You might be wondering what I was doing in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the first place. I was going to see two of my favorite bands at the BOK center. Primus and Tool were touring together and it was an absolute necessity to attend the concert as it seemed highly unlikely that I’d have another opportunity to see both bands in the same place at the same time. There was actually a closer concert than the BOK center, and that would have been in Kansas City at the Sprint Center. Not only did tickets sell out ludicrously fast for the KC show, that particular venue’s wonky sound quality and frightening seats (at least for this particular foodie who suffers from a rather extreme case acrophobia) compelled us to look elsewhere.
We settled on Tulsa, which is about a three hour voyage across southern Kansas and Northern Oklahoma. As is our habit we began to investigate the local food scene searching for some sensational pre-show deliciousness. Our research led us to Phryme, which is listed on the 2016 Best of Economic Development in Oklahoma as one of the three best restaurants in the state. We were not disappointed, but before the food comes the history.
Prhyme Location and Background
Built in August of 2012, and consisting of roughly 20,000 square feet, Phryme is located at 111 N. Main St. E. It is a prime location (pardon my pun). Set in the Brady district of downtown Tulsa, one quick Uber from Phryme gets you to multiple down town hotels, various bars, a mysterious speakeasy located behind a green door in a random alley, and the BOK Center. Chef/Owner Justin Thompson certainly knew what he was doing when he selected the location.
We would expect Justin to know where to build, as is he an Oklahoma native. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Oklahoma in 2002. Justin is chef/owner at Juniper Restaurant and Martini Lounges. He was the executive chef at Duke’s Southern Kitchen, Sonomo Bistro and Wine Bar, The Brasserie Restaurant and Bar, and Ciao Baby. His culinary experiences in the Tulsa area must have played a role in the choice of location, and the brilliant seasonally shifting menu. It is truly upscale dining with a down to earth ambiance.
I say down to earth as we were not dressed for fine dining, quite the contrary. We arrived early for our reservation in jeans and band shirts and hoodies hoping we could kill some time at the bar before our table was ready. No one seemed to find this strange or offensive. The only person who looked twice was our server. He made note of our attire and proceeded to tell us that Les Claypool and several members of Tool had been seated just a few tables down from our seats the evening before. This single statement somehow solidified the entire weekend as an epic event. If only we’d come on Friday!
We were the first customers to arrive for the dinner service and were immediately seated (no bar for us) by a large, west-facing window. I loved the seating selection. Natural light radiated into the dining room and gleamed off of the clean surfaces and glassware laid out in anticipation of dinner service. So often I’ve found that fine dining establishments have dimly lit interiors. I suppose this is intentional and meant to be romantic, but it makes for abysmal photography. The interior was well designed in a crisp contemporary fashion much in keeping with the “upscale, modern American Dining” description so proudly posted on their website. The more I looked around, the more eager I became to see the menu.
We’d read through the menu several times online, and let me tell you that making a choice on the appetizers was incredibly difficult. They offered seared foie gras which included chanterelles, a Madeira reduction, fig chutney, and pistachio crumble on brioche toast. Also on the menu steak tartare complete with Dijon, capers, eggs, and cornichons on crostini. They had crab cakes, oysters, shrimp cocktail, jumbo lump crab cocktail, cured meats and cheeses, a seafood sampler, and caviar and roe. All of this, and I was torn between the escargot and the blackened Ahi tuna. The deciding factor was that I’d just eaten at Yuki, my favorite sushi place, the weekend before and had tuna.
The escargot could not have been a better choice. I’ve never seen them prepared in the way that Pryhme serves them. The escargot are first poached in white wine and butter, which is a traditional method. Then, they are dipped in buttermilk and lightly breaded with mixture of flour, kosher salt, and fresh parsley and fried just long enough for the breading to get crisp and golden. They were perfectly tender and juicy on the inside, but crispy on the outside. Each bite melted across the tongue like salted butter. The small mountain of snails is served with an herbed lemon aioli, which seemed to me to have just a hint of horseradish mixed in amongst the lemon juice and zest. Those did not last long at all, and we looked forward to the rest of the meal with heightened anticipation.
The entrée list was overwhelming. Everything sounded wonderful. What I especially liked was that they offered petite plates. Sometimes when I’m dining I want to sample everything and that doesn’t always leave room for a huge entrée. The petite plates included a chilled lobster Nicoise salad, Australian lamb chops, and a honey glazed pork loin (with potato and fennel salad). They also offer a surf and turf consisting of tenderloin medallions and your choice of shrimp, scallops, or lobster which I found very tempting indeed.
Phryme offers a variety of beef, and cuts of meat. Anything from USDA Prime, to Dry Aged, to natural grass fed each with its own unique flavor and texture as our server was proud to wax eloquent on for several minutes as we perused the menu. They offer a petite filet mignon, a tenderloin filet, a grass fed tenderloin filet, a New York strip, a thirty day aged New York strip, a sixteen ounce rib-eye, a thirty day dry aged eighteen ounce rib-eye, and a veal T-bone. We originally debated splitting the eighteen ounce rib eye, but had different tastes the night we were there.
If you are not in a beefy mood when you visit they have a selection of other items. The garlic herb pork rib chop comes with a parsnip and potato croquette and veggies. Then there are several poultry dishes including an apple wood smoked duck breast, and a stuffed double breast of chicken with Neufchatel, rosemary, and chanterelle mushrooms swimming in a Dijon Riesling Reduction with some smashed potatoes. They also have some seafood including a seared king salmon filet, brown butter bacon scallops, and cold-water lobster gnocchi. If you can’t make up your mind after drooling over the selections you can opt for a mixed grill that gives you a choice of three items from a list made up of the tenderloin filet, lamb chop, pork loin, shrimp, salmon filet, or scallops.
