What happens when fresh ingredients from local farmers and ranchers are combined with two gourmet chefs and an artisanal bartender? Incredibly original dishes that tantalize the palate along with handcrafted cocktails, which make for a meal you’ll never forget. It’s all at Ludivine, a gourmet restaurant owned and operated by Jonathon Stranger, Russ Johnson and Kyle Fleischfresser.
Stranger began his culinary journey at a very young age, eventually studying in New York and cooking across the globe, acquiring European, Asian and Caribbean influences.
“But when I moved back to Oklahoma,” he explains, “I didn’t realize how much the food culture here had changed.”
Some might recognize Stranger from his days at Table One, where he paired with Chef Ryan Parrott in an unusual one-table setting to prepare multiple-course dishes in front of patrons using local and organic ingredients. But when Parrott and Stranger parted ways in September 2009, Russ Johnson and Kyle Fleischfresser helped Stranger take ideas from Table One to birth an entirely new restaurant. Table One was Stranger’s test kitchen, but Ludivine became the canvas on which he’d do his greatest work.
Johnson has an equally impressive resume, a lifetime of cooking for just about any audience imaginable around the world, with strong French infusions. For both Stranger and Johnson, the way to culinary perfection is the same: quality, in-season ingredients from a local source.
“The menu is very seasonal and day-to-day,” Stranger says. “In the winter we’ve got European-style heavier dishes, but now that it’s spring, we’ve got a lot of light cuisine with Asian influence.”
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“At Ludivine, some of the food is gourmet and some is not,” Stranger explains. “We try to hit all levels. You can spend a lot of money or not at all.”
A few crowd favorites include the roasted bone marrow with pickled shallot, grain mustard and peach butter, but patrons can try something more intricate, like the cassoulet maison: flageolet, braised lamb bacon, house-made pork sausage and mallard leg confit.
With every dish Johnson and Stranger dream up, Fleischfresser couples a specialty cocktail to complement. The son of Coach House’s Kurt Fleischfresser, his bartending skills were groomed at The Lobby Bar, but Johnson and Stranger hired Fleischfresser to introduce independent craft spirits to Ludivine patrons. Ludivine’s bar features a wide selection of cocktails, local wine and beer.
“What Kurt is to food, Kyle is to cocktails,” Stranger says.
When asked about his favorite dish to prepare, Stranger says, “When you make a dish from scratch every day, you get excited about each one.”
805 N. Hudson, Oklahoma City. www.ludivineokc.com