It's time for steak at The Drake
As new restaurants continue to pile into the market as if they were compelled by the Night King, established restaurateurs have been busy making adjustments while waiting for a hero with dragon glass to arrive.
Keith Paul, president of A Good Egg Dining restaurant group, recently made significant changes to pair of local restaurants, one he owns and the other he recently agreed to operate. Paul sat down with me last week to discuss his group’s new agreement with the Oklahoma City Museum of Art over steaks at The Drake.
You read that right. We had steak for lunch at The Drake, which up until about a month ago was known primarily for the city’s best-stocked oyster bar and fresh seafood.
But Paul said his restaurant group’s dedication to hospitality includes listening to its guests. The Drake that opened in 2015 isn’t unrecognizable, but signs of evolution are unmistakable.
The Drake first adjusted its menu’s original slant toward communal dining. The Drake is still a great place to gather with friends and share plates of food, but it now offers plenty of individual entrees plus added options for those who like their seafood fried. They also added Gulf oysters, which weren’t on the oysterette’s original roster.
Now comes beef, which Paul said is equal parts guest request and timing.
“A lot of it was just waiting on the right program to present itself,” he said over cuts of Flat-Iron, skirt, tenderloin and rib-eye. “44 Farms was ideal for us.”
The cattle ranch out of Cameron, Texas, which is going on its fourth generation of family ownership, has been in business since 1909. They raise true Black Angus cattle without use of antibiotics or hormone treatment.
Before we got into the beef, Paul introduced me to Kung Pao Calamari to get the palate moving. Let's just say it was extremely difficult to stop my palate from sending signals to my fingers that went something like "get in there and get another, big boy!"
The calamari melted in my mouth but not before the crunchy batter delivered a healthy splash of the spicy, palate-possessing sauce. Long after all the calamari was gone, Paul and I kept finding bits of peanut, Fresno pepper, or green onion sliver to swipe through the sauce and eat.
As for the steaks, those I sampled were expertly prepared and well-seasoned. The Flat-Iron steak stood out mostly because the cut can be a little ornery. This offering was tender and flavorful – helped by The Drake’s house rub. Don’t’ sleep on the house-made steak sauce, whether you use it on your beef or not, you’ll absolutely want to run potatoes through it.
Meanwhile, The Drake still offer plenty of great fresh seafood, salads and cocktails. Most important of all, the Lemon Cloud pie is still available.
Steak has been on the menu at The Drake for about a month now. Soon as the program was installed, Paul turned his attention to a new opportunity with the Oklahoma City Museum of Art’s Museum Café.
Opened in 2002, Museum Café was originally operated by Chris Lower and Kurt Fleischfresser’s Restaurant Resource Group. Among the chefs working in that original kitchen was A Good Egg corporate chef Chris McCabe, and I have photographic evidence to back it.
Chef Ahmad Farnia operated the restaurant for about two decades before the latest change.
A Good Egg has repainted the bar and dining room and revamped the menu, but Paul said the biggest adjustment so far has to do with him.
“The pace (of service) is a little slower,” he said. “I had to get used to that. A lot of the people who come in to dine with us there are looking to relax and settle in for the evening.”
Of course, that changes when the Civic Center hosts a performance or the Museum hosts a special event, but adaptability and covering the details is what got A Good Egg the nod for this partnership.
“So far it’s been great,” Paul said. “It hasn’t been very long, but we’re really happy with the dining room renovations and the new menus."
I stopped in to Museum Cafe for a preview service and tried a few things, including Smoked Carrot Hummus, French Onion Grilled Cheese Sandwich, Spicy Shrimp Risotto, and a Caramelized Pineapple Fool with Grilled Pound Cake for dessert.
The hits came early and often beginning with the smoky, colorful hummus we enjoyed with cocktails called Persistence of Memory and Water Lillies. Well-balanced cocktail and a platter of creamy and crunchy bites is never a bad start.
French Onion Grilled Cheese you ask? The answer is yes. All the goodness of French Onion Soup retrofitted into a toasty sandwich.
