November 26th, 2010 by Brian Schwartz – Comments (4)
This is not a review. My friend Mark Stenner ate what he says was the best meal of his life at The Kitchen, a long and fabulous bacchanalia which he thinks was eight courses though he lost count somewhere along the way. So he should write the review. But this is Tulsa Food after all, and we can’t go another day without writing a few words on what just could be the most exciting dining scene in Tulsa. Let me start with the words I wrote two weeks ago, feverish jottings made after my first visit:
“I walked 3 miles just to eat 1 appetizer. Foie Gras ($19) at The Kitchen. Amazing beyond words. Worthy of any top restaurant in NYC. I sat at the bar overlooking the kitchen and watched the chef prepare it. He used 3 saucepans. One to sear the foie. The second to cook a succotash with black-eyed peas, bacon and peppers, a bed on which the foie reclined, the perfect counterpoint to the foie’s ineffable unctuous taste. The third to cook fresh corn in cream and honey. On the plate, this formed a ring around the foie and succotash. Perfection in a plate.”
You probably won’t ever see that foie gras. The incredibly creative team of Ian Van Anglen (who was chef at Bluehour, one of Portland, Oregon’s top restaurants) and Paul Wilson (he used to be top chef at Chalkboard) designs a new menu each week. And it’s a shame that in my excitement I forgot to snap a photo. If you went to, say, New York and failed to snag a reservation at Per Se or Daniel, you could still tell people you ate there and use that photo to prove it. But there probably will be a foie dish on the menu, and if there is it’s worth walking three miles to get it. It’s not a mere paté, it’s not a watered-down terrine, it’s a whole lobe of pure foie gras that you’ll be getting.
I went back a week later. There’s a spiffy modern dining area in front. Or, if you’re really lucky, you can sit on a rickety stool in the back, surrounded by the food cases of what is, by day, the Market retail grocery, and eat off a narrow wood counter. I say, if you’re really lucky, because these three choice though precarious seats overlook, and are basically inside, the tiny kitchen area where the chefs work their magic. You can watch them, perhaps even talk with them. (They’re great guys!) Here they are preparing my meal:
What I ordered was described on the menu as “Whole Roasted Game Hen, bacon wrapped, smoked mussel and potato hash” ($24) The birds have been prepped and roasted already, and you can see four of them proudly basking in the limelight in the photo above. The hash had been prepped also, and Paul Wilson put some in a saucepan and let it slowly simmer while Ian Van Anglen shucked some fresh mussels to put in it. In a second saucepan a gravy reduction heated. Hungrily, I watched him plate it. And then he brought it to me.
Foie gras had been rubbed under the breast skin to make sure the meat was rich and tender and, oh, it was. But the real star, with a complex, indescribable meaty, smoky flavor, was the hash. Earthy, the perfect blend of haute and homey, it had not only potato and of course the lovely fresh mussels, but a whole slew of ingredients, including two kinds of beans, various diced squashes, and something, fried pork belly perhaps, which imparted a rich porcine flavor. I ate every scrap and walked off into the night. Back home, I turned on my computer and posted that photo of the chefs cooking. The caption was “Sell your car, sell your dog, sell your spouse, do what it takes and go!”
Quite dramatic, quite true, and that was supposed to be a nice ending for my review. I hadn’t planned on going back to The Kitchen for several weeks — I just didn’t have time — but after writing my essay, drooling over the photos, and generally suffering from irresistible cravings caused by reliving the meal, I made time, found Cathe, and went again the very next evening. I ordered pan-roasted duck breast with sweet potato puree, arugula, and pomegranate reduction ($29). Hungrily I waited. The chefs made us an amuse bouche.
A pillowy potato pancake flavored with foie gras. Lovely. We watched the chefs cooking.
They put out dishes for other tables that gave me the almost irresistible urge to grab one and run off into the dark.
And then at last our dish came. And it was the most wonderful of all.
A culinary triumph. On a bed of soft, creamy sweet potato puree of almost addictive goodness was a Moulard duck breast from the famous D’Artagnan farm in upstate New York. Cooked rare, indescribably good, a blend of many yummy flavors, the perfect ideal of meat. On top was arugula with a lemony dressing, and swirling around it all is a swathe of pomegranate essence with a hint of white sage gravy. I’d write more, but it defies description, and, as Wittgenstein said, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”
3524 S. Peoria Av
Dinner from 5 PM to 9 PM daily except Sunday
They also serve lunch every day until 5 PM (on Sunday, it’s brunch till 2 PM), but the amazing dishes described above only appear after five.
This week’s dinner menu:
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.