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New Restaurants in TULSA -- eleven short yet succulent reviews

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New Restaurants in TULSA -- eleven short yet succulent reviews

Brian S | Feb 6, 2009 08:11 AM

There have been some good new restaurants that have opened in Tulsa Oklahoma within the past year or two, and whenever I get a chance I eat in one and review it for Chowhound. But most of those reviews have got stuck as replies to other long posts, and it occurs to me that someone desperately needing dining advice -- such as the tourist driving through Tulsa who, lucky for him, phoned Stonehorse just because it was the first place to show up on a Google search on his car laptop -- won't be able to find them. So I've revised these reviews to include later visits, and gathered them here.

Villa Ravenna

I think I've just eaten the best spaghetti in Tulsa. It was at Villa Ravenna, in the Farm Shopping Center, which just opened a few months ago in a space once occupied by Casa Laredo, an unmemorable Mexican joint. They must have done a thorough redecoration job; the very pleasant decor reminds me of some of the small Italian neighborhood places in Brooklyn.

The owners hail from Ravenna, which had a long and turbulent history as capital of an Ostrogothic kingdom, later fought over by Venice and the Pope, who wanted to annex it to the Papal States. Dante is buried there. Ravenna, though, is not known for its cuisine and fortunately the owners have decided to serve many of the standard dishes you'll see in most American Italian restaurants. There's a difference, though. Everything is made from scratch, everything is made to order, and it's more Italian style than American-Italian.

My two companions had spaghetti Bolognese and fettucine Alfredo. The spaghetti was good, but I don't recommend it. The other offerings are much better. The Alfredo was very good, rich and creamy. I ordered the Spaghetti Puttanesca, and that dish shone. Perfectly cooked pasta, a rich sauce, slightly acidic, redolent of capers olives and anchovies. I would have been happy to get this dish in New York.

The pastas ranged between $9 and $14. My spaghetti was $11, my friends' entrees were slightly less. Chicken entrees such as cacciatore were $17, veal etc was $19. I think it's worth the price.

Villa Ravenna
6526A East 51 St (in Farm Shopping Center)
Tulsa
270-2666

More on Spaghetti Puttanesca (including what the word means): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puttanesca

Tulsa World review: http://www.tulsaworld.com/spot/articl...

Keo's

A few months ago I had lunch at Keo. It's well worth the trip. The space is sleek and airy, with 15 foot ceilings and floor to ceiling windows. Upscale decor (and good service) with downscale prices. Most entrees are $9. The chef was born in Cambodia (though she grew up in Oklahoma) and most of the dishes are Thai, Vietnamese or Cambodian, though some, such as the grilled tuna with orange soy glaze, are Asian-inflected creations. Two friends and I tried the Thai Sweet Basil (larb, basically, with ground chicken and basil leaves), the Beef and Broccoli (what it sounds like) and the Tom Ka (a Thai soup, Gai Tom Ka, but with shrimp). The first two were good but ordinary, but the Tom Ka was extraordinary. Crisp sharp flavors of lemongrass, ginger and other spices swirl and blend in your mouth. It was as good as any version of that dish you'd find in New York. Fortunately that was my pick so I got to eat almost all of it.

On a later visit I had the Thai green curry, which was even better. Usually the green curries bore me, this one not. I think that the "curries", dishes with a lot of sauce, are a far better choice than the stir-fries.

3524 S Peoria Av
http://www.keorestaurant.com/

Local Table

My one visit to Tuck Curren's new restaurant, Local Table, was a very pleasant lunch a few months ago. It was a Restaurant Week lunch, and cost only $13, but since every selection was from the regular menu (which is the same for lunch and dinner), I feel justified in a general review.

The ambiance is sleek and modern and, despite that, quite pleasant. The service was quite good. Local Table tries to showcase ingredients from Tulsa area farms, and prepare them simply and well. That's hardly a new idea but it's nice to see here in Oklahoma where there's such a bountiful supply of fresh and excellent produce. My first course was corn chowder. Not that much corn (it wasn't a good year for corn around here) but still a rich creamy soup redolent of potatoes, bacon, cream and of course corn. I wanted to copy Ishmael in "Moby Dick" who, presented with a huge bowl of excellent chowder, devoured it all and asked for a second serving... but I couldn't since another course awaited.

That was the star of the show, a filet of fresh, perfectly cooked and overall wonderful trout topped with local cherry tomatoes which had been stewed whole, and spinach sauteed in garlic. Excellent. Dessert was a chocolate mousse with whipped cream and fresh strawberries accompanying it on the plate.

A lovely meal. Even at regular prices it's a good deal. The chowder is normally $4.75 and the trout is $16.25.

