September 14th, 2012 by Brian Schwartz – Comments (1)
“I always want to push the envelope,” said Marcus. “I could do it only some of the time at the Brasserie because I had to give Tim and the customers what they wanted, but here I can do it all the time.”
It’s hard to imagine anything being better than Marcus Vause’s cooking at the Brasserie. “If you want to experience the subtle yet unforgettable epiphanies of dining in a world-class French restaurant but don’t have the time or cash to jaunt over to New York or Paris,” I wrote in 2011, “consider dining at the Brasserie.” But now the beloved Brasserie is gone. I thought we’d lost Marcus forever, I thought he’d pack his bags and head for New York, Houston (where he grew up) or Chicago. So I was thrilled to learn that he will be opening up a new restaurant in January. A few days ago I was invited to a sneak peek. On the first cool evening Tulsa’s had in many months, I went to the address given on my preview invitation and found myself here.
I was looking at the Indiana limestone facade of the old Oklahoma Natural Gas Company Building on Boston Avenue in the heart of downtown. Built in the mid 1920s, it was one of the first Art Deco buildings in a city that was to become rich in them. It’s done in the exuberant Zigzag Moderne style, so the interior is a lot more colorful and rococo than the later Streamline style that most people think of when Art Deco comes to mind. And in the midst of this exuberance of pink-accented bas reliefs ceilings, ornate carved colums, mosaic floor, the old lobby space will become Marcus’ new restaurant, named SOCIAL.
Here’s another view… as you can see, two guests have arrived.
As I understand it, most of the restaurant’s tables will be toward the side, where you can see plastic tables set up now. The brightly lit center space where those guests are standing will be left clear and uncluttered, like an old Roman atrium. I saw something even more important on a side table… food!
A waitress offered me a plate of tiny heirloom tomatoes stuffed with curried chicken salad. I wanted to take the whole plate but I ate just one and it was delicious. Then I saw another plate. It’s Marcus’ version of Pigs in a Blanket, said the waitress.
It was lovely “lollipops” of pulled pork, pressed in a circle and fried. Then I saw Marcus. We talked about his vision of the restaurant. The cooking style will be modern American, he said, “but I won’t be limited by that. I want to incorporate Middle Eastern and South American influences. I’ll change the menu frequently to focus fresh ingredients. Sometimes it might change daily.” I told him I hope he kept the fine French style and presentation I loved at the Brasserie. “Ahhhh that’s what I think of as technique,” he said. “That won’t change. I hope it will get even better.” That’s when he told me about pushing the envelope. I told him what I loved most about the Brasserie, the changing weekly four-course menus where creative dishes would appear for a week and never be seen again. And his special talent for presentation; I described the components of one of his plates in Oklahoma Magazine as “strewn across the plate with the whimsy of Miro or Kandinsky, a constellation of edible stars.” Oh that won’t change, Marcus assured me. Try this, he said to prove he’s keeping that French technique.
Little cubes of a terrine made with rabbit meat and pork … a classic French dish, said Marcus, deep-fried to make it American. And it was delicious. There were also round slices of latkes (East European pancakes) made of cauliflower instead of the traditional potato, enlivened with tamarind jam. The latkes were smoked and I loved that smoky flavor. Then there were little cookies filled with dulce de leche
and dumplings filled with North African style lamb merguez.
I realized I was keeping Marcus from his other guests, but before he left I managed to get him to pose for a portrait.
And he told me that the canapes I’d eaten weren’t samples of Social’s new menu, they were meant to showcase his cooking style. The entrees at Social will be a lot more elaborate, a lot better. Wow! I’ll be there!
SOCIAL Food and Drink – On Facebook
624 South Boston Av.
Opens in January
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.