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
Bellini’s Ristorante & Grill
6305 Waterford Blvd.
What works: Great service in a charming atmosphere.
What needs work: One dish’s flavor was subtle to a fault.
The tip: Go with the daily specials using local, in-season produce.
What do Tori Amos and Gov. Mary Fallin have in common? According to Bellini’s website, both have dined at the upscale Italian bistro.
Name-dropping doesn’t end with these ladies: Mick Jagger and Sir Paul McCartney also have visited the restaurant.
It’s a ritzy joint in a classy neighborhood. Located in the Waterford Properties office and residential complex, the restaurant feeds many from a power center that includes banking, communications and medical services. The Chesapeake Energy campus is nearby, as well. Bellini’s parking is off-street in the complex’s covered garage.
In November, the 22-year-old restaurant was bought by brothers Michel and Alain Buthion of La Baguette fame.
“It’s a grand restaurant,” said Michel Buthion, “and we’re doing only a few things to make it better with some new dishes and a great staff.”
One area they’re tweaking is the beautiful patio, but during our visit nothing could help the 100-degree temperature.
We took a seconds-long look outdoors and headed straight for the cool, dimly lit bar inside. It was a tranquil retreat with soft jazz playing and the murmur of conversations. Inside you also get a glimpse of the wine collection in floor-to-ceiling glass cases.
There’s an emerald-colored light panel under the teak bar top, giving the room a relaxing green glow. Bellini’s self-titled signature cocktail is a frozen concoction of sparkling wine, peach nectar and rum that couldn’t have been more welcome on a sweltering evening. During the third week of each month, cocktails are half-price, making this frosty libation an unexpected bargain at $3.50.
Dinner is served in a stylishly modern room with tables set well apart. Decor is contemporary and attractive. The setting sun found a gap in the too-short window shade, beaming right into my dining companion’s eyes.
Before I could trade places with her and without saying a word to anyone, bartender Jake Manning observed the annoyance and came to the rescue. He used a propped-up wine list to plug the gap. It was one of those small but memorable examples of excellent service with a smile.
Bellini’s manager Mike Potts stopped by to see if everything was OK and suggested the Funghi Misti antipasti course ($11). It was a sauteed toss of fresh mushrooms in herbs and garlic with porcini crostini.
The savory plate with garlic bread tasted good, but given do-overs I probably would have had another couple of frozen Bellini cocktails instead.
Casa Di Bellini insalate accompanied my companion’s baked salmon ($24). It was an appealingly presented rectangular bowl of greens topped with enormous cucumber slices and ripe olives flanked by cherry tomatoes and marble-sized mozzarella bits. The salad was dressed with a pleasing citrus vinaigrette.
I chose the chef’s soup du jour, Oklahoma squash bisque ($5). It was the best dish of the evening. The yellow gourd tasted as if it had been pulled off its vine earlier in the day, then smothered in creamy goodness.
Our server suggested grilled lamb sirloin ($24), and I probably should have listened.
Instead, I insisted on cheese ravioli ($19) with lump crab meat in lemonthyme cream. It was disappointingly bland. The sauce lacked bold flavor and begged for a dose of freshly ground black pepper, a fistful of fresh basil or something. Perfect for a delicate palate, although I found it subtle to a fault.
Happily, the baked salmon with Parmesan crust and simple pomodoro sauce on a bed of risotto proved to be a hit, so all was right with the world.
Desserts were offered and not surprisingly, several selections came from the allied La Baguette bakery. The daily dessert special was an Oklahoma blueberry milkshake, which was inventive and tasty.