POSTED ON APRIL 8, 2009:
Ooh La La
Tulsa rendition of the elegant cuisine has been a hit for three decades
Bon temps. Elegant dining in an intimate setting, The French Hen is the perfect destination for a casual dinner or a celebratory event. It's classic French cuisine with an American twist.
As dining establishments come and go, very few can say they have been open for more than 30 years. The French Hen claims that honored distinction; and while it has gone through the usual restaurant struggles, it has remained one of Tulsa's dining traditions.
Nestled in the Lighthouse Shopping Center at 71st & Yale, The French Hen has been owned and operated by the Clark family, Dick, Lynn and their son, Richard, the chef, for the past nine years. The Clarks give the restaurant a personal touch visible beyond the kitchen. "All the artwork in the restaurant, my wife has painted. Even the mosaic water fountain," Dick said. "People can come in and buy pieces off the wall," a practice he encourages.
Cozy and casually comfy, the atmosphere is decorated tastefully in French country style: an elegant look overall speckled with a touch of country. Deep rich colors in the carpet and walls yield an intimate ambiance that's readily noticeable.
Ask about The French Hen, and mixed reviews will surface: some about being overpriced; some about being overrated; some about poor quality of food. More than a year ago I was here, and while the meal was superb, the cozy atmosphere was supplanted with an obnoxious group of intoxicated diners, loud, rude and very disturbing.
Nothing like that happened during my most recent visit on a Saturday night. A moderate number of tables were occupied around 8pm when we arrived. We were greeted warmly with a smile and were taken to our table. Our server fully embodied what a server should be: attentive without rushing us through the meal. He observed our desire for a leisurely, slow-paced dinner.
Dick said his son Richard creates dishes for The French Hen. "He controls the menu and does not allow me to touch it. I would not know how to do it anyway," he chuckled. Richard received his culinary training at Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY, and interned at the Savoy in London. He tweaked his experience during a stint in Switzerland and France.
The menu reflects "classic French cuisine with an American twist," including entrées such as Fried Quail ($26), Mushroom Crusted Rack of Lamb ($42), Bouillabaisse ($32) and Osso Bucco ($31), a signature dish, according to the Clarks. Les Hors d'Oeuvres include such plates as Escargot ($10), Sweetbreads Champignon ($14), Seared Foie Gras ($21) and Prawns ($14).
While all entrées vied for our attention, we went with two of the specials that evening: the Atlantic Cod ($31) and the Mixed Grill, ($42) a trio of grilled shrimp, duck and beef tenderloin. We began with Duck Liver Pate ($12) which was served in a stemmed cocktail glass, layered with capers, chopped boiled eggs and red onion. Served with crispy toasted bread, the taste was glorious, and the pate a little sweet. The appetizer mixed well with our wine; I had a Bottega Vanaia Pinot Grigio while my friend had the French Joseph Drouhin 'Laforet' Pinot Noir, Bourgogne, each $8.
I began with the evening's special spinach salad ($9), a pleasant medley of spinach leaves, fresh pineapple, cantelope, pecans, blue cheese crumbles and topped with a sweet vingerette dressing.
My Atlantic Cod was slightly flaky and served over a layer of couscous. The cod was delicate and light. Greens served with this meal came from Brussels sprouts cooked in bacon. These leaves, plucked from the small buds, were a nice take on the veggie, especially with the rich taste of bacon.
My friend's Mixed Grill was delightful. The grilled shrimp were fresh with a deep grilled flavor; the duck had a heavy blackened crust over it; and the beef tenderloin was cooked medium rare to perfection. It was served with mashed potatoes and the leaved sprouts.
Clark said his favorite dishes include Osso Bucco, a Milanese veal shank dish meaning "bone with a hole" (noted for the large and tasty marrow filling) and the strip steaks. Wines are plentiful at The French Hen, with more than 130 labels. For dessert, soufflés are popular, and the banana walnut bread pudding also comes highly recommended.
Clark mentioned something new going on at The French Hen, a menu for couples that includes two choices from four different entrees, salad or soup, a glass of wine per person, dessert, and coffee, tea or espresso for $59 per couple. A private dining room (outfitted with the latest audiovisual equipment) is available for business meetings, board dinners or social events accommodating among 10 to 50 persons.
The French Hen
7143 S. Yale
Sun. 10am-2pm, 4pm-10pm
Mon.-Thurs. 11am-2pm; 4pm-10pm
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