REVIEW: French Hen

Steak, augratin potatos and asparagus from the long time favorite eating establishment The French Hen in Tulsa. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World

The French Hen has always been one of my favorite places to go for a special dinner with that special someone.

Nestled in the middle of the Lighthouse Shopping Center, out of view from any street traffic, the French Hen delights the senses with cozy dining alcoves, shiny hardwood floors, elegant ambience, creative food and a general Old World charm.

Kathy Bondy recently became the French Hen’s third owner in 30 years. Terry Turner was at the helm the first 30 years, and the Clark family has owned it the past 10 years.

Bondy, who spent 18 years with McGill’s and most recently headed up corporate catering for Arby’s, had previous ties to the Clarks.

“Dickie (chef Richard Clark) and I had been partners in another restaurant, Table 10, and it turned out the family was ready to sell the French Hen at the same time I was looking for another challenge,” Bondy said. “Arby’s was wonderful to work for, but restaurants are in my blood.”

Bondy took over Nov. 1 with the same kitchen staff and mostly the same menu. My wife and I were among other curious diners who showed up on a recent weekend evening.

Bondy was serving as hostess and showed us to a table in one of the three partially framed alcoves with wood pane windows that look through to the other dining areas.

An amuse bouche of a crispy mushroom bruschetta with balsamic and lime sauces led to our first two dishes, a wedge salad ($10) and French onion soup with Brie ($7), which we shared.

The broth was rich and dark, and the onions were sweet and thin in the soup that included little pieces of bread. The Brie, if it was there, was difficult to locate.

It was prettily presented, in a bowl over a small plate with a white doily.

The wedge featured romaine lettuce instead of the standard iceberg and came with bacon bits and tomato in a nice lemon blue cheese dressing.

For our entrees we chose the roasted lobster tail ($46) and the mixed grill ($42).

We were told the lobster tail would be 8 to 10 ounces, and it was all of that. However, it wasn’t as tender or sweet as we hoped it would be, and it was served with a hollandaise crab sauce instead of the bearnaise crab sauce listed on the menu. It’s strictly a matter of taste, but I think I would have preferred the latter.

The mixed grill can vary, and on this night it included a small tenderloin, a two-rib piece of lamb and six or seven slices of duck. All three were wonderful.

The tenderloin (I was told it was actual prime beef) was fork tender with a char-grilled flavor, while both the lamb and duck were tender with clean, mild flavors. A peppery brandy peppercorn sauce complemented all three meats.

The lobster came with wilted spinach, chopped Brussels sprouts with bacon bits and pommes Anna - essentially a potato “pie” that is brown and crisp on the outside and soft and buttery inside. The meats were served with mashed potatoes.

Dessert, vanilla and chocolate souffles ($9), was a treat. Each flavor was cooked in its own custard cup and sprinkled with powdered sugar. They were light and airy, and came with a bowl of vanilla ice cream surrounded by a strawberry, raspberry and blackberry.

A lunch menu includes a larger variety of salads and sandwiches.

The French Hen has full bar service and a well-rounded wine list, including a number of French selections.

Our server, Linsie, was attentive and efficient.

In addition to the main dining area, the French Hen has an attractive patio area and a separate dining area across the walkway that can seat 10 to 36 for private functions.

Find out how this restaurant ranked and other restaurant reviews in Thursday's Weekend magazine or at tulsaworld.com/weekend.