East meets Western 

Pachinko combines not only Peruvian and Japanese flavors but culinary lessons learned by its chefs.

click to enlarge The Lomo Saltado roll.

Berlin Green

The Lomo Saltado roll.

East of the prime meridian and south of the equator are the cuisines that inform Pachinko’s delectable clash of flavors.

The concept, 7204 N Western Ave., opened without fanfare this month in Nichols Hills.

“So this is almost like a Pachinko Parlor and The Crown Room had a baby,” Executive Chef Eric Smith said.

“My style as a chef in a fine dining application has always been Asian fusion,” Smith said. “It’s just taking flavors of Asia and using French cooking technique. I became fascinated with that. It’s just always been my thing,” Smith said.

click to enlarge Chef Eric Smith and Marc Cline - BERLIN GREEN
  • Berlin Green
  • Chef Eric Smith and Marc Cline

Smith was the fifth apprentice at The Coach House and then moved to Chicago where he owned restaurant concepts for 13 years. He took inspiration from Ming Tsai whose fusion cooking style inspired the Food Network show East Meets West as well as the cookbook Blue Ginger. He is also the executive chef for The Crown Room, 4200 N Western Ave., that operates as a single private table. Many of its entrees are influenced by Asian cuisine. That influence will also spread to Dynasty, a similar concept that will be accessed from the rear of Pachinko.

“There’ll be a live edge bar that wraps around and then they’ll sit bar top. It’ll be omakase-style, so chef will prepare whatever you want, just like in The Crown Room, but do it right in front of you. We’ll have a bar here and there’ll be a private bartender,” managing partner Marc Cline said.

Omakase means “I leave it up to you,” which means the chef selects what dishes are served. A similar concept is currently listed on the Pachinko menu as “I Don’t Give a F@%$,” which is priced at $200 per person and ends when you tell the chef to stop bringing food. Smith said 11 people went that route on a recent Saturday night.

“I’ve gone to cities and I’ve had the really nice fine dining where it’s bigger spots and I’ve had the fine dining where it’s super-exclusive and eclectic and intimate and I enjoy that better. I think Eric enjoys that better. So it’s definitely something we want to bring to the city because there’s not enough of it here,” Cline said.

“Eighty-five percent of our Crown Room customers come from a pitching wedge from here, so it’s always good to go into the neighborhood where your clientele is,” he said.

“For lack of a better example, Oklahoma City does not have a Nobu or an Uchi type of place. So that was our mission. Blend the two concepts. Sort of chef-driven, bringing the cousin chefs back, and then fill the niche,” Smith said.

Nobu is named after its chef, Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, who became renowned for the same cultural influences served at Pachinko.

Smith said that there’s a large Peruvian and Japanese crossover due to immigration policies at the turn of the 20th century.

click to enlarge Pachinko's Purple Drank - BERLIN GREEN
  • Berlin Green
  • Pachinko's Purple Drank

“At some point, they said, ‘Okay, you guys do ceviches and we do these maki rolls from back home. Let’s merge it.’ It’s called Nikkei. It’s Peruvian-Japanese cuisine. Right now, right this minute, there are 100,000 full blooded Japanese people living in Peru,” he said.

“Nikkei as a cuisine has just as much or more Japanese in it as Peruvian. So there’s some core things. There’s a sauce called huancaina sauce that Peruvians use a lot that has evaporated milk, peppers and saltine crackers, believe it or not. It’s amazing. But so when you start sprinkling those in there, and then we’ve done some really angular stuff, like we have a roll that sells quite a lot here called “Lomo Saltado.” For some reason, Peruvians are obsessed with Chinese stir fry. They’re also obsessed with French fries. So Chinese stir fry is on a lot of menus there and they serve French fries with it, believe it or not. So we have a roll that’s got the components of beef stir fry with a stir fry sauce on it with micro French fries sprinkled all over it.”

If that sounds familiar, it’s because Eric Smith and Avery Cannon opened Pachinko Parlor, a cult favorite restaurant on 9th Street years before the Automobile Alley restoration. It closed in 2012 but locals still referenced it fondly until it reemerged in 2019 as a concept inside Parlor, 11 NE Sixth St., a short walk from its original location.

“We wanted to bring a little bit of the angular Peruvian influence in Japan, and then Pachinko Parlor has always been these sort of offbeat rolls. So we’re doing offbeat rolls, but with Peru chiming in there,” Smith said.

“Pachinko is a recognizable brand in our city and it’s our company, so why not? It’s a two-word name and I couldn’t call it Parlor,” Smith laughs.

Cannon — who is responsible for the flavor combinations in the Pachinko Parlor rolls as well as those in Empire Slice House pies — acts as the sous chef at Pachinko, Smith said.

“Avery and I call Pachinko Parlor, the original one, the Big Star of restaurants. The best that never was,” Smith said, referencing an American 70s rock band that had a cult following but never broke through to major commercial success.

click to enlarge Bella Delgado serves up Pachinko desserts. - BERLIN GREEN
  • Berlin Green
  • Bella Delgado serves up Pachinko desserts.

They’re both making up for missed opportunities with the current menu, which features sashimi and nigiri topped with wagyu beef and foie gras among other flavor combinations.

As expected, seafood is the central ingredient to most of the dishes, from the Japanese carpaccio plate to the chilean sea bass served two ways.

Smith was pleasantly surprised that he’s able to get the quality of tuna flown into the state four days a week from Los Angeles.

“In a landlocked state, I can order some tuna right now and it will be packed in dry sitting in front of the restaurant before 11 a.m.,” he said.

Smith, who owned and operated Sara Sara Cupcakes and Pierre Pierre Creperie for years, has immediately pivoted to Pachinko’s caviar program since he already turned his dessert slate over to Bella Delgado of Que Bella.

“She specializes in gluten free and vegan stuff because she’s celiac but our desserts are fully leaded. Our desserts are as good as anything you’ll have, and she’s been a big part of that because she’s so consistent. … My preferred one—and the fan favorite—is the pineapple and five-spice croissant bread pudding with purple yam ice cream,” Smith said.

click to enlarge The pineapple and five-spice croissant bread pudding with purple yam ice cream. - BERLIN GREEN
  • Berlin Green
  • The pineapple and five-spice croissant bread pudding with purple yam ice cream.

Pachinko is open by reservation only. Book seats through OpenTable.

“We take care of everybody that shows up and give them the experience that they’re expecting when they come in. That’s difficult when you have a line out the door,” Cline said.

After three decades in the kitchen, Smith isn’t tired of getting his hands dirty.

“The work, the culture. I love everything about it.”

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