February 24th, 2012 by Brian Schwartz – Comments (4)
There it is, adrift and out of place amid the drab desolation of a south Tulsa strip mall, next to a dollar theater and within sight of the Olive Garden across the street: a small and fiercely independent restaurant with a menu lovingly designed by a chef with a 25 year career in restaurants, including a position as Executive Chef at the 2008 Olympics. (You can see his Olympic toque in a little display case near the bar.) He’s aided by a talented sous-chef who came from Trula at the Mayo Hotel. Even the Tulsa World was impressed; too impressed as it happens. “Beck’s Fresh Mediterranean is the kind of place that comes along once or twice a year, if we are lucky,” said their recent review. “Juniper and Gemma’s from last year readily come to mind.”
No, Beck’s doesn’t attain the heights of a Justin Thompson or an Ian van Anglen. If you expect that, you’ll be rudely disappointed. What it does offer is well-prepared (and sometimes superbly prepared) dishes, served in huge portions with most dishes under $15. (They also have a more expensive daily fish special, which we didn’t try. When we were there it was red snapper Veronique, with a classic Bechamel-like sauce, or grilled escolar, for $22.) It’s a pleasant setting too, though it brings a tear to the eyes of those who remember Bali Fusion, which used to occupy this space and which offered Malaysian and Indonesian dishes, some prepared better than you’ll find in New York.
We ordered, we waited, lovely crusty bread came, and so did my friends’ salads. (With most dishes, you may choose 2 sides, and they chose salad.)
And finally, my chicken Marsala ($15).
As I recall, Chef Beck told an interviewer that he takes classic dishes and tries to make them better. Chicken Marsala is an excellent example. The chicken has been pounded flat, dredged in egg batter, and pan-fried a la Meuniere. The sauce is, according to Beck, a mixture of the standard Marsala with a sauce demi-glace. The sweet wine is supposed to contrast with the slightly acidic demi-glace. I didn’t notice the sweet-sour contrast; what I did notice (and who could help it?) was the incredibly rich, wonderful taste. There was also linguini in a rich creamy sauce not unlike Alfredo but accented with dill. I think this is usually plated with the chicken but, since I had ordered potatoes as my side dish (thus unintentionally replicating the funniest scene from the film “Big Night”), they brought the pasta in a separate ramekin. I think I preferred it that way. If that pasta were a separate dish, I’d go and order three plates. It was that good.
There’s a section of the menu called “Skewers”, which offers kabobs served with pilaf, salad, hummus, yogurt sauce and pita bread. Cathe got the Steak Skewer ($12.75)
Cathe loved it. I tried the steak, found the marinade a bit too acidic and the hummus too bland. But as I said Cathe loved it. There’s another menu section called Crepes. Betty got Beef Burgundy Crepes ($13).
Tender sirloin simmered with onions and mushrooms, said the menu. Basically it’s Beef Bourguignon rolled into a pancake. The small taste I got was good.
They have some nice desserts but we were too full to eat them.
Beck’s Fresh Mediterranean
6808 S Memorial Dr (across the street from Woodland Hills Mall)
Open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 AM to 2:30 PM and from 5 PM to 9 PM, with brunch on Sunday
Born in NYC, age 0, on my birthday. College in Oxford at age 16. Law School in New Haven, Conn. 6 years travel in Africa and Asia. Haven’t done much lately. Still, I’m the only Tulsa member of the little-known Omega Society. www.theomegasociety.com
I speak enough Chinese to order food not on any English menu. Spanish French Italian too (not fluently but food-ently) My favorite restaurant is Jean-Georges in New York. But those NYC chefs would sell their soul to get the produce available from the farms around Inola.
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