POSTED ON MAY 30, 2012:
Banking on the Buffet
Osage Casino has hit the jackpot
Buffets have a long tradition that, according to some, goes back to the smorgasbord of 16th century Sweden. Whatever moniker is used, the all-you-can eat dining style abounds in popularity. Just look around the city and note the bustling buffets. And why not? Simple. Customers have the advantage on two fronts: They can preview the food before selecting, and they can select as much or as little of it as they desire.
And that is the case at the new Tulsa Buffet at the Osage Casino in Tulsa. Casino Manager Gabriel West said the impetus behind this new restaurant is to "offer an alternative food for our guests." He recalled in the past two other restaurants (Jazzmo'z Bourbon Street Café and Elmer's BBQ) were previous tenants in this same location, but they were owned and operated by a third party. Osage Casino owns and operates the Tulsa Buffet, and operates with a new executive chef, Venezuelan-born Jesus Lorenzo who has worked for a number of Native American tribal casinos throughout the United States. Lorenzo comes with more than 20 years' experience as executive chef for a number of hotels, casinos and resorts.
"With this buffet, we wanted to offer a better alternative for our VIPs," said West. He's referring to the "short order deli" which is another dining choice inside the Casino. "The short order menu has such things as hamburger, French fries, hot dogs, Philly sandwiches, chicken strips and food like that. And while it is very good, we needed something more than that for our customers.
"We have many regular guests at the Casino, and so we really needed to offer a better food alternative. In this part of the city, there are not many fast-food or dine-in restaurants, so we wanted something good and affordable for everyone," West said. And affordable it is for this buffet. Prices are $9.95 for lunch and $11.95 for dinner Monday-Thursday; on Fridays and Saturdays, the dinner is priced at $20.95. One of the best features of Tulsa Buffet, according to West, is that guests have a variation of cuisine experiences each day of the week.
"Chef Lorenzo has been able to bring in such a variety to the buffet," West said. It's a great concept to have different themes on cuisines each day. Guests can sample many of Chef Lorenzo's own recipes, which West said come from him and his many years in the industry. Here's the schedule: Monday, Italian; Tuesday, Mexican; Wednesday, Cajun; Thursday, Asian; Friday's lunch is Soul Food and dinner is Surf & Turf; Saturday's lunch is Caribbean and dinner is Surf & Turf; and Sunday is Bar-B-Q. "The Soul Food lunch has been very popular," West said. Some items on the Soul Food buffet include collard greens, pig's feet, and rocky mountain oysters. "We have a number of regulars who always come in for the Soul Food buffet on Friday," he said.
My friend and I dined here on Wednesday: Cajun night. Our experience was very pleasant. We were warmly greeted at the door, offered a beverage (only non-alcoholic beverages are offered in the restaurant), and invited to begin the buffet. While Cajun was the night's theme, many other non-Cajun items were available. We began our first time through, though, exclusively with Cajun. Some of the options included two soups, clam chowder and seafood gumbo, two types of sausages -- one nicely grilled, another cooked with green peppers and onions, collard greens, dirty rice and shrimp Creole.
The soups were impressively good. First, they were piping (temperature) hot -- which is how I enjoy soups. My first taste of the clam chowder was one of creaminess, a richness of a buttery broth. It was thick with very soft and tiny cubed potatoes, chopped onions, thick plump clams and various spices. It is a dish that my senses just beckoned me to continue eating. The seafood gumbo was also served very hot; it had a very dark broth, which is authentically Cajun, where the gumbo begins with a very dark roux made of flour and lard/oil. It had quite a bit of cooked-down okra for thickening and flavor, and many little shrimp. It was not too spicy, so we added a few drops of hot sauce for a little kick.
Everything we tasted was very good, and prepared with care, although a few items might have been a little overcooked. The shrimp Creole was very thick and with many tomatoes and loaded with small shrimp, but they were very soft. There was a mild spiciness to it. Both sausages were high quality, firm and rich with flavor, one grilled and the other sautéed with onions and green bell peppers. The latter sausage had an appealing taste of fennel and also was dotted with pepper and a number of spices. The greens were soft and very flavorful, with just a hint of a bitterness common in collard greens.
Other items on the buffet included pizza (mushroom, black olive, Canadian bacon, green bell pepper with a white sauce) on what looked like commercially-made crust, macaroni and cheese (ultimate in cheesiness and creaminess -- something any adult would find as a fun, guilty food pleasure), instant mashed potatoes with white and brown gravy, fried and grilled catfish, corn on the cob, rotisserie chicken (very tender and moist--one of the best items on the buffet), yellow squash (too soft, overcooked), carrot salad and an assortment of items for a green salad.
Desserts were plentiful: lemon meringue pie, pecan pie, German chocolate cake, white cake, cherry cobbler and soft serve ice cream (vanilla, chocolate and vanilla-chocolate swirl with an assortment of possible toppings). Even though the ice cream was on the very soft side, we devoured it. I added multi-colored sprinkles on my vanilla ice cream; my friend had sliced almonds on his chocolate ice cream.
West said that now having control over what is served in Osage Casino Tulsa Buffet restaurant, we "now have what our guests expect of us. With our executive chef, Jesus, who is really committed to the Osage Tribe, we are very pleased with this direction. Business is steady."
And for us, we were very impressed with our entire experience: the food selection and taste was very good, the service was attentive and most welcoming, and the restaurant itself was attractively designed and inviting.
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