The most upscale of Elliott Nelson's four downtown restaurants, Yokozuna, has a sleek, big-city look about it. A friend and I found ourselves dining here, early one quiet Tuesday night in downtown Tulsa.
The wide-open dining space was fairly empty at the time, but as the dinner hour approached, the buzz of customers filled the room well.
The drink menu features house specialties with fetching names such as Crouching Tigress, Hidden Dragon (Miller's Gin and aloe juice), Setting Sun (Malibu Coconut Run, mango juice and a splash of grenadine) and Zen Master (Zen Green Tea liquor, lemon vodka and iced tea). Other beverages include white and red wine, sake and beer--draught, Asian, European and North American.
I selected the Crouching Tigress, Hidden Dragon ($8), and my friend selected the Zen Master ($7.50).
The aloe and liquor were an uncommon combination and prompted my dining partner and I into a discussion of alchemy, chemistry and generally turning lead into gold, which is a formula that entrepreneur Nelson certainly has bottled and sold for several years.
As we sipped, we reviewed the dinner menu. Classic dishes from the Pacific Rim are features of Yokozuna. Pacific Rim cuisine is a mix of not only flavors but cultures as well: East meets West; it is Vietnamese and French, Hawaiian and Thai and more.
Diverse foods merge in a wok for a stir-fry dish; they are grilled, steamed or fried. The menu reflects taking elements of the usual (such as filet mignon) and making it different (such as adding, in this dish, a sriracha truffle better accompanied by melted leek Peruvian purple mashed potatoes).
For our appetizer, we selected the Wings of the Fire Dragon ($6). These wings were small, yet packed a fiery kick--they were sinus-clearing hot. Marinated in Sriracha chili sauce and coconut milk, they were then fried crisp. Pineapple yogurt and a Thai coconut cream dipping sauce quenched some of the heat. We agreed these wings far surpassed wings from any "dedicated" wing place in town. (This could be a good wing destination for the home ballgame parties.)
We split a bowl of the Great Kokina Soup ($6). This soup was a spicy broth with chicken, button mushrooms, bean sprouts and vegetables (carrots, ginger, onions and celery). The sprouts and rich broth brought an earthiness to the soup.
For my main course, I ordered Glass House ($12) from the Noodles section of the menu; my friend chose the Sea Bass ($22) special for the evening.
The Glass House was a large bowl of glass noodles with bossam pork and charred scallions. The Glass noodles (also known as cellophane noodles) were slightly firm and plentiful. The pork was long, so a knife was needed to cut through the pork to size down for each bite.
The charred scallions were too big and bulky for my liking. Again, I needed to cut the dish to make it of edible size.
My friend's sea bass special was a good meaty piece of fish, but the seasoned topping grilled into the fish made it a little too salty for his palate. A side of sticky rice accompanied this dish. A type of orange marmalade on the bottom of the plate was appropriate in a feng shui sort of way.
While dining, I noticed a drink being served in a white ceramic novelty cup in the shape of a cat. Our server mentioned that any drink can be served in their novelty "cups."
The sumo wrestler-shaped cup I had, with a straw protruding from its rotund stomach, added some levity to the experience. I ordered the Cherry Blossom ($8) to drink from his belly; it was Grey Goose vodka, organic tart cherry juice, a splash of Sprite and a squeeze of lemon. Banzai!
The desserts on the menu read like exotic destinations: Palappam Napoleon, Chai Pana Cotta, Lemon-Lime Sorbet, Coconut Ice Cream, PB&J and Yin Yang Cheesecake. They ranged from $4 to $7. We arrived at the Coconut Ice Cream ($4). This was a fitting conclusion to our Oriental journey.
Two scoops of ice cream were very thick and creamy, similar to St. Louis' Ted Drewes' custard--heavenly on the egg yolks and cream. It was topped with toasted coconut and raw coconut blended in the ice cream.
The atmosphere is relaxing and inviting. In the space of the former tenant Tsunami, Yokozuna has added a full ceiling to floor window, which affords open viewing of the downtown skyline. The location is absolutely perfect.
Walls present photos of sumo wrestlers in the main dining room, and two large light "drum" fixtures illuminate the room. Plenty of wood warms up the areas, such as on a few walls, chairs, tables and the bar. The industrial-exposed ceiling does add height and is dotted with directed lighting.
The name of the establishment, "Yokozuna" refers to the Japanese word that indicates the highest ranking for professional sumo wrestlers. In 2010 A.D. and the second decade of the Nelson Dynasty of restaurants, we anticipate a five-star ranking before the cherry trees blossom.
309 E. 2nd Street
In regards to the Green Onion review published in the Jan. 14-20 issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly: It was stated that the restaurant fell into disrepair under ownership of David Ingram. After 19 years of being one of Tulsa's more popular restaurants, Ingram had already sold the restaurant prior to the time period it began its descent until current ownership revived Green Onion to its original stature.
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