Your olfactory senses are the first to feast on 105degrees Cafe. When you park, the dazzling glass wall allows you to drink in a space that’s immediately the envy of restaurateurs and chefs statewide. Modern, clean and unabashedly simple, the atmosphere is a far cry from the old health food store your mother or grandmother frequented in the 1970s. And then there’s the smell of fresh fruits and vegetables. Your struck by the fact that you don’t have to roast a chicken, bake a loaf of bread or stew a pot of beans to activate the palate.
This trip was about my wife Lori, who has been a vegetarian/pescatarian for about a decade. She loves to eat out, but most places force her to eliminate 2/3 of the menu when we walk through the door. For the first time ever, she really struggled with what to order.
But after some fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice and a banana-based smoothie called a Curious George, she opted for the spicy sushi roll, which looked like a critter from the old arcade game Centipede on a plate.
Honestly, she was so happy with this expertly crafted combination of avocado, cucumber and sesame with a dollop of homemade ancho aioli, that we could’ve walked away happy. I had only one bite as I didn’t want to slow down what was clearly a love affair in progress.
Meanwhile, I was sipping the spicy Bahian-style soup. This malagueta-chile influeneced puree of Heirloom tomatoes and coconut milk provided the heat in this cool soup. Rather than reel off a barage of power verbs and superfluous adjectives, I’ll tell you the square bowl made it a little difficult for my round spoon to retrieve the last few droplets, even when I tipped it. More please.
We then sampled the Heirloom tomato lasagna. Thin sliced zucchini replaced the pasta (hey, it’s got an Italian name!) but the genius of the dish really is restraint. Heirloom tomatoes need little help in lighting up the palate, and that’s what this dish is all about. This is a gorgeous dish that we both enjoyed to the final bite.
Before the entrees arrived, we became suddenly aware that our assumption that this was going to be a light meal was incorrect. But we fought through the initial pangs of sufficient fullness, to take on local wild mushroom gnocchi and a blue corn tostada.
We also sampled the creamy spinach and kale chips. The kale chips are dehydrated and seasoned, adding the crunch that can be a challenge when chef Matthew Kenney and his staff are constructing their dishes. The spinach was reminiscent of tabouleh in flavor and hummus in texture. In a moment of weakness, I wondered the spinach might do if rolled into a ball, dredged in panko and deep-fried. (Forgive me, chef Kenney. I am weak.) But just as cookie dough can disappear before it ever makes it to the oven, so too can this clever concoction.
The locally harvested mushroom was so muscular my wife briefly mistook it for grilled chicken slices. The mushroom was succulent with a slightly bitter flavor at mid-palate that I liked more than she did. Lori preferred the tostada, which came with diced avocados, baby zucchini and queso blanco. Of course, there is no dairy at this primarily vegan restaurant, so the “cheese” was a wonder. They substitute cheese profiles with the milk of assorted nuts like pistachio or hazelnut and, of course, coconut. The blue corn tostada was as crunchy as could be conceived without the help of a deep-fat fryer.
Feeling the full force of our misconception of the gullet-filling potential of veganism, we fought through like champions and took down a slice of blood-orange cheesecake. The primary agent at work in this seamless interpretation was young coconut meat. What a triumph of creativity and flavor.
This addition to the culinary landscape is beyond welcomed, it’s exciting. For Oklahoma City’s restaurant scene to grow, ambitious efforts like this are necessary.
Bravo to chef Kenney, his staff and partner Dara Prentice. Thanks for choosing this prairie town for this unique dining opportunity and rung in the ladder toward healthier, more responsible eating.