According to research, Trula Restaurant is named after a former long-time resident of The Mayo Hotel from its pre-renaissance days. Trula Austin was the operator of another Tulsa landmark; Miss DeHaven's Flower Shop for many years and was somewhat a Tulsa socialite.
Even if it didn't have such an auspicious namesake, Trula would still be destined to become a Tulsa Landmark in its own right. True enough, it is housed in arguably one of the greatest old art deco buildings in town, but it would hold its own even if it wasn't.
In 2001, after sitting idle for some 20 years, the hotel was purchased for the paltry sum of $250,000. I have no doubt that figure is a mere fraction in comparison to what was spent restoring and remodeling it. But a huge debt of gratitude from all of Tulsa as well as massive kudos should go out to the Snyder family for their vision and efforts to bring it back to its original glory. It is an excellent example of how to do it right.
As we approached, I was thrilled to see the original porticoes over the entrances to the gloriously decorated hotel. It lent sophistication and style to what would soon be an excellent dining experience. There was a wedding in its final stages taking place in the main ballroom, and the sidewalk was lined with happy guests as the bride and groom walked down the stately steps to their waiting limousine. I told my wife that I had called ahead to have it all staged for our arrival and make our Saturday night date absolutely perfect! In true "wifely" style, she chose not to believe that; can't blame a guy for trying, though.
The dining room maintains its original tile floors and huge paned windows that look onto the old wide sidewalks. From our vantage point, we had a view of three street directions as well as part of original Tulsa in its entire splendor.
All the tables were full, but we never felt crowded or hurried. Everything flowed perfectly, and we had the unrushed, slow food feeling one would expect in an upscale place such as this. A front waiter/back waiter system was in place with one taking the orders and another delivering the food -- great classic table service.
I like to test my server a bit, whether I am in a fine dining establishment or a mom and pop operation. Ours on this night passed with flying colors. Absolutely everything we asked him regarding the different menu items was explained in great, yet understandable detail. Never once did he give us the feeling we were being annoying or asking too many questions -- a rarity these days to say the least.
We started out with several appetizers. My wife chose her absolute favorite -- seared diver scallops. To say that she is a scallop aficionado would be an understatement.
She literally has them every time she can, and she raved that these were the best she had ever had. They were rich, sweet, tender and perfectly cooked.
The chef's mussel and chorizo appetizer I chose had me mopping the bottom of my bowl with the house-made herb foccacia and other wonderful breads right down to the very last morsel. I have never had mussels cooked so perfectly. Delectably tender and loaded with flavor. I was no more willing to give one up to my wife than she was to begrudgingly give me a tid-bit of scallop. I can't wait to go back and order them again.
My next choice was French Onion Soup Gratinée. Confusion abounds in this country over what gratinée actually is. Most think it means with cheese, when in fact it is more accurately defined as a dish topped with breadcrumbs and butter and browned, sometimes with cheese added.
In the case of French Onion soup however, the cheese is a must. This dish was a very rich, flavorful beef broth, obviously made on premises, with lots of sherry and, of course, plenty of caramelized sweet onions. Typically, it is then garnished with a "floater," or large seasoned crouton and topped with 47 pounds of Gruyère cheese, which is then broiled until it is brown and bubbly. (OK, maybe not 47 pounds, but there's a lot.) It was so good! Gruyere cheese is the king of Swiss cheeses in my opinion. It is creamy when melted and wonderfully nutty in flavor. For me, the soup and crouton are merely vehicles to get the cheese in my mouth. The soup itself could have been a bit hotter, but in spite of that it was wonderful.
My wife opted for a house salad topped with Gruyere, Dutch heirloom potato, wonderful house cured bacon and a perfectly poached free range egg. In spite of the combination of ingredients that topped butter and frissee lettuces, she found it a bit lackluster.
Any mild disappointment over the salad was soon forgotten as she bit into a heavenly plate of pumpkin ravioli. The filling was a rich pumpkin pate with multiple layers of subtle flavor. Every bite gave way to a new undertone of flavor missed in the bite before. It was really well done. The dough was firm but tender, just the way it's intended to be.
After much deliberation and more discussion with our server, I went against his recommendation to order the strip steak, (the best steak I can find in town is at my house) and ordered a potato crusted sea bass served on a bed of fava bean and mushroom succotash. What can I say? It was incredible. Perfectly cooked fish crusted in thin strips of starchy russet potato, it was a dish of perfection.
Along with the near perfect service, the factor that is most striking is Chef Neill Bailey's attention to all of the details.
So often a kitchen crew will focus so much on the center of the plate that the complimentary accoutrements get lost in mediocrity. Not this time. Everything from the risotto under the scallops, the painstakingly peeled asparagus under the ravioli, to the fava bean succotash under my sea bass would have held their own as a vegetarian entrée. It's a job extremely well done. It's professionals like Chef Bailey that raise the bar for all of us. As someone who knows how hard it is to control those details, my hat is off to him.
We finished our meal with a sun-dried cherry/blueberry and white chocolate bread pudding. Believe me when I tell you that bread pudding does not even begin to describe this dish. It was stunning in its simple, yet complex combination of flavors. To take bread, eggs, cream and sugar and turn them into something this good is artistry. A white chocolate crème Anglaise had us swooning for more. It was far beyond "bread pudding"!
The menu ranges from Lobster Macaroni and Cheese (By the way, how good does THAT sound $10), Seared Diver Scallops ($15), Soups and Salads ($9-$11), a house specialty, Braised Pork Belly ($18) to Prime Steaks (30-$32). Other items include Herb Marinated Free Range Chicken ($19), Appetizer pizzas ($12) and more.
An interesting, eclectic sort of wine list rounds out the meal and compliments it well.
It's been years since we have had such a wonderful evening, and we are both looking forward with great anticipation to our next visit for another "Trula" great restaurant experience!
115 W. Fifth St.
Service **** 1/2
Atmosphere **** ?
Breakfast 6:30am--10am, Lunch 11:30am--2:30pm, Dinner 5:30pm--10pm
Trula Restaurant in the Mayo Hotel 115 W. 5th St. Tulsa (918) 895.8403 www.themayohotel.com
Prices; Pricey but worth it. Appetizers at dinner from Lunch $7.00 - $8.00 Dinner $10.00 - $15.00
Description; An upscale, white tablecloth restaurant in the re-furbished Mayo Hotel. Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner in style and elegance. Whether or not you spent time at the Mayo in it's heyday, it will take you back. You almost get a sense of the old oil days and what it must have been like.
Alcohol served from 5pm.
Service ; **** Great coverage and excellent customer service.
Food **** Great! Chef Bailey does a first class job!
Atmosphere **** Elegance and graceful style.
*** Very Good
**** Holy Mackerel!!!!
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