KEO, 3524 S. Peoria Ave., 918-794-8200
Mon-Thur, 11am-10pm; Fri-Sat, 11am-11pm
Food: 4 out of 5 stars
Atmosphere: 4 out of 5 stars
Service: 3 out of 5 stars
The art of great-tasting food can be attributed to many things -- quality ingredients, proper preparation and seasoning. The real beauty, though, lies in how great elements are balanced. Asian cuisine often takes the palate on a journey of flavors that range from the familiar to the exotic. It's an easy journey for Tulsans to take fortunately, and KEO's kitchen has been charting the course since 2007.
KEO has become a mainstay in Brookside, with its clean, sleek dining room and uniquely healthy menu. That's right, I said it -- "healthy." But KEO still delivers on flavor, so it feels like indulging. Offering a menu replete with vegetarian options, even gluten-free options, it relies on balance of flavors to really make their ingredients sing.
Another wonderful thing they offer? They feature half-price appetizers during happy hour, Monday through Friday from 4-7pm. There is one very important thing to note: this is only available in their bar or "lounge" area. I meandered in around 6pm, was told to find my own seat, but was not let in on this stipulation as I began ordering up a line-up of apps. Luckily, the sting of receiving this dis-fortune cookie was tempered with their great-tasting food.
The KEO Sampler Platter ($10) is a great way to try a little of everything and always a great introduction. It included a beef curry wonton, a shrimp dumpling, a chicken skewer, a spring roll. Each bite was delectable. The curry wonton was a standout, with ground beef and nice punch of curry wrapped in a crispy egg wonton. The chicken skewer was tender with a light dusting of yellow curry and a fresh peanut sauce for dipping.
The shrimp dumpling was also a very fresh offering, with a crispy exterior that held a mixture of shrimp and other lovely flavors. But nothing held a candle to the crispy spring roll. KEO's spring rolls are something special indeed, with a subtle note of basil complementing the meaty flavor and crunch of cabbage.
From the small plate menu, we also tried out the Calamari ($10), which featured delicate rings lightly coated in a delicate breading then fried to perfection. Coupled with the spicy sauce, these little guys quickly disappeared. The Steamed Mussels ($12), however, were a different story. A pile of mussels swam in a broth of lemongrass, garlic and white wine, but the flavors didn't work and the mussels maybe weren't the best batch.
When most people think "health," they think "salads," and KEO keeps their salad menu interesting with their Cambodian Beef Salad ($9) with chili and oyster sauce seasoned beef, leaf lettuce, tomatoes and red onions. The Seared Soba Noodle Salad ($11) also caught my eye, with green tea soba with sprouts, red bell pepper and cilantro served with a toasted sesame dressing. What could be more refreshing on a sultry summer day!
So, you may be seeing the word "pho" a lot recently, which is a Vietnamese noodle soup. Pronounced "fuh," it's basically a build-your-own soup; but that is really simplifying its beauty. KEO's pho was presented in a huge bowl of broth, with noodles and beef sunk below. The accompanying plate had two sauces -- a hoisin and a spicy pepper sauce -- cilantro, basil, bean sprouts and more. So whatever you put into the piping hot broth would easily infuse to suit your taste.
I've had some great pho in town, but I have to say I really enjoyed KEO's despite the $12 price tag. This is ultimate comfort food, from the fragrant, beefy broth, to the sizeable slices of tender beef and noodles. The broth is what makes it extraordinary, though, and with an authentic flavor with no spice overwhelming another. The serving is definitely shareable or would make an excellent left-over lunch.
Their specialty menu truly travels across the Asian and Thai palate, featuring dishes like Vietnamese Crepes ($11) with a turmeric seasoned crepe filled with ground beef or chicken, served with cucumber and lettuce salad.
My friend decided to put on a Thai this evening and ordered their Pad Thai ($13) with duck. I was looking forward to trying the dish with the duck, but it had been 86'd for the evening. Beef took its place among a mass of thicker-than-usual noodles and a tangy and sweet sauce. It was a solid dish without losing balance of its delicate flavors.
KEO has a variety of stir fry dishes, like the Ginger Garlic Stir Fry ($13) or Cambodian Stir Fry ($13) each with your choice of beef, chicken or tofu -- even add duck or shrimp for $2 more. But my dinner date wanted to keep it simple with the KEO House Stir Fry Stir Fry ($13) with chicken. The plate arrived with a nice mound of perfectly cooked white rice and a mixture of red peppers, onions and strips of chicken that reflected the hue of turmeric. The sauce wasn't heavy-handed, and the mixture was extremely fresh without at hint of grease. It was simple and flavorful.
There is a reason KEO has remained as other restaurants have arrived and departed the Brookside strip. It has found and maintained its balance with a well-rounded menu, filled with healthy, beautiful cuisine.
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