Wolfgang Puck Bistro is Gone

By on November 8, 2013

In late September I got a call from Oklahoma Magazine asking me to write an article about Wolfgang Puck Bistro. I’d grown quite fond of the place over the years so for me it was a labor of love. I interviewed the chef and also the manager — bright, young and enthusiastic, and full of plans and hope for the future. And then, late last week, I got the news that Wolfgang Puck’s had closed. Suddenly my eulogy had become an elegy. And as such, I’ll print it here. (And if you are a restaurant owner, please consider hiring some of the enthusiastic hardworking staff who are suddenly jobless.)

Wolfgang Puck, like Dior and Armani, is one of those names that seeps into your subconscious without your being quite aware of it. The very sound drips glamour. But for Puck, a hardworking chef who melded his 18 years of classic French training with the homegrown simplicity of California cooking and thereby helped invent the new California cuisine of the 1980s, glamour comes second. “I love the business, the people,” he once told a reporter, “but my first love is the food.” Three years ago, when the first (and still the only) branch of Wolfgang Puck Bistro outside Los Angeles opened in Tulsa, Puck raised the bar of culinary excellence in Oklahoma. Soaring plate glass windows, sleek modern decor and impeccable service: if what you expect from the name Wolfgang Puck is elegance and sophistication, you won’t be disappointed.

Wolfgang Puck Bistro is gone

Even through the slack hours of a weekday afternoon, the kitchen is busy. Ben Alexander, the new executive chef, moves from stovetop to oven to prep counter, executing orders with a balletic grace. His energy is inexhaustible; he’s passionate about the food. “I won’t serve it unless I’d eat it,” he says. “And I’m VERY picky about what I eat. Our mantra,” he explains, “is freshness. Fresh herbs, fresh produce, and we source locally as much as possible.”  Recently, Wolfgang Puck rolled out a whole new menu. It was designed by Ben in collaboration with Steve Madonna, Puck’s executive catering chef in California, with each dish tasted, tweaked, and approved by Puck himself. The menu, though, isn’t shared with any of Puck’s California restaurants. It was designed especially for Tulsa and it’s unique to Tulsa. “It’s Italian, it’s Mediterranean, and we’ve kept some favorites from the old menu too,” says Ben. “But we pair heirloom tomatoes with ribeye and sweet corn puree with salmon, so you’d have to call it nouvelle American cuisine.” “It’s like an approachable Spago,” agrees Gary Greene. He’s the general manager, he’s from Vegas, and you can feel big-city energy when he talks. “You can come in and experience a Wolfgang Puck meal for $20 per person.”

In the years since the Bistro opened, a culinary revolution has transformed Tulsa. Walk down streets that were lined with desolate factories three years ago, and there’s a new restaurant on every corner. Does this competition make Greene feel threatened? “Oh but we’re a part of it. Success breeds success,” says Greene. “I’m proud we’re a part of the movement that put Tulsa on the culinary map. You see, some people view us as California outsiders. But we’re not. We’re happy to be part of the Tulsa restaurant industry and we want to see it grow.”

 

Read – Wolfgang Puck Was Always Sexy, and it’s Sexy Now

 

Brian Schwartz: Author

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.

“A writer writes alone. His words tumble forth from a magical inner void that is mysterious even to himself, and that no one else can enter.” And yet, the most important thing to me the writer is YOU. Without you to hear them, my words are worth less than silence.

Brian Schwartz

About Brian Schwartz

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. “A writer writes alone. His words tumble forth from a magical inner void that is mysterious even to himself, and that no one else can enter.” And yet, the most important thing to me the writer is YOU. Without you to hear them, my words are worth less than silence.

8 Comments

  1. Joey

    November 8, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    Ate there a few times and was never impressed.

  2. Joe Price

    November 8, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    I’m gonna miss their meatloaf sandwich. Best I’ve had in town.

    • Ken Schafer

      November 14, 2013 at 6:57 pm

      Hey Joe , Slide by Boston Deli on Fri for Lunch and try there Meatloaf Sandwich 11am- 2pm. Can I get a witness !!!!!

  3. Colin

    November 12, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Ate there twice, including a month before they closed. Neither time was it very impressive. The food was fine but nothing spectacular. The service was sub par for being one of four tables in the entire restaurant. It’s sad that this restaurant opened with such fan fair, only to never quite gain its footing in Tulsa. Mr. Schwartz, how many restaurants have now closed after you write so glowingly about them here on Tulsa Food?

  4. phillip

    November 13, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    i have eaten there several times. from the opening to about 6 months ago. not one time was my experience enjoyable. the first time was with 8 people with reservations. waited an hour before getting seated. our waitstaff was disinterested and inattentive. the food took a long time to arrive. my meal was under the heat lamp for a long time. someones pasta was cold. the salads were all wet with water.

    the second time was with only 2 people. the food was over salted and again service was way lacking. took 2 times to get wait staff to bring water. this wasnt on just opening but several months later.

    if the meatloaf sandwich is the best you have had? you need to hit the diners.

    i said it right from the get go. they were not going to last. they claimed to be local but used the national food suppliers. wasnt impressed and now we might see a good restaurant come in and do well.

  5. phillip

    November 13, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    btw the bistro was no where near the revolution to eateries in tulsa. tulsa has always had a history of good food. and those in brady district all started long before the bistro. and brookside has also had a long history of resturants. leons, r-bar(previously breu house,and before that blue rose)docs, the sushi place. the owners seen what was going on and tried to capitalize. but like many they failed to have good service and good food. when the chef leaves the food ALWAYS suffers because they try to cut corners.

  6. Christen

    November 15, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    Perhaps I always got lucky, but I never had a bad experience at Wolfgang Puck. I went there for Valentines with my fiance one year and loved the special menu. I also went with a large group for my sorority’s formal and we were seated quickly and had great service. I’m really sad to see it go, but at least there are still plenty of great Tulsa restaurants! (Unlike Bartlesville, where I live currently)

  7. Jack

    November 19, 2013 at 7:12 am

    I wanted to like it really bad since it is close to where I live and I like the space but it was average at best.

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