My husband ordered the ten ounce prime tenderloin filet with a serving of the house foie gras draped over the top of it like a magical blanket of umami. This was a standalone dish so he selected one of the notable accessories available. Choices include garlic smashed red potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, potato gratin, haricots verts (basically fancy green beans), pommes frites (French fries), sweet corn maque choux (a traditional southern dish consisting of corn and peppers and onion all braised together with oil or a fatty component like bacon grease or cream), bacon butter Brussels sprouts, spicy mac n’ cheese gratin, asparagus with fried egg and gruyere, or onion rings. He went after the brussel sprouts and was not disappointed. They arrived perfectly cooked with a nice caramelized exterior and the perfect amount of salty bacon to accompany them.
I, on the other hand, went after the half rack of New Zealand lamb chops which came with mashed white beans, and very lightly sautéed spinach and red cabbage. Sometimes their chops come from Australia, by the way. The menu shifts around each season as different items become available. To which end I say, God bless the farm to table movement and all the joy it provides to our taste buds.
Everything was so delicious, I hate to dwell on anything negative, but I will add in here one of the disappointments of our dining experience. The first attempt at our entrees was not acceptable. The filet and the chops were over, and when I say over what I mean is we ordered medium rare and received done. I was shocked. My husband was shocked. The waiter was shocked and appalled and without even really being asked whisked the offending dishes away. The kitchen re-fired both plates. I think what happened was that, having arrived early, we were in such leisurely mood that we had said they could take their time. The kitchen staff allowed the food to over-rest. The waiter assured us they take the temperature as opposed to determining doneness by feel and was extremely apologetic. The second attempt was flawless, but the experience unfortunately left me somewhat hesitant about dessert.
I did not look at the desert menu until after our visit because I’d assumed I’d be too full to eat more, but you know me and crème brûlée! Past experiences with this delicate dish led to me having a very serious discussion with the server about dessert. I told him I didn’t want dessert unless they had crème brûlée. He said they had it and began touting the wondrous qualities of the macerated berries served on top. To which I bluntly stated that I didn’t care about the toppings. I wanted to know about the quality of the custard and the quality of the sugar coating. He assured me I would not be disappointed. He was mostly correct.
The brûlée arrived quickly. The custard was firm, and not remotely watery. It was also clear. And, this is important to me, that they’d used real vanilla bean. I can understand a light hand on vanilla since it is expensive, but unfortunately this one was just too light for my taste. I could barely detect the vanilla. The sugar coating was perfect though! Nice and even; the perfect thickness to the amount of custard. Ironically, the berries that the server had been applauding consisted of over-ripe raspberries that gave an odd moldy kind of flavor to the entire dish and I wound up pushing them completely off the plate and just diving through the creamy lusciousness of my favorite dessert.
If you aren’t searching the world for the perfect crème brûlée, they offer other desserts. If you are hungry for chocolate, they have a chocolate pie with an Oreo crust and a dark chocolate mousse, chocolate crumble, and chocolate whipped cream. The have a white chocolate mousse pie, carrot cake, a peanut butter and jelly parfait, and a chocolate midnight cake. If you aren’t a big sweet tooth or are just in the mood for a more savory end to your meal they also offer a cheese board with a seasonal fruit compote, spiced honey, candied nuts, and crostini with your choice of three or five cheeses.
Along with all the desserts there’s a dessert drink menu. After some discussion on the quality of their options, my husband had his usual port wine, which he reported as wonderful, while he snitched bites of my brûlée.
The wine list was almost as good as promised on their website, and was certainly extensive. I won’t go over the entire nineteen pages of beverages available from the Pryhme bar. I just wanted to add a quick final thought about the disadvantage of preferring white wine in the midst of a steak house. I love Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris. I have a hard time following the old adages surrounding what wine you should drink with what type of protein. For me, reds are typically too earthy and dry. I am trying to expand my pallet, I truly am. I also fully understand flavor pairings and the reasons behind them, but when I’m out and about I want what I like and I want a lot of it.
In the case of Phryme’s wine list, as extensive as it was, I was limited to five options, none of them on my favorites list. I went with the Adelsheim, not because I’d had it before but because I knew where it came from which happens to be the Willamette Valley, an area that I’d visited about a year ago during my visit to Portland. Granted, Willamette is better known for its Pinot Noir, but the Gris is generally nice. I wasn’t disappointed in my choice, just disappointed in the selection. I also thought it was odd that the Adelsheim was only available in half bottles.
My husband, with his penchant for cabernet, had a much larger selection to choose from. He enjoyed a long and in depth discussion on the topic of cabs with the server. The server was very knowledgeable about the wines as he had been about every aspect of the menu. He even offered my husband a sample of his favorite cabernet.
- Adelsheim Vineyard - Oregon Wine at its best
Adelsheim Vineyard is a top Oregon winery in the Willamette Valley in the Chehalem Mountains AVA producing Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Pinot gris, Auxerrois, Pinot blanc, Syrah.
Pryhme Steakhouse Website
- PRHYME: Downtown Steakhouse - Fine Dining in Downtown Tulsa
Located in downtown Tulsa’s Brady District, PRHYME Downtown Steakhouse introduces an upscale, modern interpretation of an American steakhouse.
Our visit to Phryme kicked off an evening with scent and flavor that would continue to escalate in waves of sensory input culminating in the sounds of the greatest concert I’ve ever attended. Phryme has taken pride of place as the best steakhouse I’ve ever visited, and I hope to return if for no other reason than to give that blackened tuna a try. It was worth the long drive and was a truly exceptional journey. If you are ever in the vicinity, I highly recommend investigating it on your own. Very impressive, Tulsa.