Relaxed, comfortable, cozy, and exquisitely delicious are only a few words to describe the dining experience at one of Tulsa's finest restaurants, the Polo Grill at Utica Square. For almost 30 years, Polo Grill has consistently created fine culinary dishes, garnering many regional and national awards for not only its culinary arts, but also for eleven years, the Wine Spectator has awarded the Best of Award of Excellence for its prodigious wine selection.
Atmosphere, service, and food collectively define the dining experience at Polo Grill. Walking in, my dining friend and I were warmly greeted and led to our table, which was toward to the back, away from the busier areas of the dining room. It was not long before our server, William, introduced himself and offered us a saucer of kalamata olives to begin.
As a somewhat frequent diner of Polo Grill, I am always eager to see how the menu has evolved since my previous visit. Michael Funk, former chef here and now general manager, said the menu changes to follow the seasons; he said he "pow wows" with Chef Omar Galban about the menu selections, and even more, it is a collaborative event with the proprietor, Robert Merrifield, based on what is available throughout the seasons.
Small plates on the menu can serve as a meal or a fanciful beginning to a main course. We ordered the steak tartare ($23). This plate is artfully displayed: a modest mound of chopped steak topped with a raw egg yolk centers the plate with capers and chopped items -- red onions, boiled egg, dill pickle -- collectively line one side of the large bowl while crostini strips radiate out on the other half of the plate. Blending the yolk into the steak "is an old, traditional way to prepare and eat steak tartare. We use the freshest beef, prime tenderloin," Funk said. He admitted that the raw yolk sometimes gets questionable looks from customers, "but once added to the steak, the result is a deliciously rich, creamy texture."
We found this selection most satisfying, building different tasting combinations with the varied condiments.
Other Small Plates include cheese plate, French helix escargot, Dungeness crab cake, Polo calamari, lime-glazed bacon-wrapped shrimp, and roasted garlic cheese bread for two.
Beyond the small plates, menu selections include salads, a nine course chef's tasting ($67 per person), fish & seafood, and From Our Grill. For the main course, we selected the parmesan-crusted salmon ($25) and a special on the menu that evening, the black & blue New York strip ($47).
Between courses, we were treated to an amuse-bouche of vegetable risotto on crostini -- a small savory bite to amuse the mouth and invigorate the palate.
Not too long after, our main courses arrived. The salmon was presented on a layer of one of the sides, the artichoke puree with basil oil drizzled on top. The salmon was topped with oven roasted tomatoes. These three layers made a colorful plate presentation. The taste outshined the looks. Prepared to order at medium (which is what William said the chef recommends), the salmon was immensely delicate and very rich. My friend said the marriage of the salmon and the artichoke puree was delightful. Of this dish, Funk said "it is the basil oil with the artichoke puree that makes this a classier dish." He explained the puree to be a mashed blend of Yukon Gold potatoes and artichoke; cream, salt, and pepper were also added. The "crusted" top of the salmon is a house-made blend of eggs, potatoes, salt, and pepper. The tomatoes, he said, were sautéed in balsamic vinegar and brown sugar -- an exquisite coherence of flavors.
My New York strip was just as fine. About this special, Funk said it is one recently added to the menu and has become very popular. The chef begins with a strip steak center cut and dusts it with blackened spices. It is then grilled and topped with a blue cheese cream sauce, and on the very top are richly sautéed Portobello mushrooms. This was served with Yukon Gold whipped potatoes and grilled asparagus. The steak was melt-in-your mouth tender; the flavor was fresh and rich especially with the mushrooms and blue cheese cream sauce. How can you go wrong with Yukon potatoes: they were creamy, rich, and buttery. The grilled asparagus added a nice touch of color to the plate and was crisp and fresh.
Immensely satisfied, I still felt the urge for dessert. Offerings include a selection of artisanal cheeses, key lime pie, mango sorbet, vanilla crème brulèe, vanilla bean ice cream with Polo Grill chocolate pecan cookie, house-baked fudge, and pumpkin bread pudding. I asked for the baked fudge ($8). Funk said this baked fudge is a Tulsa tradition, the recipe of famed Tulsa cook, Cleora Butler. Funk described it as "custardy fudge. It's the oldest recipe on our menu," he said. This fudge was just as good as Funk described. Another beautiful presentation, the ice-cold glass plate, had a modest piece of the tall baked fudge and opposite was a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream; below on the plate were zig-zagging streaks of chocolate and strawberry sauces. Finally, small mint leaves accented the plate. It seemed almost sinful to be so indulged with this fudge: hot, soft, creamy, rich.
Bon Appetit. Though primarily a steakhouse, Polo Grill on Utica Square offers delicious continental food as well, from escargot to amuse-bouche.
Following all of this, our server brought out a plate of tiny cookies -- chocolate and sugar -- as the final sweet touch to a magnificent meal.
"We see the Polo Grill primarily as a steakhouse," Funk said. He added that the demi glace is part of the reason the steaks are so good. "We make our own demi glace," he said. "We make it in the old French style, beginning with beef stock, and reduce it down, and reduce it down. What sets us apart is the attention to detail that we have."
The steak selection includes prime 20 oz. cowboy ribeye; prime 14 oz. New York strip; filet of beef tenderloin; and steak and fries. Additionally, Polo Grill is an award winner when it comes to wines. Funk said their wine menu focuses on premier Napa Valley wines.
Recently, remodeling has expanded the Polo Grill to include five private dining rooms, with one accommodating up to 60 people -- all for no charge to use. And, as 2013 begins, Polo Grill will celebrate 30 years in Tulsa with a special Prix Fixe menu where every month Polo Grill will serve a "flash back" menu item from the menu of years past. And, an added bonus according to Funk is that 10 percent of the sale will go to Tulsa charities. "The community has been very supportive of us these past 30 years; we would like to thank them by giving back to the community with this event," he said.
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