Congratulations for reading this. It means I finally finished writing it.
The problem with reviewing a restaurant like Nonesuch is that it is supremely impossible to compare it to anything but itself.
Oklahoma’s restaurant scene has gone bonkers in the last decade. Look at the murderers’ row of eateries we’ve seen open just in Oklahoma City: Ludivine, En Croute, Chae, The Pritchard, The Drake, Kitchen 324, The Hutch on Avondale, Cafe Kacao and on and on and on.
There are so many objectively excellent restaurants here that I’m certain I am leaving several off the list and risk pissing off some people I really like.
(I’m sorry, people I really like.)
And yet none of them is really like Nonesuch.
“Why should we trust you, guy who writes extensively about Taco Bell?”
Wow, that’s hurtful, inner voice. I don’t know. Can’t we like fast food and casual dining restaurants and fine dining and wine bars and bistros and taco trucks and everything in between?
Because that is what I’m here to tell you: You can. Whether you came here for weird essays about beets or deep dives into taquerias or my upcoming Eat-Everything-At-McDonald’s stories, you can and probably still will love Nonesuch.
So what makes it so different? You don’t order at Nonesuch. You buy a ticket (literally, you have to buy a ticket in advance) and you hold on for the ride. They bring you what they’re making and you eat it and you thank them. Profusely.
A $50-60 ticket gets you eight courses, depending on the day and time. Earlier or later reservations are cheaper. Prime spots are more.
For $30 more, you get wine pairings. For $60, you get fancier wine pairings. For $25, you get non-alcoholic drink pairings.
But the real upgrade you want is $20, which takes your 8-course meal to a 12-course meal. That is the best $20 you’ll spend.
Here’s the next big challenge of reviewing Nonesuch: the food I had will almost certainly not be the food you will have.
Like its next door neighbor Ludivine, Nonesuch is a hyper-seasonal restaurant that makes absolutely everything they serve. Like, to a ridiculous degree, as you’ll soon see. When it’s gone, it’s gone.
But while my food was magnificent, yours will be, too. Because it’s not the recipes that make Nonesuch so good — it’s the craft. The ability of the chefs, the attention to detail, the artistry and the planning all make it a singular and spectacular culinary experience.
The first course was an eye opener: a root vegetable risotto with a couple of ricotta and masa gnudi nestled on top. Zowee. The vegetables had a mild bitterness that gave the creamy base a burst of intensity that was eased with each bite of tender dumpling.
Next I was served a rock. A rock covered in duck prosciutto. I should have savored it more, but when someone puts a rock covered in duck prosciutto in front of you, there’s an almost primal worry that someone will take that rock away, so you eat that prosciutto and you do it real quick-like. It was salty and chewy and I would have eaten the rest of that duck, no questions asked.
I’d been waiting for the next course since I saw it on Instagram: a mushroom and turnip soup dumpling. The broth was inside the dumpling, so when you took a bite, you had to tip it back to make sure it didn’t come dripping out.
The luscious umami flavor was so overwhelmingly pleasant that it left me wide open for the tiny anise flower on top to tackle my tastebuds with licorice.
Oklahomans love their chicken strips, but I have to give it up to Nonesuch for deboning and grilling chicken wings in a peach and black garlic barbecue sauce. Of all the things I was expecting, barbecue chicken was not among them.
And I loved every bite.
Don’t worry, the menu went right back to outrageous weirdness with soft scrambled eggs with hackleback caviar.
The dish was not pretty, which is not the norm at Nonesuch, but slow-stirred eggs have such a seductive texture and taste that you quickly see the inner beauty of this course. The caviar added crunch and pop to each bite.
The key, said chef Colin Stringer, is time. It is low and slow and constant cooking. Patient cooking. Examine any dish at Nonesuch and you’ll see a theme. Nothing here is rushed.
For sheer artistry, the sunchoke and persimmon soup was a joy. Each tiny sliver of chive was placed perfectly on top, spaced and arranged with ridiculous care.
Does that affect how it tastes? I mean, there’s the whole “we eat first with our eyes” idea, but it’s really more about the level of intentionality. It’s fussy food, as a chef once called it, but there’s nothing wrong with being fussy for your customers.
The bread course was so good it was stupid. Everyone got a tiny, freshly baked baguette with bok choy kimchi, radish butter and a cultured butter covered in funky, savory mushroom dust.
I am grateful that no mirrors were present, because I don’t want to know what I looked like eating this. Ridiculous, I assume.
Have you ever eaten something that so overwhelms and delights your senses that you have to stop and breathe and think about it? That was this.
The bison ribeye steak with steamed radicchio and beurre blanc proved two things to me:
- I need more bison steaks in my life.
- I never need steamed radicchio in my life.
The radicchio was so bitter I needed a divorce lawyer. But my dining companion pointed out that just a bit of it, paired with the beurre blanc and bison, created a more pleasant flavor. She was right, but I still don’t like steamed radicchio. Not even a little.
The pickle plate made me giggle. A tiny mouse melon cucumber? Pickled watermelon rind? Pickled quail egg? This was pure whimsy on a plate.
Oh, and the plate: the pickles were served on a dish made of fused ice cubes with a tiny shaved twig for a utensil. If you can’t enjoy that, what can you enjoy?
The Oklahoma blend tea and pecan-persimmon macaron were so amazing I threatened to kiss chef Jeremy Wolfe on the lips. Replacing almond meal with pecans sounds simple, but I cannot fathom the amount of work it took for him to get the ratios just right to create this crispy, chewy, intensely delicious cookie.
The tea was made with Oklahoma ingredients foraged over a number of years. It was a drink that tastes like home and the passage of time. I wish I could describe it better, but I’m tearing up a little thinking of it and my brain has gone dumb(er than usual).
Among the dessert courses(!), the far-and-away favorite was the Nonesuch s’more. Woof. Let me try and explain this one to you.
First comes a bowl with chocolate covered in a lightly caramelized marshmallow swirl and two paper-thin “graham crackers” studded with black sesame seeds. Then they pour a basil creme anglaise into the bowl, which melts the marshmallow and softens the chocolate. The graham crackers begin to disintegrate. You eat it with a spoon, stirring it up and getting bits of every ingredient into your bite.
And I’ve gone numb again. I legitimately just spaced out thinking about that s’more and how much I want another one. But maybe it’s gone forever. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. I got to have it once and it was amazing.
What Stringer, Wolfe and chef Paul Wang are doing at Nonesuch is nigh impossible. Operating a prix fixe menu restaurant in Oklahoma City is the height of folly, according to conventional wisdom.
But conventional wisdom sucks. Conventional wisdom wants you to keep doing the same thing over and over again until you die of renal failure.
Nonesuch is breaking free from the norm and, in the process, creating food that you will not forget.
We don’t deserve a place like this, but we ought to fight like hell to make sure it doesn’t go away.