Elliot Nelson opens his newest downtown hotspot, Yokozuna.
When I told people where I had just eaten, most said, “What in the world is Yokozuna?”
The newest sibling in Elliot Nelson’s ever-growing restaurant family — which already includes James E. McNellie’s Public House (in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and soon-to-be Norman), El Guapo Mexican Cantina and Dilly Deli — Yokozuna is also the highest rank in sumo wrestling. The name literally means “horizontal rope” and comes from the most visible symbol of wrestlers’ rank, the rope (“tsuna”) worn around the waist before competition.
Hearty-yet-modern Asian fare is featured in the sleek space, extensively remodeled since I last visited. The only remnant from the former tenant, Tsunami Sushi, is the word “sushi” etched into the brick. This fancy Asian downtown spot is dressier than Nelson’s other three restaurants, with huge windows, sleek décor and black-and-white photos of sumo wrestlers adorning the walls.
My sister Mary and I popped in for lunch on a recent chilly afternoon for some steaming bowls of noodles. Since we couldn’t decide what to start with, we opted for the pupu platter, as the menu boasts it is “a sumo-worthy sampling” of Yokozuna’s most popular starters — a pair each of gyoza pork dumplings and spicy chicken wings and a spring roll, summer roll and chicken satay skewer. It was the perfect way to try all of the appetizers and, for $10, quite a bargain.
The spring roll, stuffed with bo ssam pork (Korean boiled pork) and vegetables, was a standout. The tray comes with an assortment of dipping sauces, paired specifically for each bite. I loved the coconut yogurt, which cooled my tongue after the “Wings of the Fire Dragon,’” which were marinated in spicy sriracha chili sauce. Be sure to save those for last.
Yokozuna offers Great Kokina Soup, a spicy broth loaded with chicken and vegetables, by the cup or bowl ($3/$6). A trio of salads includes a Yokozuna house salad ($3/$6), a mixed green salad with caramelized mango ($8) and a bowl of mixed greens topped with crisp Peking duck and daikon radish ($12).
Noodle dishes are the house specialty, and the menu features 10 delicious options. The Glass House ($9, lunch/$12, dinner) features glass noodles with bo ssam pork and charred scallions. The broth is rich but the pork richer — and deliciously crisp, thanks to a quick stir-fry before its dunk in the broth. Stir in a spoonful of chili sauce to make the flavors really pop. Chicken ramen ($8, lunch/$10, dinner) is one of the most popular dishes, and luckily the one my sister chose. Traditional ramen noodles float in meaty chicken broth with Napa cabbage, slivered red onion and sprouts, all topped with a marinated, grilled chicken breast. Hearty and comforting — like you remember from college but way better.
In addition to classic Pacific Rim cuisine, chef Victor D. Melgoza puts an Asian flair on typical American dishes, such as pork chops and filet mignon.
Entrées are only available for dinner, so we weren’t able to try any on our visit, but options include Meiji mignon, an 8-ounce filet mignon with sriacha truffle butter ($28), and Hakuho salmon, ginger- and chili-crusted salmon with soy beurre blanc ($20), both served with melted leek Peruvian purple mashed potatoes. I’m looking forward to trying the Peking duck, sliced duck breast with mandarin pancakes, scallions and hoisin sauce ($20), and the Bo Ssam Stacker, bo ssam pork, candied shrimp and melted leeks ($18), both served with steamed rice.
The popular bar menu features about 20 wines ($22 to $66), some by the glass ($6 to $10), and an assortment of sake (the best in Tulsa), including a half-dozen sparkling varieties and a pair of sake tasting flights ($10/$18). Completing the drink menu are a selection of hot teas and a dozen specialty cocktails. Next time I am definitely going to try the Rising Sun ($7), an Asian Bloody Mary made with Absolut Peppar, soy, wasabi and sriracha chili sauce with a salted rim. Yum!
When we left, I felt like a sumo wrestler with my full belly. After doing a bit of research on sumo, I discovered that since 1789, fewer than 70 wrestlers have attained yokozuna status. Here’s to our newest contender!
309 E. Second St., 508-7676
Cuisine — Asian/Pacific Rim
Setting — Blue Dome District
Chef — Victor D. Melgoza
General Manager — Matt Leland
Owner — Elliot Nelson
Prices — Appetizers, $4-$6; salads and soups, $3-$12; noodles, $7-$12; entrées (dinner only), $12-$28
Credit cards — All major accepted
Hours — Lunch: 11 a.m.–2 p.m., Monday-Friday. Dinner: 5–10 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 5 p.m.–midnight, Friday-Saturday; closed Sunday except for dates of BOK Center events.
Dress — Casual
Noise level — High
Handicapped — Yes
Smoking — No
Parking — Street parking
For more information, including a full lunch and dinner menu, visit www.yokozunatulsa.com.