The Spicy Shrimp Risotto was a funky combination of sweet and spicy thanks to its yellow curry. Creamy risotto with the charred shrimp found common ground in the velvetteen sauce dotted with chili oil. You'll be asking your server to pass the bread to best reel in this saucy minx.
Dessert was an equally compelling blend of cream and crunch. Caramel and crushed pistachio brought it home.
The lunch menu also includes Cacio e Pepe Naan, Beef Carpaccio and Crab Cakes. Other sandwiches include a Croque Madam, burger and prime rib sandwich.
For full menu, hours and information about Museum Cafe, click here.
St. Mark's gets menu makeover
Speaking of making changes, chef Kevin Ward has given the menu at St. Mark's Chop Room an overhaul.
Ward, a Coach House Apprenticeship Program grad, is also executive chef for En Croute next door. Both opened a couple of years ago in Nichols Hills Plaza under the direction of Drew Tekell and chef Jonathon Stranger.
Stranger's original menu offered appetizers, small plates and hardy. Ward said he replaced the a la carte approach for traditional entrees at the direction of Stranger and Tekell. He said stretching his culinary skills for the new menu was a nice contrast to duties at En Croute.
"We make a lot of eggs over there (at En Croute), which is great. I love our eggs," Ward joked. "But it was nice to be able to push my skills a little, and I learned a lot of new flavors."
Ward pointed to the Bagna Cauda, a classic Italian hot dip made of ground garlic and anchovies, as a new experience.
"Jonathan told me about that one," he said. "Once I started working on it, I fell in love with it."
And you will, too, if you're a fan of classic European cuisine. The dish is served warm and arrives aromatic and rich. Anchovy lurks just beneath the surface waiting to spring upon your palate to splash it with brine before all that luscious garlic takes hold. It just needs a ride on the torn baguette riding side-saddle. Your move.
For less adventurous palates, Truffle Honey Fried Wings stand ready to swoop in for a landing. Sweet and salty play tag in a on hand-breaded and fried wings. The garlic aioli it's served with is there with good intention, and it is delicious.
But it is unnecessary on these flavor bombs.
That said, it's tasty enough to inspire an order of beef tartare, which comes with beef-fat potato chips. Those chips would be terrific in the lip-smacking sauce.
I also sampled Lobster Pomodoro, Wagyu Tenderloin and Pan Roasted Veal Loin, which were both promising enough for a return visit. Della Terra sweet potato gnocchi slips into a rich ragu where it bumps into an ample supply of lobster ready to kick it until time to fork off.
The veal rides in on a magic carpet made of Barigoule, the classic French preparation of preserved artichokes, garlic and onions. A rich demi corrals the veal, which arrives wearing crispy sweet potato ribbons. Veal sandwiches the ultra-bright Barigoule with the rich demi.
My favorite entree was the Wagyu Tenderloin served on a puree of potatoes with demi and scrumptious wild mushrooms. With enough torn baguette, one could make a very happy plate of it.
The cozy dining room is still home to a well-stocked bar thanks to Tekell's tried and true cocktail-programming skills.
If you want to check out the entire menu before dropping by, click here. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday 5 to 11 p.m. and is available for private parties.
Food Network to air food fight from the 405
Chef Corey “Slawta” Harris of Off the Hook Seafood & More returns to the national television stage on May 7 at 9 p.m. on Food Network.
The broadcast will mark Corey’s second Food Network appearance in three months, but this time he will have to share the air with local chefs Brianna Shear of Packard’s New American Kitchen and Bruce Rinehart of Rococo.
The trio all participated in chef Tyler Florence’s “Bite Club,” which pits local chefs against each other to become Bite Club Champ. The episode, entitled "O.K. Kitchen Corral," places the chefs before a judge’s panel that, for this episode, will include Ludivine chef Russ Johnson and celebrity chef and Oklahoma City native Rick Bayless.
Check with the restaurants for watch party plans. If I hear of any, I will share the news on social media and update this post.
Check back on the blog tomorrow to see who won the recent 405 Fried Chicken Challenge and where to find it for dinner, a sneak peak at food from Stitch Cafe, the newly reopened Red Rooster Bar, barbecue from Fatty's Smokehouse, and a preview of Cinco de Mayo downtown.