Dining Out: Four stars for Michael V's
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
SCOTT CHERRY - Tulsa World Scene Writer
Opening a new fine-dining restaurant anywhere in the Tulsa area at any time is a dicey proposition. Some probably would have given Carol and Michael Minden lower than normal odds when they launched Michael V’s restaurant, tucked away in a corner spot in the new Palazzo Shopping Center, in January 2006.
The center was located in front of the Starworld 20 movie theater, but the restaurant was not visible from the cinema or from the busy traffic corridor on Memorial Drive just south of 101st Street. The area is loaded with restaurants and businesses today, but it wasn’t seven years ago.
“We knew what was being planned here,” Michael Minden said. “We knew the SpiritBank (Event) Center was coming. We knew the shopping was coming. We knew this ZIP code had one of the highest personal incomes in town.”
“Business has been better every year,” Carol added. “Even when the economy was down, we held our own. The demographics are good for us.” Or maybe Michael V’s is good for the demographics.
The veteran restaurateurs — Carol is a former food and beverage director for Doubletree, and Michael’s lengthy chef resume includes stints at Disney properties, a Georgia island resort and locally at The Chalkboard and his own Back Street Bistro in Jenks — know how to run a fine-dining operation.
We visited with friends on a recent weeknight, and after sharing a few soups, salads and appetizers, we ordered steak Diane ($31), halibut Oscar ($32), tenderloin ravioli stacker ($32) and grilled halibut ($29).
The stacker had a lot going on flavor-wise as each item perfectly complemented the others. It included an 8-ounce filet mignon sitting on top of a fried spinach ravioli, both on a bed of red pepper marinara cream sauce. The dish was topped with sauteed mushrooms, wilted spinach and onion strings. Both halibut dishes were memorable. The Oscar had a traditional topping of crab meat, asparagus and Béarnaise sauce, and the grilled halibut was pistachio-encrusted and topped with a raspberry chipotle drizzle. The grilled halibut preparation may change nightly.
The steak Diane, another classic dish, featured fork-tender tenderloin medallions that had been pan-seared and topped with a brandy mushroom and Dijon demi-glace.
Among our starters were a wonderful, light-orange, creamy lobster bisque ($6) loaded with lobster and crab meat; fried artichoke hearts served with a tasty cilantro horseradish dipping sauce; and an apricot-glazed baked Brie cheese ($10) topped with sliced almonds and served with pita chips, flatbread and fresh fruit.
A special that night was a smoky, fried Caesar salad ($7) with house Caesar dressing, roasted garlic, fried capers and Asiago cheese crisp.
Coconut cream pie ($5.50) and creme brulee ($5.50) were flawless desserts.
Since sustaining a heart attack a few years ago, Minden has been cooking with no salt and as little fat as possible, allowing herbs and spices to carry the day. He even has a “fitter foods” section with ahi tuna, salmon and roasted chicken entrees that are low in calories, fat and sodium. “I’m no dietitian, but these are about as healthy as I can make them,” Minden said. “I also can accommodate gluten-free diners.”
Our server, Adam, showed excellent knowledge of the wine list, cocktails and menu.
The smooth Augie Tedesco has been Minden’s right-hand man in the dining room for decades.
In addition to the regular dining area, Michael V’s has a 120-seat banquet room that can be split into two rooms for private functions.
Dining Out: Royal feasting
By SCOTT CHERRY
World Staff Writer
It is said that veal Oscar was named in honor of King Oscar II, the king of both Sweden and Norway in the late 1800s who was purported to have been fond of the ingredients.
We recently found that dish, and many others as well, to be fit for a king at the new Michael V's Restaurant & Bar, the latest venture for chef Michael Minden and his wife Carol.
We visited Michael V's on a recent Saturday night, along with a group of friends from high-school days, a happy coincidence that allowed me to sample a variety of dishes, beginning with that veal Oscar ($20).
Minden gives it a traditional preparation -- sauteed with crab meat, asparagus spears and bearnaise sauce -- with flawless results. The creamy white, thin slices of veal were greatly enhanced by the buttery sauce, crab and the tender but still firm asparagus.
Good as the veal was, I think I enjoyed a couple of other selections even more, such as the pan-seared tilapia ($21).
