POSTED ON FEBRUARY 6, 2008:
An Extravagant Fondue Experience
You haven't had Asian food like this before.
Suki Unique Dining 7828 E. 71st St.
I have to admit when I walked up to Suki restaurant, (the old Tippins restaurant location on 71st Street), I had to roll my eyes at the sign, which said "Unique Dining." Such an overused, trite word in today's vocabulary has stunted its essential meaning. Now, however, I have to admit that the meaning of unique elevated to its original intent after I walked out of Suki a few hours later.
With Asian cuisine still on a steady incline of popularity, Adam Peterson, Corporate Chef, explained that Suki is "not about fast food at all" and it is a departure from the many other Asian restaurants about town. Suki, short for sukiyaki, is a Japanese dish described as nabemono or "cooked directly on the table." Its origin is traced to the era when religion banned the consumption of meat. In country districts, however, the peasants used to cut birds and game into fine strips and grill them secretly out in the fields (sukiyaki means literally 'grilled on a ploughshare').
Today, suki usually consists of thin slices of beef, chopped vegetables, vermicelli or small noodles and tofu sautéed in a copper pan over a table hot plate. This dining is akin to fondue style of dining, except the server does the work for you--right in front of you in the center of your table--lanching the veggies, meats, seafood and noodles in a boiling pot of vegetable stock.
Peterson said Tulsa was chosen as a place to do a market test on how well this type of dining would be received. Our server for the evening added that research indicated Tulsa to be a perfect market for this type of test, for Tulsa ranks as one of the highest in per capita diners. More restaurants are to open around the country based on the Tulsa experience.
Peterson explained that the servers go through extensive training from the restaurant's Korean owner on how to prepare the food tableside as done in Asian countries. Peterson said the meal begins with a "good base of rich vegetable stock."
"And you're changing the stock yourself with what you put into it, such as chicken, seafood and meat," he added.
Suki has a set menu, with prices listed per person and including complimentary dishes. Suki dinners are listed from A to D, each with varying courses. For example, Suki A ($16) includes six ounces of top sirloin and a chef selected seasonal vegetable platter.
Suki B ($28) is four ounces of top sirloin, a seafood platter of three saltwater prawns, two Georgia Banks scallops, four Windsor Bay mussels, two ounces Big Eye high grade tuna and vegetable platter.
Our server provided excellent service as well as educating us along the dining journey. We selected Suki D ($75) and our experience began with a hot damp towel to wash our hands. Our first course was an open-faced lettuce wrap, which our server said is like a California sushi roll. This was very light, very fresh and a tasty opening to what was going to be a fabulous meal.
Next, we had the option of a cup of Miso (a Japanese influence) or shrimp (French influence) soup. My Miso was simple, yet complex being rich with flavor and dotted with small tofu cubes. My friend's shrimp soup was a rich and creamy tomato bisque with hints of shrimp.
Following this were small dishes of Kyupi Pickles and Paek Kimchi (a white variety of kimchi). Kimchi is a Korean dish, Peterson said, which is long in preparation.
In fact, he said, "I'm surely the only white guy in the United States who makes this."
Cabbage is trimmed then split into sections that are then soaked in brine for at least four hours or more until they have softened. This is then mixed with a spicy concoction that includes such spices as chopped garlic, ginger, onion and ground pepper. This was a very appealing dish, light and savory.
The next course was a small salad of fresh greens served with a very nice sesame oil-base dressing. At this time, three dips were provided to us--hot, creamy and soy.
The veggie broth had been heating since the beginning of our meal and was ready for the next course, the chef's selection of at least 12 different vegetables, thinly sliced. Our server identified each fresh vegetable, which had been pleasantly arranged on a platter. He then slid them into the boiling broth for a brief time, scooped them out and placed them on our plates. These were blanched and very fresh and light.
Next came four ounces of the finest top sirloin. Just a quick dip in and out was all we wanted with this beef. It was incredibly delicious in taste and tender in texture. Each seafood was cooked to our specification and each was some of the best we have had.
We noticed, as our courses continued, the broth gradually took on the flavors of our foods and gave our foods exceptional flavors--much different from the beginning vegetables.
Our final course with the broth was wheat noodles, freshly made in house. These were delicious as they absorbed the flavors of the now rich broth. Because of our food selection cooked in the broth, we found the taste of the noodles somewhat sweet--most notably distinguished were the flavors of the vegetables and fish.
As incredible as it may sound, we had room to sample ice cream to conclude this meal. We sampled a dip of Coconut, Green Tea and Red Wine ice cream; each was very light and palate cleansing. A hot towel ended this experience.
This was an extravagant meal, served and eaten slowly and methodically. In the end we were amazed that we were naturally full, but not to an extreme. Courses had a natural freshness and lightness to them having been cooked in vegetable stock. Still, Peterson is working to fine-tune the menu according to customers' recommendations.
For diners not ready for the Suki meals, other menu items include Large Platters (vegetable, beef, chicken), Seafood Platters and From the Wok (Pineapple Beef, Curry Pork, Ginger Chicken and more). Rice or noodle courses are also available.
Because this dining experience truly is authentically unique--as my dining companion and I discovered--Peterson recommends making reservations.
Suki Unique Dining
7828 E. 71st St.
Sun.-Sat. 11am-2:30pm; 5pm-10pm
URL for this story: http://www.urbantulsa.comhttp://www.urbantulsa.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A19681