POSTED ON APRIL 10, 2013:
In Rare Form
New steakhouse adds sizzle to downtown
In the frenzied boom of downtown eateries, Chef Justin Thompson has staked his claim in the bustling Brady Arts District. No stranger to the downtown scene, Thompson's first restaurant Juniper raised the bar on fine dining in what was once an urban desert. He scored big his first time out of the gate, gaining the love of Tulsa diners and even earning national critical acclaim. Now he's trying his luck with his latest venture, a modern steakhouse called Prhyme.
Located at 111 N. Main St. in the heart of the Brady Arts District, Prhyme has a relaxed yet dignified interior. It uses the space well, with a small but comfortable dining room and a well-appointed bar area, with high-top tables surrounding a robust bar. They take their cocktails very seriously, but a point of pride for Prhyme is their wine list. The list has been developed under the finely-tuned tastes of its sommelier and includes some of the finest bottles of vino available and reasonably-priced wine by the glass.
Around here, one doesn't often see menu items like a decadent roasted veal marrow "canoe" ($15.95) or fried escargot ($14.95). I decided to give the fried escargot a go. A handsome serving of buttermilk-breaded escargot arrived with a side of herb aioli. I've only had escargot in the traditional preparation, drowned in butter and white wine. Prhyme's offering only solidified my belief that everything is better fried.
Prhyme's soup and salad menu includes some steakhouse classics like Caesar salad ($8.95) and lobster bisque ($10.95). I decided to go with the more adventurous butter lettuce ($8.50) with roasted corn, sweet potato, red bell pepper, sherry vinaigrette, black pepper honey (!) and roasted almonds. Atop a few lovely green leaves of butter lettuce was a scoop of the heavenly mixture. Though the ingredients were simple, the flavors were outstanding and left me wanting more. My date ordered the lobster bisque which had a very intense lobster essence with just a scant yet perfectly-measured amount of cream. This was excellent preparation for the main event -- the steaks.
For those who are red meat averse, they do have some delightful-sounding seafood dishes, along with the duck that is probably to die for. But everyone knows the rule -- when at a steakhouse, you eat a steak. But at Prhyme, it isn't such a straightforward decision. You have options.
Prhyme serves only USDA prime steaks. There is a lot of hubbub about "prime beef," and for good reason. Being a prime cut is an exclusive club to which less than 2 percent of beef belongs. Prhyme has a variety of cuts, including a grass-fed sirloin, which is a leaner cut with a different flavor than corn-fed beef. For Prhyme, it's not so much about the cut of steak -- it's about the aging.
Huge hunks of uncut beef go into a humidor where temperature, humidity, and ventilation are tended to by an expert for a month or even longer. Enzymes in the meat act as a natural tenderizer. Temperature is maintained at above freezing, ventilation keeps bacteria at bay and humidity is managed so the meat doesn't dry out. Prhyme ups the ante by aging their steaks not just for the standard 28 days, but for an entire 40. They also have 21-day wet-aged steaks, where the meat is vacuum sealed -- without seasoning -- and is kept in similar condition as the dry-aged steaks.
You'll notice something distinct about the dry-aged steak before it even comes to your table -- the price. There is sticker shock, but this is a luxury item. A prime cut of steak not only loses weight during the process, which increases the price per pound, but it also needed proper storage space, refrigeration and careful attention for a month or more. When you do the math, it makes sense; but once you take your first bite, you'll understand completely -- especially when the steak is from Prhyme.
Intrigued, I pitted dry aging against wet aging to see the difference. The filet mignon was the subject of this contest, perhaps one of the finest and favorite cuts of them all. I had dined at Prhyme before and enjoyed the dry-aged filet. This time I tried the 21-day wet-aged filet ($36.50/8 oz). The difference in the two was dramatic.
The dry preparation of the filet was fork tender and the meaty flavor was super-condensed. Comparatively, though, I must admit that the wet-aged filet was my favorite. The filet is a delicate piece of meat; maybe the dry aging process is too aggressive. The wet aging was beyond compare. When you think about a juicy, medium-rare steak, this is what you want. This, however, is not an indictment against dry aging.
My carnivorous companion ordered the dry aged rib-eye ($75.95), a larger cut with a higher fat content. The dry aging made this cut outrageously tasty. The flavor was off-the-charts delicious and has forever changed what I believe beef should taste like. I think the marbling of the rib-eye lends itself to the aging process, as does the sturdier texture. The dry aged rib-eye was tender, yet still maintained its structure.
Considering the only seasoning was a little kosher salt and pepper combined with the distinct char of a hot broiler, the steak was a testament to the time and effort the team at Prhyme put into their aging process. This is steak at its finest.
Not to be ignored are the side dishes, served a la carte, but family style. The creamy corn maque choux ($4.95 half-serving) and the bacon brown butter brussels sprouts ($4.95 half serving) held their own even when matched with decadent steak.
Prhyme is a cut above the rest when it comes to a modern steakhouse experience. The service is impeccable, the menu is bold and the wine list is superb. Chef Thompson set out to be the premier steakhouse in Tulsa, and Prhyme hits the bull's eye.
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