For months after Helen of Troy closed last year, the Tulsa World received many emails from fans of the restaurant wanting to know what happened.
We lost contact with the owner, Sam Senjlawi, and didn’t have an answer until Senjlawi resurfaced recently with Helen of Troy in The Farm Shopping Center.
“I took about 13 months off to spend more time with my family (he has two young daughters) and get recharged,” Senjlawi said at his new place in The Farm.
“I looked around at different spots in Tulsa and Broken Arrow, and this location came up. It was the best choice. The old place had 3,500 square feet, and this one has 1,500, which is more manageable.”
We stopped in for a late dinner recently, and, unfortunately, the kitchen was out of lamb shanks and kafta kabob, most likely the two entrees we would have ordered. I’ve had the lamb shank more than once at Helen of Troy, and it always has been flavorful and tender without being smothered in tomato sauce.
We ended up with a couple of nice replacements — beef kabob ($17) and a gyros platter ($15). They came with a choice of two sides — hummus and tabouli with the beef and hummus and tzatziki sauce with the gyros. We also added two cabbage rolls ($3.50 each) and a large extra order of hummus ($4).
The beef kabob was sensational, on par with the lamb shank. Ten chunks of tenderloin beef were cooked medium-rare, as ordered, and they were fork-tender and mildly seasoned. The beef and pieces of roasted tomato and green peppers were served over basmati rice with a touch of saffron.
The gyros platter included eight strips of gyros meat (beef-lamb combo) that were delicious dipped into the tzatziki sauce, a blend of low-fat yogurt, garlic, cucumber and dried mint. The meat also was served over basmati rice.
The hummus was smooth and garlicky, and the tabouli was a mix of tomato, onion, parsley and a little bulgur.
The cabbage rolls were big, thick and tender with a filling of beef, rice and seasonings. They were covered in a somewhat spicy tomato sauce, and they were outstanding.
The menu isn’t particularly long, but it has all of the Mediterranean basics, such as Greek salads, a vegetarian falafel plate, baba ghanoush, spinach pie, meat pie and tawook. Some items are offered as entrees, sandwiches and wraps.
Among the beverage choices, Greek tea is a tasty selection. Senjlawi employs a long-simmering mix of water, tea and sage in a double pot to concentrate the flavors.
Entrees are in the mid-teens, sandwiches $5.99, salads $7 and appetizers $3 to $5.
Dinner service includes a fork and spoon. Senjlawi considers knives unnecessary for his dishes, though they are available upon request.
Helen of Troy has a cozy, 38-seat dining room with big, Mediterranean-themed pictures in gilded frames. Senjlawi sometimes plays vinyl albums of classical music on a record player.
One wall also has a poster of the 1959 movie “Helen of Troy,” starring Rossana Podesta and Jack Sernas. She wasn’t listed in the cast on the poster, but a 25-year-old Brigitte Bardot had a role in that film, as well.
Helen of Troy, which originally opened in 2007, is in the middle of The Farm, sandwiched between Ted’s Pipe Shoppe and Threaded Nest Boutique, a shameless plug for my wife’s favorite boutique.
“A lot of places have been in The Farm for a long, long time,” Senjlawi said. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve found it is like one big family. Everybody helps everyone else, and I’m happy to be here.”