Cyprus Grille

Also during Restaurant Week I had lunch at Cyprus Grille, which I'd been meaning to try ever since it first opened. Okay, it's not quite a new restaurant anymore, but Tulsa World ranked it as the best new restaurant of that year. It's in a vast new hotel with a ten story atrium complete with little pools stocked with monster fish. The restaurant looks like what it is, a very upscale hotel restaurant. We had the $13 Restaurant Week menu, but all the selections were from the regular lunch menu. My first course was seared tuna with a Thai papaya salad. It looked bright and colorful but was more or less devoid of flavor. The merlot-soaked pear and mesclun salad which my friends ordered was a better bet. After that I had the flatiron steak. That's a shoulder cut but was quite flavorful, and topped with a soy-mustard sauce that was a lot like Bearnaise. There were sauteed mushrooms on the side. Even better was the fried grouper and chips. Huge chunks of fish were fried in a rich thick batter -- a bit too sweet, and it reminded me of a baignet or zeppole but it was still very good indeed. Dessert was a tiny individually-made chocolate cake exploding with chocolate syrup with fruit, whipped cream on the side and surrounded by a tiny moat of raspberry sauce. It was an excellent deal for $13, but I'm not sure I would have been happy paying the regular price of $32. Still, all in all, I left happy

El Guapo

It's a highly touted new Mexican place downtown. I ate there in September and was somewhat disappointed. I've been desperately seeking real Mexican moles so I was thrilled to see on the menu enchiladas with mole poblano. It was layers of chicken and tortillas, baked and served in a ramekin. There was mole poblano (made in-house of 32 ingredients, they assured me), but most of it had soaked into the rest of the casserole. I managed to find a bit of the sauce and tried it. It was more of a slurry than a sauce and it just didn't have the richness, complexity or depth that a good mole poblano should have. It did lend a flavor to the casserole, and a very nice flavor it was, but it just wasn't the flavor of mole poblano. Still, it's a nice setting. What looks like an old NYC tenement had been converted into a cheery, spacious restaurant, and there are three floors including a partially covered rooftop. Service was good, and the people I was with ordered the wet burritos and loved them. And they had a great sopapilla made with fresh peaches.

White River Fish Market

Okay it's hardly a new restaurant but when I went there late last year I found it as good as ever. In fact, I liked it better than the other time I went. The first time I had the broiled flounder ($13.40), a whole fish that looked beautiful on the plate but yielded a few juicy delicious morsels and not much else. This time I had a fried platter ($13), with catfish scallops and shrimp. They have a knack with frying and it was very good indeed. Okay, I have had fried fish done better, but I wasn't complaining as I ate every bit of the huge portion. One of my friends had the broiled salmon ($16)and it didn't look very exciting but it had a surprisingly good flavor.

You walk in, and there's a counter next to a display case of fish. You order at the counter -- basically you choose what kind of fish you want, and whether you want it broiled, grilled, or fried. You can even pick the fish you want from the showcase. Then you choose two sides. Please choose the onion rings. They are awesome. You then go pick a table in a big airy room with lots of tables... .and lots of diners, and a waitress will bring your food in short order. As you leave you might want to do what I did, which was to order a quart of gumbo ($6.50) from the retail counter on the other side of the dining room.

White River Fish Market & Restaurant
1708 N Sheridan, Tulsa
835-1910

Gourmet Magazine review: http://www.whiteriverfishmarket.com/C...

White River website: http://www.whiteriverfishmarket.com

Helen of Troy

This was, I believe, on the 2007 list and I finally made it there last October. Pleasant, airy dining room. I ordered lamb kebab ($10 at lunch, $17 at dinner) with a side order of babaghanoush. The light, creamy babaghanoush, my friend's tabouli (i got a taste), the basmati rice, tzatziki sauce and pita were all quite good, and the lamb (which I didn't have high hopes for and expected to be overcooked) was instead cooked medium rare exactly as requested and was juicy, flavorful, with the flavor enhanced with a dusting of za'atar, and redolent of the grill -- in short, wonderful. Dessert was a piece of baklava, and two other pastries wrapped in phyllo dough. We ordered an extra portion and the very friendly owner, who at that hour (3 PM) was also chef, waiter and busboy, brought a double helping. It's quite a good place. The simple food, which was like that I've had in Lebanese and Palestinian restaurants in New York, is well worth the trip.

6670 S Lewis
794-3322

Hmong Cafe

Sometime in the late 1970s, a young man ran along the jungle trails of Laos, an assault rifle in one hand and a baby in the other, fleeing from the Pathet Lao. He crossed the Mekong by swinging on a vine (according to the Tulsa World; I've seen the Mekong there and it is wide) and ended up in Thailand. A few years later, reunited with his wife, he was in Tulsa. Now the family runs Hmong Cafe.

