Te Kei's: Mind-bending burger comes out of Chinese-Asian kitchen
BY SCOTT CHERRY World Restaurant Critic
Thursday, November 15, 2012
3/28/13 at 7:58 AM
What with all the great old burger spots in town and the recent influx of new ones popping up, I was caught off guard recently when I ran across the most mind-bending burger of the year at one of the least likely spots - Te Kei's Chinese-Asian Kitchen.
In particular, it was the Kung Pao burger, or No. 2 on Te Kei's specialty menu. In general, it was an umami (oo-mah-mee) burger.
"It's the new big thing on the West Coast," said Damon Holdeman, Te Kei's executive chef-general manager.
Umami seems impossible to describe. In Japanese culture, it's considered to be the fifth taste, after sweet, sour, bitter and salty. The Umami Burger chain in southern California has built the idea into a hot commodity, loading up burgers with all kinds of exotic rubs, marinades, sauces and toppings.
Whatever umami is, if that's what the Kung Pao ($7.99) has, I'm a believer.
It started with a 1/3-pound ground beef patty topped with mushrooms, red bell peppers and white onions stir-fried with a Kung Pao sauce (cilantro, wasabi) and peanuts. A corn-dusted bun was slathered with cilantro aioli and wasabi sauce, and butter lettuce was the final addition.
With all the wasabi, I expected it to be hot, but it wasn't, and the flavors melded amazingly.
"Great balance," Holdeman said. "It tastes like a regular burger and at the same time like an Asian burger." He was correct.
Our original intent was to take a look at Te Kei's on its 10th anniversary, and we did that, too, even with the burger knocking us off kilter for a moment.
We shared a Beverly Hills roll ($6.95) and an order of potstickers ($7.45) before deciding on our entrees, tempura shrimp ($12.95) and ginger basil chicken ($12.95).
The sauces and dressings on the latter three dishes made each of them something special.
With the six potstickers - steamed dumplings filled with chicken, garlic, ginger and onion, then pan-seared - it was a super creamy soy-cream sauce that was outstanding.
A sweet chili-mint vinaigrette was a striking accent to go with a generous number of shrimp fried in a light tempura batter and served on a bed of spring lettuces lightly dressed with Caesar dressing.
A ginger basil cream sauce was tasty enough by itself, and it was perfect with a mix of tempura chicken, broccoli, mushrooms, red bell peppers and green onions. The chunks of chicken were larger than bite-sized, and the leftovers made a full lunch the next day.
The Beverly Hills roll was fine, filled with crab, avocado, cucumbers, cream cheese and sesame seeds, but we had to ask for some soy sauce to stir in with the wasabi.
Te Kei's offers a large selection of appetizers, salads, soups, rice bowls, noodle bowls, sushi, desserts and specialty dishes. A children's menu includes six entrees for $5.25 each.
Te Kei's also has $10 lunch specials (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) with an entree, spring roll and soft drink, as well as 10 dinner entrees for $10 each. Children dine free on Sundays through the end of November.
The restaurant has full bar service, including sake, plum wines and specialty drinks.
Our server, Mark, was informative and efficient.
The dining rooms have maintained an appealing ambience with slanted sandstone walls, all kinds of curvy spaces, bamboo, pine cone-shaped lights, imported hand-carved woods, a life-size samurai statue and a 6-foot stone Ganesh.
1616 S. Utica Ave.
(on a scale of 0 to 4 stars)
11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday-
Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Friday-Saturday; accepts all
major credit cards.
Original Print Headline: Mind-bender
Scott Cherry 918-581-8463
The umami-style Kung Pao burger is a ground beef patty, mushrooms, red bell peppers and white onions stir-fried with wasabi-cilantro sauce and peanuts. A corn-dusted hamburger bun is slathered with cilantro aioli and wasabi sauce. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World
A life-size wooden statue of a samurai warrior greets diners when they enter the restaurant. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World
The interior of Te Kei's includes a lot of curvy areas, slanted walls and imported decorations. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World