Just For The Halibut at Doc’s Wine & Food

By on August 23, 2013

Tim Richards is cooking some of the best food of his life. Lately I seem to find my way to Doc’s Wine & Food every Saturday just to see what wonderful creation Tim has designed for his weekend fish special. Back in early June it was usually salmon. Salmon that had been swimming in a remote Alaskan river only the day before. For 12 years, Tim was top chef at Bodean, and he still has his Bodean’s market connections. Lately it’s been halibut. Tim’s level of creativity astounds me. The complex yet harmonious dishes he puts out are world class. Sometimes they look a lot like the entrees at foodie mecca Le Bernardin in New York. I’ve never eaten there and maybe now I don’t have to.

“Tim you’ve never cooked better!” I told him just last Saturday. “It’s because I’ve never been happier!” he immediately replied. “But you loved Bodean!” I said. And he did. Back in June, when I was writing about Bodean for Oklahoma Magazine, he told me that “Bodean’s made me the chef I am today. I wouldn’t be, if I hadn’t been given the creative freedom to develop a repertoire.” But, despite the supportive atmosphere, there was unremitting stress. People come to Bodean’s expecting the best meal of their lives. Day after day, 7 days a week without a letup, Tim was under pressure not to disappoint them. It took a toll. Now, here at Doc’s, Tim is laid back and loving it. No one comes to Doc’s expecting the best meal of their lives. But if they order the $26 halibut special they just might get it. Tim’s dishes feature several complex components all of which harmonize with one another and all of which work to make the fish taste even better. “I try lots and lots of combinations, and in my mind I invent thousands,” Tim explained. “And sometimes I get one that works just right.”

Walk into Doc’s and chances are you’ll see dapper and genial Darin Ross keeping an eye on things. He’ll make you feel welcome. It’s thanks to him that Doc’s has become the new Bodean’s. Like Bodean did back in the 80s — and still does today — Darin has assembled a great crew. Everyone has talent. See the big guy wiping tables? He’s Tito, he’s from Honduras, and he’s a great cook too. He can fix a fine sopa de caracol, a delicious Honduran soup made of conch, coconut mild, and spices, if only he could find conch meat in Tulsa. The lady washing dishes? She’s also a chef. She’s from Central America and she’s such a whiz in the kitchen that the staff beg her to prepare their meals. The guy behind the bar? That’s the new bar manager, Cole. No he doesn’t cook but if you’ve ever been to Smoke you’ll remember him as the finest bartender ever. All the waitstaff is excellent. And of course there’s the young guy in a baseball cap in the kitchen. That’s Ronnie Mullins, Tim’s partner chef, and he’s a lot more experienced than he looks. He was the executive chef at the Bistro at Seville down in southside. He and Tim now alternate designing the fish special, so each does one a fortnight.

grilled Alaskan halibut

Here’s what Tim whipped up two weeks ago. It’s perfectly grilled Alaskan halibut with sweet potato and roasted fennel. The beautiful bright green sauce is parsley emulsion. It’s rich, heavenly buttery taste (a lot like a classic French sauce but lighter) tied the other components together and pushed this dish over the top.

A week before that, the halibut, pan seared this time — and let me say that those big juicy chunks of halibut are always perfectly cooked, which is not easy to do with halibut, because 30 seconds can mean the time between half-raw and overcooked — featured another sauce that reminded me of one of those French mother sauces.

rich sumptuous beurre rouge

Here the rich sumptuous beurre rouge (made with sundried tomatoes) creates a lake around the fish, asparagus, and herb roasted red potatoes. Elegant and delicious.  It looked a lot like the halibut I’d had a week before…

chilled tomato bisque

but turned out to be totally different. Here, the sauce, which looks identical, is really not. It’s a chilled tomato bisque! Light and savory, and the halibut had a pistachio crust the same color as the yummy asparagus.

Oh and let me add that Tim’s talent isn’t limited to halibut.

kick-ass authentic salade Nicoise

For a week in early June, a tiny river near Seward, Alaska is bursting with salmon running home. One of those salmon, with a rich flavor unlike any I’ve ever tasted, was taking a swim on Friday morning and within a day it found its way to my plate at Doc’s. Served with a rich beurre rouge and a kick-ass authentic salade Nicoise. (The photo is of a slightly different dish featuring the same salmon.)

One final halibut dish, and it neatly ties up the review’s beginning. One March evening in 2011, I stopped by Bodean’s and had their halibut special, designed by Tim. I was disappointed.

Oh it looked lovely, but the components just didn’t work together. The bottom layer, a mushroom ragu a lot like spaghetti sauce, drowned out the fish (which wasn’t that great to start with) and clashed with the white sauce on top. Just this week, over two years later, Tim handed me a dish that looked almost identical. But this time he got it right. The mushrooms on bottom, no longer Italian style and cooked with cheap bourbon (!), were a rich treat and complemented the fish — which was a thick juicy filet — and blended well with the sumptuous champagne creme fraiche on top. The bourbon lent a lovely caramelized flavor; I thought it was expensive Booker’s. Such a contrast between then and now. “Tim you’ve never cooked better!” I told him. “It’s because I’ve never been happier!” he immediately replied.

Doc’s Wine & Food
3509 S Peoria
Open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 AM to 10 PM. Brunch served on Saturday and Sunday.
http://www.docswineandfood.com/

918-949-3663

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.

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