I just got back from lunch there. It's a bright clean dining room on 31st near Garnett. I was hoping to try Hmong food, which we don't have in New York, but the daughter (perhaps the baby in her father's arms, now grown) told me that they don't have Hmong dishes... though they do have larb, a specialty of Laos and northeast Thailand, which is pretty darn close. That's what I ordered ($8). It's a ground beef salad, a mountain of it, and blended with the beef were the sharp clear tastes of cilantro and mint. Hot pepper too; I asked for it hot. On request they gave me a homemade hot pepper sauce, which I put on the rice which came with the larb. Now that IS an authentic Hmong dish -- it's called kua txob -- and it is fiery HOT! (but really good) (Photo of kua txob http://hanca.us/pastmeetings/meetings... ) The larb was also authentic (judging from what I've had in NYC) and also really good. My friends, not as adventurous, had spring rolls (the Vietnamese dish, shrimp and vermicelli and mint wrapped in a very soft wrapper) and sesame chicken. The chicken was like Chinese takeout food, but good, and was an unbelievably enormous portion for $7.

Other menu items were borrowed from Thailand and Vietnam. They included Thai red, green and Masaman curry and Pho from Vietnam. There's also a Hmong sausage which is another choice close to Hmong cuisine. All the same price range. It was a pleasant outing -- the people working there were quite friendly.

That whole part of town is virgin territory for chow explorers. I lost count of the tiny Mexican taquerias I saw on the way back along 31st Street. One, Mariscos Costa Azul, I'm pretty sure I ate at years ago and it was quite good.

11197 E. 31st St.
828-9192
closed Monday

Tulsa World review:
http://www.tulsaworld.com/spot/articl...

Cheesecake Factory

A chain restaurant with 200 entrees on the menu that serves good food? I wouldn't have believed it. Cheesecake Factory has decor lavish enough to make Trimalchio -- the nouveau rich billionaire in Petronius' Satyricon -- jealous. They have a less expensive lunch menu until 5 PM. I ordered chicken and mushrooms in a Madeira wine sauce($11 at lunch, 15 dinner), my friends ordered fish and chips ($11 lunch, 15.50 dinner) and pizza. All were quite good. My pasta was al dente, with a rich delicious sauce. My waitress told me the kitchen has six stations. If you must eat at one chain, this is it.

8711 E 71st St.
249-2300
next to Woodland Hills mall

Kupcakz

A few weeks ago one of my friends brought me three cupcakes from a new store down south on Mingo. Kupcakz. Despite the fact that they were bought the day before I ate them, they blew New York's famed and overhyped Magnolia cupcakes away. Not even in the same league. Each had a wonderful fresh cake, sometimes mixed with a creamy filling, and the icing, artfully patterned by hand was divine. Here is their menu description of what I had.

"Not a carrot in the world"

Walnut studded carrot cake with mascarpone cream cheese frosting"

"Peppermint maddy

Bittersweet chocolae cake with green mint buttercream"

"Lemon drop

Zesty lemon cake filled with lemon curd with lemon cream cheese"

Expensive ($2.50) but worth it.

Kupcakz
7135 S Mingo Rd
461-0228

www.kupcakz.com

Daily Grill

About a month ago I had a pleasant lunch at the Daily Grill. This was the Tulsa World's pick for the best restaurant of 2008. It's not. Still, I emerged full and satisfied.

On the second floor of a spiffy new downtown hotel, Daily Grill, an outpost of a California upscale chain, is designed to look like a Hollywood conception of a New York steakhouse. Lots of (possibly faux) mahogany, high ceilings and big plate glass windows overlooking downtown (the last two being things that a cramped stuffy steakhouse like Manhattan's Palm definitely don't have). Service was very good; it's a place designed for businessmen to take their clients. The lunch menu, served till 4, has a page of $10 entrees... mostly sandwiches and pasta. My companion had one of these, a huge fried chicken sandwich, tasty and definitely good value. I had Chicken Parmigiana ($13 lunch, $15 dinner) the pounded chicken breasts well prepared and topped with yummy mozzarella, atop a bed of capellini with tomato sauce. Not a great sauce, but good. The dinner menu features aged Angus steaks (between $22 and $30), and braised short ribs ($27). Both menus offer "signature items based on time honored recipes with a Daily Grill touch", such as pot pie and meatloaf (both around $15 all day). There's a full breakfast menu too (served mornings only)

From what I saw, it's not innovative high-end cuisine like, say, Stonehorse. What it is is satisfying comfort food, well prepared, with big portions, fairly gentle prices, and elegant surroundings.

Daily Grill
100 E 2 Street
295.7748

www.dailygrill.com

menu at Tulsa location

http://www.dailygrill.com/menu.php?lo...

Useful links:

Finally, some useful links:
Tulsa World list of best new restaurants of 2008
http://www.tulsaworld.com/lifestyle/a...

and of 2007
http://www.tulsaworld.com/lifestyle/a...

and here's the Chowhound post to read if you want to be up to date on Tulsa, with 160 useful replies on the Tulsa dining scene http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/553621

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