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An Undiscovered Gem Called Foundations
“I want to come here every week and eat these scallops! ” I declaimed — and declaimed is probably the right word, I was so excited by the stellar food that my voice could be heard across the restaurant. I was savoring the first course in a five course banquet at one of the best restaurants in Oklahoma. A pretty much undiscovered gem called Foundations. By the end of the meal, I had four more reasons to return. Well, more. Supervising the kitchen is one of my favorite Tulsa chefs, Curt Herrmann. And the biggest reason: that five-course meal cost $23. Yes, $23. At a comparable restaurant in Brookside, it would have cost three times as much.
Open for two years now, Foundations is part of Platt College’s Culinary Institute. Your meal is cooked and served by students. But that does NOT mean that you’re getting lazy student efforts. A dish won’t make it to your table unless it’s good enough to be served anywhere in Tulsa. Curt makes sure of that. He ran out of the kitchen to greet me when I first arrived. I’ve admired his work for years and was heartbroken when, in May of 2010, he ended his gig at White Owl on Cherry Street and dropped off the radar. I was thrilled to find him here. I didn’t see him again. He spends all his time supervising the chefs in the restaurant’s lavish, modern kitchen.
Actually, this photo shows only about a third of the huge kitchen. (It’s amazingly state-of-the-art. The OKfoodie radio show is produced here.) That’s Curt in the huge white toque, making sure our first courses are done right. On the left, in black, is our waiter. He did a great job. The students switch jobs, so he’ll probably be cooking next week. He’s waiting for our appetizers. It was a long wait. It took 40 minutes for them to arrive, and the whole meal took just under three hours. That’s just about the only drawback of this meal and is the price you have to pay for Curt’s insistence that every dish served be perfect. Our wait was sweetened, though, by this amuse-bouche.
A mousseline, a puree of shrimp, scallops and egg whites served with a bit of the egg. It was lovely and set the stage for those scallops.
Two huge delicious scallops, perfectly cooked and accompanied by a decadently creamy Canton ginger wine butter sauce. As I said, I’d love to have it every week.
You don’t have to. The Foundations menu, which changes fairly often, now offers 3 appetizers, 2 soups and 2 salads, 4 entrees and 3 desserts. You may choose any of these for your five courses, provided you choose only one entree. You could choose 3 appetizers, an entree and dessert. Or one entree and four desserts (having one dessert twice). Or if you have less time, you may get three courses for $17 or four for $20. I think most diners did that. And by the way, there weren’t that many diners. I had assumed that the restaurant would be full and so I reserved several days in advance. But it was three-quarters empty. (There were still quite a few people; it’s a huge place, quite elegant and modern.)
My next course, another appetizer, came fairly quickly.
It was a big piece of a lobe of foie gras, with a luxurious sauce made with sherry and black truffles. (Nothing but the best here!) The foie grass, delicious as can be, would have perhaps merited the use of the expression “to die for” except that it was cold. This is the only other drawback of the school format. Sometimes the dish has cooled down before it’s served. This happens very rarely, but it can happen. I mentioned it to the waiter after I’d finished it, and then ran after him, shouting “don’t tell anyone, I don’t want to get a student in trouble!” They offered to make me another one but I refused. I didn’t want the kitchen to have to pay for another portion of expensive foie gras.
Meanwhile, my friends had ordered lump crab glazed with sherry and served atop house-made pickled cabbage. Here’s one of the student chefs preparing the perfect circles of crab.
And here’s the finished product.
So pretty, and yes it was worth the wait.
My friends also ordered salads. One was an ordinary, though elegantly presented, mix of Romaine lettuce, bacon, and tomatoes grown in the restaurant garden. The other was far from ordinary.
It featured roasted vegetables, homemade pickles and Stilton cheese. Meanwhile, I had a cold (deliberately so) carrot soup made with cream, creme fraiche, basil, with mysterious hints of other herbs. It didn’t photograph well but it was delicious beyond words.
There was a long wait for the entrees. (A hiccup in the kitchen, opined the waiter.) It was pleasantly broken by a scoop of raspberry sherbet to cleanse the palate. I’d never had a palate-cleanser; it was quite common 100 years ago. I had a long discussion on ancient Roman banquets with the waiter, who was taking a course on culinary history. And then my entree was brought.
A big whole squid (minus the tentacles) stuffed with a mousseline made of lobster meat and a classic elegant sauce redolent of cream and saffron. Delicious squash fresh from the farm, a tiny mound of perfumed couscous, and a few shrimp completed the picture. Definitely worth even a much longer wait.
One of my friends preferred the chicken.
A breast stuffed with herbs and Stilton. The sauce was a rich demi-glace.
We were filled to bursting by the time desserts arrived but they were so good that we devoured every bite. I got this.
A beautiful open-face slice of fruit pie, the plate studded with dots of cherry and caramel sauces. My friends opted for the creme brulee.
Both delicious. As we walked off into the night, I was already planning my next meal.
Foundations Restaurant at Platt College
3717 S Sheridan
Open ONLY on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, dinner is 7 PM to 9 PM.
They are also open for lunch Wed through Fri from 11 AM to 2 PM, with simple and very cheap entrees including a ribeye for $8. Friday features a $9 all-you-can-eat buffet that’s so crowded you have to arrive at 10:30 to get a seat.
Dinner Menu (which is not up to date) http://www.plattcolleges.edu/restaurants/images/FoundationsEveningFallMenu2.pdf
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.