We know. It’s hot. It’s summer in Oklahoma. Cool down by sampling cocktails that local bars and restaurants have concocted just for you. Find a nice, air conditioned space or a shaded patio and while away the hours drinking the flavors of summer. You might decide it’s not that bad after all.
— by Devon Green, photos by Mark Hancock, Shannon Cornman and Lauren Hamilton
There are a wealth of new local eateries cropping up in the metro and even more coming. If they’re not on your radar, they should be. From the comfy atmosphere at The Barrel on Western Avenue to the laid-back vibe at the Plaza District’s coffee shop, you might find a new regular hangout.
— by Devon Green, photos by Mark Hancock and Shannon Cornman
There’s a lot of stock put into image with sushi joint In the Raw. From the highly marketable and perfectly suited name, to the refined-but-fun interior and the elegantly simple sashimi, it’s an attractive, stylish place.
Placed right on the rim of the canal in Lower Bricktown, the patio overlooks the water. Inside the glass front façade is an open-concept restaurant with bold art, broad splashes of color and a huge sushi bar that becomes the center of attention due to the chefs’ knife cuts and equally sharp wit and banter. General Manager Tony Lachance believes the atmosphere creates something more than your standard dining experience.
“It’s fun, filled with art and a big open restaurant, so it keeps people talkative with each other,” he said.
“You can see the whole place, and when you come at night, it’s almost a party-like atmosphere.”
The center of the party is most certainly the sushi, however, and it’s here that the OKC spot really sets itself apart from not only its fellow franchises, but also other metro sushi offerings. Here, there is a specialty sushi roll menu — courtesy of chef Ashley Nguyen.
“She’s the one that makes the biggest difference,” Lachance said.
Among the specialty rolls are popular choices like the Thunder roll ($15.95), done with a golden trio of salmon, tuna and yellowtail, along with masago, tempura shrimp, crab salad and eel sauce (among other ingredients), and the Mountain roll ($14.95) that is built with a healthy helping of crab and tempura shrimp, spicy garlic mayo, scallions and bright, raw jalapeño.
The Rock Star roll ($14.95) is another standout. It’s a delicious mess of umpteen ingredients including crab, tuna, salmon, spicy mayo and bacon that would seemingly muck up an otherwise tasty piece of fish, but instead just build and build into a memorable and instantly addicting mouthful of food. The masago especially — which is essentially caviars’ fun, rave-orange colored cousin — brings a nice, fishy punch firing below the surface.
There are plenty of other rolls that you will find on the regular menu, like the Some Like It Hot ($8.25), a spicy concoction of tuna, a kicking habanero sauce and an extra dollop of wasabi.
There’s also the Oh My Goodness ($8.50), a sea-wide gathering of fried soft-shell crab, yellowtail and salmon with a creamy avocado.
With what Lachance calls the “freshest fish in the area,” the sashimi menu — with options like halibut ($6.50), octopus ($4.50) and sea urchin ($8) — is a point of pride.
“We really pride ourselves on the fish. We get it overnight, flown two to three times a week from Hawaii,” he said. “Most people appreciate that our fish is the freshest when we put (it) on a roll. When they come in, it’s something they notice right off the bat.”
Although certainly high quality — and with a strikingly simple and lovely presentation — the sashimi (and even the standard rolls) pale in comparison to Nguyen’s specialty rolls, and they are truly the best example of what the restaurant has to offer.
For those still wary of giving sushi the old college try, there’s a stellar selection of other Asian and American fare to enjoy. There’s the simple but still scrumptious edamame ($5.50) and the tasty pork gyoza dumplings ($5.50) for starters, plus high-end dinner entrées like the macadamia nut halibut ($25.50), a hearty pepper filet ($28) served with an earthy portobello demi-glace and a fun and tangy wasabi mashed potato. There’s also fried rice, wraps and tacos to be had.
To really start the party, In the Raw offers a full assortment of sake ($6 to $45) — the sushi bar staff is known to join in on sake bombs — as well as plenty of beer offerings. And to cap off the meal, there’s a sensuous dessert collection, including the sweet and sizzling tempura fried bananas ($6.50).
All in all, it’s a special, sophisticated experience that In the Raw offers, and the style takes a backseat to the sushi.
Photo by Shannon Cornman
Oklahoma Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or service when appropriate.