Fine dining is not something only in the mouth of the beholder. It is an objective reality, and no more is this reality played out than at The Brasserie. Chef Marcus Vause and General Manager and certified sommelier Joe Breaux, together with owner Tim Baker, have built a perfect balance of fine food, refined and relaxed atmosphere and impeccable service. Nestled in the heart of Brookside, The Brasserie opened in 2006, and Chef Marcus says the secret of their success is the "consistency with service and of food, a creative but approachable menu that people can't get anywhere else in Tulsa."
A "brasserie" by definition is a relaxed, upscale French restaurant which serves single dishes each day of the week, and as Breaux explains it, The Brasserie conforms to the definition. "Our cozy and intimate atmosphere is refined yet approachable. We are very much a local restaurant, locally owned and operated. Our menu is seasonal and we try to source as much of our menu from local farms and vendors as possible."
Just by its nature, French cuisine can be intimidating, but at The Brasserie the approachable menu juxtaposes with the haute French style. Chef Marcus creates the menu, along with the input of Baker and Breaux. Chef Marcus explains that he is known for taking a classic French dish and putting his "creative spin on it or creating a unique new dish using the fundamentals of French cooking."
It was not my first time to dine at The Brasserie, nor for my dining companion, so we knew we were in for a delightful dining experience. Arriving, we were soon seated and our server welcomed us, returning very soon after to see if we decided on our drinks. She offered us a daily by-the-glass wine list which Breaux says is new every day, and "if you don't see something on it you like, we'll pour any of our wines for you by the glass with a two glass minimum.
It is certainly something different than any other restaurants in Oklahoma," and he says guests enjoy trying out a new wine without having to commit to an entire bottle. Breaux explains that as a French restaurant, "our goal is to have a good selection of old world wines (France in particular). At the same time, a large portion of our guests prefer new world wines (particularly California). So we try to find a balance of offering wines our guests are comfortable with while introducing them to approachable wines that they've never tasted."
We each selected a wine from the daily list, Chateau Brondeau Bordeaux, a blend from the Bordeaux region of France, of Merlot, Cabernet and Cabernet Franc grapes ($12) and Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais, from the Beaujolais region, made from the Gamay grape ($9).
With wine selected and served, we were now ready to begin with the Steak Tartare ($13), our selection from the Hors d'Oeuvres menu. Onion Soup Gratinee, Escargots, Plat de Fromages Du Jour and Seared Country Pâté are some of the other offerings. Chef Marcus describes our selection as classically French. Hand-cut beef tenderloin is mixed with egg yolk, olive oil, salt and pepper. It is served with condiments of diced red onions, capers, diced hard boiled egg and chopped gherkins, which as Chef Marcus says, "play a supporting role by cutting the richness of the meat and egg yolk." Served with thinly sliced buttered toast, my friend and I found this opening dish incredibly satisfying. We both agreed the beef was at the right temperature, perfectly cool to taste the richness and freshness, and to enjoy the tenderness of the raw steak.
From there we continued to take a few bites from the bread and butter, served upon arrival. The bread is an organic rustic herb roll made exclusively for the restaurant by Farrell Family Bread in Tulsa. The butter was topped with a generous sprinkling of salt flakes. Our entrées soon followed: the Atoka Lamb Duo Roasted Rack, with Chickpea Puree & Kashmir Leg, Quince Chutney, Brussels Leaves ($32) and the Steak Frites Filet Mignon, with Pommes Frites, Sauce Béarnaise ($26, 6 oz.). "The lamb is humanely raised by Lorenz Thelen in Atoka, Okla.," explains Chef Marcus. "The dish is an example of a unique dish utilizing French technique and ideals of combining items (regions, flavors or animals)."
To prepare this dish, he says the racks are "frenched" (meaning the bones are cleaned off the meat down to the loin), vacuumed in a pouch with seasonings and cooked sous vide (under vacuum, the pouch placed in a water bath set to an exact temperature of 130 degrees) for exact cooking temperature. The duo consists of a three cutlets (rib chops) and a torchon (meaning "towel"), as Chef Marcus explains in "olden times the towel is what the cook would use to wrap the meat in and shape it into cylinder before cooking or cutting and serving." Preparation for the torchon includes cooking the leg of lamb, pulling the meat from the bone and then using 22 layers of plastic wrap to roll the picked meat into a cylinder. "The French ideals are used in the flavor profile of the torchon by introducing spices from the Kashmiri dish, Rogan Josh." Finally, this torchon is topped with in house made bread crumbs. The duo of lamb was exquisite, tender, rich with mild flavor. The two textures of lamb (whole from the cutlet and chopped in the torchon) balanced well with the robust flavor of the quince chutney and milder chickpea puree. The chutney, a native Persian fruit, is bitter, but sweetens, becomes citrusy and mildly tart, explains Chef Marcus, upon cooking. He blends it with butternut squash, onions, vinegar and sugar to create his own Indian chutney.
My friend's Steak Frites dish is a classic French choice. The beef tenderloin is cut in house and paired with the fries, which have been peeled, cut and blanched, then fried to order. The steak is topped with a sauce béarnaise which, as Chef Marcus says, is "similar to a hollandaise with tarragon and reduced vinegar added." The steak was incredibly fresh and tender, cooked medium rare as ordered. The sauce was rich with flavor and an ideal companion to the steak. The frites were hot and crisp; French green beans completed this entrée.
We shared a side dish of Sautéed Spinach with Leeks & Almonds ($5). This version could make a spinach lover out of the most hesitant of spinach-phobes. Chef Marcus says this is "our take on a classic almondine." Garlic and shallots are sautéed with butter, after which leeks and almonds are added, then white wine and cream and finished with butter.
We finished the meal with Profiteroles and coffee, a classic French dessert. Pate au choux (éclair dough) is baked, building a hollow interior which Chef Marcus then fills with vanilla ice cream and topped with a warm daily made chocolate sauce. A beautiful conclusion to the dinner.
The atmosphere is cozy with the dimmed lighting, and the service and hospitality are some of the best in town. Our server instinctively knew when to come tableside, when to stay away and presented herself with the utmost of professionalism. The menu has a number of seafood and meat entrées; Chef Marcus says some of the most popular include the Pork Tenderloin, Scallops a la Plancha, Escargot and Crispy Duck Breast. In addition, he says the Apple & Local Goat Cheese salad is "very highly recommended."
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