As often happens in the restaurant business, things needed to fall into place fairly quickly for The Chalkboard restaurant in the Ambassador Hotel Tulsa.
The restaurant’s executive chef, Joshua McClure, had left in October to become chef at the not-yet-opened Maryn’s Taphouse & Raw Bar in Jenks, and it was time for The Chalkboard to put together a new menu.
“We change the menu every six months,” said Joshua Ozaras, who owns The Chalkboard with his sister, Shannon Ozaras Garner. “We always keep the beef Wellington, scallops and filet, but otherwise, we let the chefs have free rein. We thought Roque was ready for the challenge.”
Roque (pronounced Rock) Heidler joined The Chalkboard two years ago as pastry chef. Since then he has been promoted to sous chef, chef de cuisine and now executive chef.
“I had been a sous chef only once and never a chef de cuisine or executive chef before,” Heidler said. “Because we are in a hotel, our kitchen runs about 20 hours a day. It’s a big challenge, but it has been a lot of fun.”
Heidler got some impressive help when Ray Walters, executive chef at the recently closed (and soon to be reopened) Sonoma Bistro & Wine Bar, signed up to be chef de cuisine.
Heidler and Walters, who did not know each other previously, said they clicked in the kitchen right off the bat.
“Very relaxing and natural,” Walters said. “Like a ballet,” Heidler said.
We recently met an adult grandson there for dinner to check out the new menu. The cozy dining room in the basement of the hotel was a warm refuge from the sub-freezing temperatures outside.
Beef, lamb and pork were the centerpieces of our entrees, and each was extraordinary, as much for the sauces and other gourmet touches as they were for the tenderness and quality of the meats.
A grilled, two-bone pork chop ($33) was meaty and flavorful, served with house-made applesauce, an interesting mushroom bread pudding and apple demi-glace.
The prime petite filet ($27), cooked perfectly between medium-rare and medium, as ordered, was topped with a creamy, pan peppercorn sauce and served with butternut hash and a drizzle around the steak of roasted beet puree. The hash was a root vegetable mix of pearl onions, parsnips, butternut squash and rutabaga.
As good as those entrees were, I was wowed by the three-bone, brown butter-basted grilled lamb chop cooked close to medium rare and topped with a crunchy carrot-and-pine nut mix. It came with seared Brussels sprouts, a drizzling of roasted beet sauce, and hummus and pita points. The sauce and hummus were pretty tasty paired with anything on the table.
For dessert, we shared an espresso crème brulee ($7) topped with cocoa whip. It had a delicate coffee flavor and provided a perfect, not-too-sweet ending to dinner.
The Chalkboard also offers full breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch menus, with the majority of entrees ranging from $10 to $15.
It has full bar service with a nice selection of wines, scotches, bourbons and specialty cocktails.
Our server, Terrah, was professional and courteous, and she had good command of the menu items.
Free parking is available next to the hotel and across the street to the east. On concert nights at the BOK Center, diners may take an Old Urban Trolley to the arena and back to the restaurant, eliminating parking hassles downtown. A late-night menu is available after the shows.
“Josh and I had opportunities to expand, but we have decided to focus on The Chalkboard,” Shannon said. “Our customers know this is our heart, our passion.”