March 25th, 2009 by TINAinTULSA – Comments (1)
This food blog was written and submitted by @TINAinTULSA .
Many cities, Tulsa included, tout special ’restaurant weeks’ to encourage folks to try local, upscale eateries. As an aspiring kitchen diva, I’d love to participate in Tulsa’s Restaurant Week but have never been able to work it around family commitments (read: homework and baseball schedules, babysitter availability, etc.). Thus, ’restaurant week’ in my household tends to coincide with Spring Break ’ when my son usually ventures south to spend a few days with his grandparents.
Our mini-restaurant week actually comprised just three days this year. But my husband and I were determined to get good use out of those days. The highlight came on night three at Lava, a Brookside restaurant that’s been around for a handful of years and seems to have finally found its footing.
I’d been to Lava and its predecessor, Table Ten, three or four times in the past. Never had I been inspired to write about the experience, or even to recommend the joint to anyone. It was just so-so, with prices a bit north of so-so. And the surroundings were Spartan to the point of discomfort. But that was then. Lava under the careful stewardship of its new female executive chef is a very different, vastly improved restaurant all around.
The food at the new Lava has a decidedly feminine touch. Not girly, not sissy, not little-portions-garnished- with-edible-flowers-in-an-array-of-pinky-hues. Rather, the flavors seem rounder and more harmonious than anything I can recall having in a restaurant, save one memorable meal in Italy. The food seemed tenderly and lovingly prepared ’ like this chef is emotionally invested in what goes onto her patrons’ plates.
We started out with cocktails and something to nibble on. My husband, a reformed gin drinker, slipped back into old habits with some kind of mint-ginger-lime-gin concoction. The amiable and adept bartender, Natalia, overheard our chat about my husband’s decades-long gin hiatus and kindly offered to make him something else if the reunion wasn’t a happy one. No worries though ’ my husband liked Natalia’s offering enough to have a second one with dinner instead of switching to wine. I ended up with a delicious champagne cocktail that featured sweet vermouth and pineapple juice. For an appetizer, we chose a roasted red pepper goat cheese mousse served with root vegetable chips. The creaminess of the cheese nicely offset the peppers’ piquancy, and the lightness of the dish was delightful and surprising. We were pleased to learn that the appetizer will be featured, albeit with pitas instead of the chips, on Lava’s spring menu; we’d been fortunate enough to get a preview during our visit.
For dinner, my husband had the duck. It featured four round, bacon-wrapped cuts stacked over alternating pools of cauliflower and sweet potato puree, and wilted greens. Since the dish isn’t featured on Lava’s spring menu (we were there on the last night of Lava’s winter menu), I’ll refrain from writing in detail about just how tender, delicious and balanced the dish was. However, if you see it on Lava’s menu at some point in the future, you’d be wise to strongly consider ordering it.
I was disappointed to learn that Lava was out of the double-bone pork chop with braised greens and grits. However, my second choice was anything but a disappointment. Craving a big hunk of something with hooves, I ordered a filet featured that evening as a special (minus the pomme frites, because I just don’t like steak and fries, no matter what you call them). The chef compensated for the missing frites by adding an extra-large helping of colorful Oriental kale that was cooked to just-tender and salted perfectly. Atop the kale sat a generous portion of meat crowned with a berry compote. Steak and berries sound like a strange combo ’ but it danced in my mouth. The berries weren’t overly sweet but had enough natural sugar to balance slight bitterness of the kale, and enough acid and brightness to elevate the steak into something most home cooks, present company included, have never succeeded in creating. The by-the-glass Syrah, suggested by the wise Natalia, matched the food nicely.
For dessert, my husband and I enjoyed French press coffee, an underwhelming crÃ¨me brulee and ’ best of all ’ a visit with the chef, Michelle Donaldson. Only once before, in the restaurant where my husband proposed marriage, can I recall a tableside visit from the chef. Chef Donaldson’s passion for cooking, so evident on her plates, was clear in conversation too. She had an easy manner and was anything but aloof. Among the spring menu, Chef Donaldson cited the pea soup (served with one large, egg yolk ravioli) and the veal burger (a real ’grown-up’ burger, from the sound of it) as favorites. My husband and I can’t wait to go back and try for ourselves.
One note for those on a budget (and aren’t we all, these days?) ’ great food ain’t cheap. A couple can easily drop $100 or more for a full-on experience at Lava. To save pennies, I’d suggest splitting an appetizer, limiting your alcohol consumption and possibly skipping dessert.
As for the rest of our mini-restaurant week, Sonoma was forgettable. The service was fine, the wine list is very nice, but the food was greasy, heavy and uninspired. That goes for our shared appetizer (buttermilk onion rings with a blasé chipotle ketchup), my husband’s roasted chicken entrée and the skirt steak-and-gorgonzola pizza I picked at (I’d wager the crust came frozen and pre-rolled. Also, I have serious doubts about whether that was really skirt steak and no doubts at all that the addition of pecans to the pizza was a bad choice.) I’ve had better ’ for a lot cheaper ’ at home. And so home is exactly where we spent the second night of mini-restaurant week. Thank goodness for a fabulous finale at Lava.
3512 South Peoria,
Tulsa, OK’ – (918) 749-3310’