For James Beck, it was finally time to have his own place. After more than 30 years in the hospitality industry, mainly opening and managing restaurants in five-star hotels up and down the east and west coasts, he returned to Tulsa to be close to family and, for something to do, he opened his own restaurant, Beck's Fresh Mediterranean.
Beck's mantra when speaking about his restaurant is "High quality food at a reasonable price. I want to utilize as many local products as I can." He said Tulsa needs restaurants which serve fresh, healthy foods, and so his menu reflects what is in season, and therefore, is constantly changing. He emphasizes the fact that all his food is fresh, and even expresses that in the restaurant's name. A classically-trained chef, Beck said "I want people to come here twice a week, not twice a year. Our pricing is good."
This restaurant concept, said Beck, is "honed from the past 30 years in the industry. I have picked items from the very best restaurants where I worked." For example, he said the Chicken Marsala ($14.95) is a recipe he came up with from the mid-1980s. It is different from what one would expect, Beck said, because of the "sweet and sour taste." (This dish is made with sweet Marsala wine and a demiglace which provides the surprise taste.) While the restaurant touts itself as being of Mediterranean style, Beck said "our food is completely from coastal areas, such as France, Italy, Greece and Spain," with an emphasis on seafood.
"I have always been on the front edge of developing seafood dishes," said Beck. A few dishes which reflect the coastal influence and Beck's flare for creativity include Northern Italian Scampi ($12.95) and Grilled Tuna Croissant ($9.95). Large shrimp, garlic, fresh tomatoes are sautéed in lemon and white wine for the Scampi dish, then it is served over linguine. The Croissant sandwich combines fresh tuna steak with red onions, celery, cornichon (French word for gherkin pickles), hard boiled eggs and lemon aioli; lettuce and tomato finish this item. Two other seafood dishes include Poisson du Jour and Seafood Stuffed Crepes.
The evening my friend and I dined at Beck's, the only available seats were at a counter, so we established our place there. Service was great: attentive and friendly. We began with two glasses of wine, a Terrazas Malbec($7) and a Hogue Genesis Syrah ($8).
We began with the Olive and Sundried Tomato ($5.95) appetizer, a tapenade with toast points. Beck said he has developed this recipe "over the years," and we could tell. We could have eaten this dish all day. It was marvelous -- the sundried tomato and olive oil was rich and smooth. Focaccia points held up well to the spread. Beck says he makes this appetizer with three types of olives, garlic, capers and olive oil. "It's a classic Spanish style of tapenade," said Beck, and it made a beautiful plate presentation with the deep red hue of the tapenade, the green and maroon colors of the olives and the light green iceberg lettuce.
For my dinner, I selected the Seafood Stuffed Crepes ($15.95), while my dining companion had the Entrecote Beaujolaise ($19.95). The Crepes dish is described as "a luscious blend of seafood and shrimp sautéed with butter, herbs and aromatic vegetables wrapped in tender crepes, topped with Hollandaise and broiled." Beck said a good thing about this dish is that the seafood combination can change every week, depending on the fish ordered for the week, and what has been left over. "I only keep fresh fish," Beck said, describing "fresh" as 11 days old from the time it left the water to the time it is eaten. "I poach any leftover fish, and combine it with shrimp and most often calamari." From that beginning, he said he makes a stuffing (of fish) using a mornai sauce (a béchamel sauce with cheese and Beck uses Swiss).
The dish was delightful, bulging with fresh fish, shrimp being the prominent seafood and also a few mushrooms. The two crepes were topped with a rich and creamy, nicely prepared Hollandaise sauce. I found the filling to be a little dry; perhaps more mornai sauce would help this. In addition, the crepes were slightly overcooked: dry and uncharacteristically burned and crispy on the edges.
'Round the World
One side comes with this meal; choices include Hummus, Sauteed Vegetables, Herb Roasted Red Potatoes, Saffron Rice Pilaf, Small Greek Salad and Chef's du Jour. I selected the Small Greek Salad. The salad was playfully presented on the plate and consisted of Greek olives, tomatoes, feta cheese, red onion, and a creamy tart dressing over a spring mix of greens. It was very fresh, light, and happily consumed.
My friend's Entrecote Beaujolaise, was a 10-ounce hand-cut strip steak seasoned and pan seared. Then, as Beck said, a sauce of red wine, shallots and garlic is prepared; a little demiglace is added and finished with butter. This sauce then shrouded the steak. This entrée came with two sides; my friend selected a Greek salad and the Red Potatoes. The steak was pan seared to specification -- medium rare, and as my friend said, the sauce was "perfection." The potatoes were roasted in a beautiful way, he said, creamy on the inside with slightly dry roasted skin on the outside.
A few other menu categories include Grilled Skewers, Menu de Grille (Pomegranate Chicken, Boneless Pork Chops), Paninis & Croissants, Chef's Dinner Specialties (Chicken Piccata, Jumbo Shrimp, Bouillabaisse de Marseilles) and desserts (Lemon Baklava Cheesecake, Cannoli and Tart Tatin with Crème Anglais).
Apart from the lunch and dinner menus, a Sunday brunch has a completely different menu, with such items as Eggs Benedict, Crepes, classic egg dishes, and quiche. Beck said all dishes are under $10 and there are $2 mimosas.
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