Tilapia is a modest, mild fish that has become as common as salt shakers around town. What made this one uncommonly tasty was the topping of sauteed shrimp, artichoke hearts, mushrooms and fresh spinach, all held together with a lovely lobster cream sauce. The melding of these flavors was heavenly.
Our friend Fred ordered that dish, and as luck would have it, he also ordered an appetizer of mussels ($6), the other most memorable selection of the evening. That pretty well solidifies the seating chart for future gatherings, if I have my druthers.
The half-dozen chewy little mussels in their big black shells were lounging in a bowl of fabulous saffron-tomato broth, which also included the likes of tarragon, chicken stock, shallots, garlic and onions. It was as delicate as a rose petal, and I couldn't help but notice our friend had employed bread pieces to buff the bottom of the bowl to an immaculate shine.
Other winners included pecan chicken ($16), which had been pan-fried and finished with fire-roasted apples (the apples carried this dish to another level); char-grilled pork chop ($18), its ribs sticking out from a 2-inch-thick cut, covered with a tangy house-made barbecue sauce and caramelized onions; and a golden lobster bisque ($5), thick and creamy and filled with little chunks of lobster.
We also devoured the skillet potato nachos ($5), about 10 small, round baked potatoes covered with bacon, cheddar cheese, chives and sour cream, and served in a little iron skillet; crab cakes ($9), served on a bed of tomato chutney with citrus aioli; fried artichoke hearts ($7), lightly breaded, fried to a golden color and served with cilantro-horseradish sauce; and baked brie ($9) flavored with an apricot glaze.
The kitchen staff will cook to order, if possible. Marcia, our social director for the evening, ordered her tilapia unadorned, and a couple of others asked for sauce-and-meat combinations that differed from the menu. Each dish arrived beautifully, as ordered.
Entrees come with predetermined sides, usually two, and on this night were some mix of wild rice, mashed potatoes with bacon bits, fried onion strings and sauteed veggies.
Salads were medium-sized but more than adequate as a side dish. They were bargain-priced at $3 to $4, and each had something going for it. It was feta cheese, kalamata olives and sunflower seeds for the Mediterranean; roasted garlic, fried capers and asiago cheese for the Caesar; fried peaches and gorgonzola vinaigrette for the spinach, and sun-dried cherries, candied pecans and crumbled goat cheese for Michael's signature salad.
Minden said he hopes to attract moviegoers from the nearby Starworld 20 theater for dessert and/or drinks. The house-made desserts -- almost a rarity these days -- were outstanding, and all eight were priced at $5.
Chocolate bread pudding, with chocolate-caramel sauce and candied pecans, was warm and gooey and wonderful, with strawberries and whipped cream on the side.
Baked apples in the apple pie still were steaming hot 10 minutes after they reached the table, but when they finally cooled, the flavor when paired with sundried strawberries was terrific. Also nice was the creme brulee, with cool custard under a crinkly, seared-sugar top.
The lunch menu is heavy on sandwiches, wraps and salads, but also offers seven entrees, from chicken-fried steak and meatloaf to petite filet mignon.
Michael V's offers full bar service and a selection of 37 wines, including 19 reds, 12 whites and five sparklers.
Our server, Billy, was knowledgeable, helpful and cooly efficient. He also was quick to refold napkins when someone left the table and tidied up the white tablecloth with a crumb brush when needed.
The cozy bar area provides the most striking visual aspect of the restaurant with a fireplace, a dry-stack stone bar topped with smooth granite and a barback of mirrors and glass block imbedded with ever-changing fiber-optic lights.
The bar has a coffered ceiling with a network of wood beams, while the dining area, which seats 85, sits under cinnamon-colored tray ceilings. Faux-finished walls are decorated with whimsical Guy Buffet pictures, and floors are stained concrete in a marble-like pattern.
The restaurant also has two banquet rooms that can be combined to seat 120. These rooms have a dedicated entrance and bathroom.
Minden said guests are welcome to ask for a tour of the kitchen, which he designed.
Michael V's, which opened Jan. 16, is located in a corner spot of the Palazzo Shopping Center at 103rd Street and Memorial Drive.