Personally, I think that in 2011, the concept of the chef's table will really take off in Tulsa. It's not widely practiced here in the middle of the country, although chefs in all the expected places like New York, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans and San Francisco have been doing some version of it for decades.
There may be others in Tulsa, but the first two I am aware of are The Kitchen on Brookside, and the Brady Tavern, 201 N. Main St.
"We offer the option of two chefs tables that are located in the kitchen. One seats six; the other eight, or any number within," said Brady Tavern general manager Alix French. "Currently the chef's tables order from our nightly menu with wine or alcohol selection at your discretion. We can of course suggest pairings.
Patrons enter the Brady through the tavern. The dining room was already full at 6:30pm on a recent Saturday evening, just four or five weeks after opening day, so we were seated at one of several two-top tables in the bar area. Even though there was a lot of foot-traffic in this particular part of the Brady Tavern, it didn't feel as though we had been seated in a less than desirable part of the restaurant. In fact, our seating gave us a nice view of everything: plenty of restaurant activity, a steady stream of diners and lots of "pretty people" to watch at a very unique bar with an authentic pub feel.
Bar manager Tony Collins said the Brady's drinks are purposefully curated with an emphasis on small-batch bourbons, single-malt scotches and cognac.
"The cocktail list draws its inspiration from the classic pre-prohibition era of bartending," he said. "The list is roughly a 50/50 balance of forgotten recipes from old cocktail books alongside some new creations that are unique to our bar."
There's been a resurgence of honest-to-goodness mixology lately, and a group of young professionals with a serious "quality rather than quantity" attitude, which is refreshing to see and experience at establishments like the Brady Tavern.
We chose a grilled maitake mushroom as a starter. Also known as the hen of the woods mushroom, it is without a doubt the closest flavor to meat without being meat. Even a small portion brings big flavor, and for only $3, the mushroom appetizer was easily one of the hits of the night.
The Brady's starter menu offered some other interesting options like bacon popcorn for $5, deviled eggs for $3, Guinness meat pie for $5, and sweet and spicy nuts for $4. It was nice to see something other than the obligatory Buffalo wings and nachos for appetizer selections.
Diners are treated to a creative selection of ala carte items to choose from. Several soups, salads, a smoked trout dip, a country terrine -- essentially a rustic pate -- and a pork rillette.
We were both in a salad mood this particular night, so we chose the honey crisp apple salad, a fresh toss of greens with pecans, Stilton cheese and apple oil for $7; and the spinach salad, with goat cheese, wild mushrooms and warm bacon vinaigrette for $10. Both were fresh, tasty and well presented.
The service was good. The greeter, wait staff and management made us feel special and extremely well taken care of. The Brady Tavern's staff appears to run a sort of zone defense if you will, with a main server taking care of your table, and everyone running food out as soon as it comes up. It's a great way to run a floor. If your server is busy at another table, your dinner doesn't die in the window waiting for table delivery.
It is not often that the floor manager makes a visit to your table either, which gives diners the opportunity to express any concerns or compliments. We saw the manager twice during the evening: once between the appetizer and salad course and again after we received and tasted our entrees. Perfect timing and excellent customer service. I noticed her hitting every table during the course of the evening. That's what a manager is supposed to do.
Entrees were as good as the appetizers.
My braised short ribs were packed with flavor. Served on a bed of lentils, chard and a veal reduction, the meat was dark and rich and butter tender -- an excellent meal. I felt $24 was a smidge high, but there is a lot of time and effort spent on a braised dish as this, so the price was but a minor bump.
Katie opted for the risotto cakes. Nicely garnished with an arugula salad with a balsamic drizzle, they were nice, but lacked a flavor punch you would expect from a vegetarian entrée. The cakes were fairly priced at $14 and well prepared, well presented and the entire experience was well worth it.
Other entrees include a roasted chicken, steak frites, a bone-in-pork chop and a Stilton burger. There's a bangers and mash offering as well, using locally produced sausage from Fassler Hall, another of Elliot Nelson's downtown establishments.
Accompaniments change with each item, a trend that is very popular in my book. Chef Grant Vespasian and sous chef Ashley Gawith have obviously spent time making side dish pairings with each entrée that fit the item. This attention to detail is obvious throughout, and frankly is a trademark of all of Nelson's establishments.
The dessert menu looked enticing with offerings like poached pear with fig stuffing and crème Anglaise, a date tart with brandy glaze and chantilly crème, and blood orange flan with pomegranate reduction. For $7, diners can pick between these and other options. This list and the excellent breads served with dinner prove that pastry chef David Robuck is worth the money.
Pub Grub. Entrees were as good as the appetizers. My braised short ribs were packed
with flavor. Served on a bed of lentils, chard and a veal reduction, the meat was dark
and rich and butter tender — an excellent meal.
The Brady Tavern's menu is not huge, but it's well thought out. It's perfect pub fare, reminiscent of many of the places we visited in both England and Ireland, albeit a bit snazzier than anything we saw there.
French said the restaurant's menu is always changing, and Chef Grant said he mixes it up to reflect the season and available ingredients.
"I feel you lose quality when you have big menus, he said. We like to keep trying new things within the season. The kitchen staff is very creative and I like to encourage that.
The Brady Tavern's décor is simple, straightforward pub style. A huge banquette extends the entire length of the long dining room along one picture-covered wall, with cozy tables for two and four. The rest of the space is full but not overcrowded with a variety of seating. It's a great place to be, and feels comfortable and easy. Give the Brady Tavern a try. You won't be disappointed.
201 N. Main St.
Sun - Wed 11am -- midnight
Thurs -- Sat 11am -- 2am
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