrageously expensive that I tell you to save your pennies before making a reservation, it’s that the menu is a top-to-bottom nightmare of difficult choices. If you’d like to see your heroes fall from grace, take them to En Croûte and tell them they have five minutes to order. You will see the kind of breakdown I’ve come to expect from my daughter when I explain that braiding skills are far inferior to her mother’s.

Knowing this was coming, I did the only thing I know to do in impossible situations: Cheat. I brought a crew of seasoned foodies and we all ordered something different, knowing we’d be able to share and taste and pass plates around.

Wagyu beef tartare

Even then it was a struggle. You’ll see why in a minute.

First up, you should get some cheese. That’s just common sense. If you’ve got the coin, I highly recommend Le Loup Plate ($35), with cheeses and meats chosen by the cheesemonger and a variety of condiments to smear and dollop and scoop up with house-made olive oil crackers.

I don’t know much about magic, but I suspect sorcery was at play in selecting the meats and cheeses for the plate. How else can you explain how perfectly each flavor paired with another? Skill? Years of practice? An intense study of cheeses and meats? Psh, yeah, it was clearly the work of the dark arts.

If you think you’re done with the appetizers after a cheese and meat plate, think again. There’s a gauntlet to run before you even think about main courses.

The Wagyu beef tartare ($15) was lovely. Served in a little crock, you get a crazy tender pile of chopped and minced raw Wagyu beef, studded with pickled onions, a dollop of garlic aioli and toast rounds for dipping/scooping/shoveling the meat into your mouth.

Mushrooms with truffle on toast

I know not everybody is down with eating raw beef, but I certainly am. There’s something so decadent about gently stirring the chilled meat with the rich aioli and sharp, crunchy slivers of onion. It feels transgressive, in some way, as if you snuck in the kitchen and couldn’t wait for the meal to be cooked before you tucked in.

Texturally, it’s a knockout. The chilled meat is creamy and soft because there’s no heat to coil up and stiffen the proteins, which gives the onions and micro greens on top the platform for their delicate crunch.

If it’s your first time at En Croûte, you really need to try the mushrooms with truffle on toast ($16). Why? So you can keep getting it every single time you come back. (I apologize for the pictures. I’ll retake them and replace them, I promise.)

The toast is soaking in a bath of tender mushrooms and melting cheese, which form an intoxicatingly rich gravy. On top, a perfectly fried egg, waiting to spill its yolk all over the dish. I could eat this for breakfast, lunch, dinner, an afternoon snack, brunch, fourth meal, you name it. It’s so good, I can’t see it ever leaving the menu.

Lobster-stuffed fresno peppers

The lobster-stuffed fresno peppers ($14) are beguiling. The lobster and lemon herb aioli draw you in, sweet and mild, before the slow build of the fresno pepper takes hold. Fresno peppers are very similar to jalapenos in size and heat (though they can be a little spicier), but their delicate walls hide a sweet, smoky flavor. Eat them, but carefully.

Will you still be hungry after all those appetizers? It really depends on the size of your party, but my guess is still “yes,” because the entrees are even harder to sort through.

No one will blame you for just getting the En Croûte cheeseburger ($15), except yourself, because as good as that cheeseburger is, you passed up some truly exceptional dishes you won’t find elsewhere.

The prosciutto-wrapped chicken breast ($18), for instance, is the rare chicken breast I’ll order in a restaurant. Tender and juicy, each bite is snugly ensconced in a crispy piece of prosciutto, which adds a salty, fatty richness to the meat. The plate is covered with fried artichokes, mushrooms and olives in a sherry pan sauce, which makes sure none of the flavor of the seared meats is wasted.

Prosciutto-wrapped chicken breast

I wanted to love the braised short rib en croute ($20), but it just didn’t come together for me. The beef was ultra tender and flavorful, but the puff pastry wrapping didn’t add much in the way of texture. It needed a bit more moisture, which I’d had in an earlier iteration of the dish. That said, the pomme puree, roasted carrots and peppers were all lovely. It would have been nice to have some au jus to tie it all together.

The cioppino with garlic bread ($26) was a surprise. Rather than going with a tomato-based broth, the liquid with this seafood stew was more golden and fragrant. I savored each bite of bay scallops and greedily pulled clams and mussels from their shells, dipping each in a spoonful of broth for maximum flavor. The bread is the last defense, so don’t eat it too early. You’ll want to soak up every last drop of that broth.

Cioppino with garlic bread

It feels like cheating to recommend steak frites (4 oz for $22 or 8 oz for $34), but we’ve already established that I cheat.

En Croûte shares a kitchen and a staff with St. Mark’s Chop Room (another #StylishEats spotlight restaurants), so of course they know how to treat a steak. The tenderloin came out a gorgeously dark mahogany color, but cut through the center and you’ll find it just as pink and/or red as you ordered. It comes topped with maitre d’ butter (compound butter with lemon, parsley, salt and pepper), which melts generously over the meaty tower and soaks into the nearby french fries.

Stuffed as we were at this point, nobody could stay away when a slice of pistachio and honey cheesecake ($9) made its way to the table.

Steak frites

Goat cheese + cream cheese + chopped pistachios + honey + balsamic berry compote + a pistachio crust = one of the most decadent and unforgettable desserts I’ve had. The form factor is so familiar that you’re a little shocked when the twang of goat cheese hits just a little harder than the usual sour note of cream cheese. It’s glorious and kind of an ideal end to a meal that started with fine cheeses.

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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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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