The Puck stops here
Los Angeles comes to Tulsa in the form of celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s newest restaurant venture, Wolfgang Puck Bistro, newly opened on Brookside.
Bacon-wrapped meatloaf is one of Wolfgang Puck Bistro’s unique takes on classic comfort food.
Before I ever dived into the world of food, I knew of Wolfgang Puck. If you have ever seen the Academy Awards, you probably know that he has catered the big bash for the last 16 years. He is also a best-selling cookbook author, vendor of branded cookware and food products, and syndicated columnist. And if you have ever eaten a gourmet pizza (think toppings such as barbecued chicken or goat cheese), you have him to thank for it.
Puck opened Spago restaurant in 1982 to instant success, where his signature dishes, such as these “haute” pizzas topped with smoked salmon and caviar and Sonoma baby lamb with braised greens and rosemary, put him and his restaurant on foodies’ radar, not only in Los Angeles but also around the world. And the hits just kept on coming — Chinois, Postrio, Cut, Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill and Wolfgang Puck Express. Wolfgang Puck Bistro is the newest of the empire, with only five locations — four in the Los Angeles area and the recently opened spot on Brookside, right here in Tulsa.
Managing Partner Tony Henry (also the owner of Full Moon Café, a shareholder of In The Raw South and partner of The Ivey, as well as the owner of several spots in Oklahoma City) gained control of the Brookside building formerly home to Delta Café shortly before that restaurant closed and wanted to ensure that he found a tenant “that was the best fit for Brookside,” he says.
After turning down many retail and restaurant offers, he daringly picked up the phone one afternoon, following a suggestion from a friend in Los Angeles, and made a call to Wolfgang Puck Worldwide Inc.
Coincidentally, Ron Biskin, the former president of Wolfgang Puck Bistro, a fairly new casual café concept, worked in Dallas for many years and had visited Tulsa several times. They both agreed it would be a nice fit for the area, and the planning began.
The restaurant opened quietly — Henry told me they simply unlocked the doors — to a summer weekend crowd of more than 250 nightly covers. The majority of the menu hails from or was inspired by Puck’s other restaurants, including one well-known salad, an original on Spago’s menu since 1982. The Chinois chicken salad ($8), a large bowl piled high with shredded greens, house-made rotisserie chicken, crispy wontons and a ginger-sesame-honey dressing, and butternut squash soup ($5/$7), a velvety bowl swirled with roasted red pepper puree and chives, are just two of the signature dishes around which Puck built an empire. There are a handful of dishes, however, created specifically for the Tulsa location, including slow-braised short ribs ($15) and a pepper-crusted filet of beef ($26). Henry tells me he and his staff tried more than 50 steaks before settling on a winner, three days before opening.
Other starters include shrimp Louie ($9) and roasted beet salad ($8), as well as just shy of a dozen wood-oven pizzas. We loved the smoked salmon pizza — a Puck classic, topped with thickly sliced house-smoked salmon, dill crème and a scattering of capers and chives ($16). The Spago version, however, includes dollops of caviar — maybe if we were in L.A.
Pastas looked enticing, but we went straight to the entrées. The Viennese beef goulash ($14) is Puck’s mom’s recipe and does not appear on any of his other menus. The richly flavored and super-tender stew came to the table billowing with steam, served over a bed of egg noodles. We also enjoyed the roasted Atlantic salmon filet ($16), a perfectly cooked portion resting on a bed of shaved fennel, frisée and roasted fingerling potatoes and topped with a raw tomato relish.
Whichever of the delicious menu items you try, be sure to leave room for dessert. I am in love with the butterscotch pudding (all desserts, $6), which comes loaded with brown sugar, caramel and whipped cream. Other offerings include double-chocolate bread pudding and a seasonal fruit cobbler.
Dining in one of Wolfgang Puck’s restaurants is no ordinary experience. The staff undergoes rigorous training (the chefs were trained locally as well as in many of Puck’s Los Angeles restaurants) because service is key. The afternoon we visited, chef Richard Schlosberg was in the process of quizzing the wait staff over the flavors of the menu before they lined up for uniform inspection. The staff polished the glasses and wiped the tables to a sparkling shine. If pillows had been involved, I’m sure they would have been fluffed.
If you can’t find the time for a visit, the restaurant offers curbside delivery. Simply call ahead and they will deliver the order to your front seat. And the front patio, which, lucky for Tulsa diners, is air controlled, is available for private parties.
Wolfgang Puck Bistro
3330 S. Peoria Ave., 292-8585
- Cuisine — California-inspired comfort food
- Capacity — 180, including 35 in bar area and 35 to 50 on covered patio
- Setting — Brookside
- Managing partner — Tony Henry
- Chef — Richard Schlosberg
- Sous chef — Kelsey Knouse
- General manager — Davina Howie
- Prices — Appetizers, $5-$11; pizzas and pastas, $9-$16; entrées, $12-$26
- Reservations — Highly suggested
- Credit cards — All major accepted
- Hours — Sunday-Thursday: bar and patio, 4-10 p.m.; dining room, 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday: bar and patio, 4-11 p.m.; dining room, 5-11 p.m.
- Noise level — Moderately high
- Parking – Behind restaurant and on street