Outside TiAmo Restaurant in south Tulsa, the sun blazes down, but owner Mehdi Khezri looks dapper as ever. He’s photographing entrees for his new restaurant, Ridge Grill, and, perfectionist that he is, he wants to get the light just right.
There’s Orange-Coriander Lacquered Tuna, cooked rare and looking like a juicy steak, and Coconut-Encrusted Tilapia in a shiny lake of curry cream sauce. There’s a crowd around him; like a monarch, Khezri is never alone. Salesmen with questions about decor, long-time clients stopping by to gawk and gossip, he deals with all of them while still keeping focused on the camera. Out comes the chef proudly carrying a huge bone-in rib eye finished with wild mushrooms and cabernet jus. It looks so impossibly delicious everyone wants to grab it off the plate.
“I love seafood,” says the chef, “and we’re going to serve some classic dishes: Scallops Meuniere, Sole Piccata. The classics are coming back.”
He’s David Dean, a veteran of the Tulsa food scene; he used to cook at Atlantic Sea Grill. David’s been planning the menu since September. Yes, it’s elegant, upscale and cosmopolitan – modern Continental with Mediterranean flair – and some of the dishes, such as Pastitsio and Lobster Paella, waft the scents of Greece, Spain and Morocco. But there are also less expensive pastas, pizzas, burgers and sandwiches.
“We want families to come for dinner,” says Khezri, “and get a great meal at a reasonable price.”
That’s the way it is at TiAmo: wildly popular, packed with families.
“My family used to eat there every week. We liked it so much we bought it. That was back in ’91,” Khezri says.
“No, it was 1990,” chimes in Mir, his brother. Mir, wiry, peripatetic but never far from Khezri, often bickers over details, but it’s a sign of his love. The brothers have been working together for more than 30 years. A family destination, TiAmo is truly family-run. Ridge Grill, too, is built with family love and care. The brothers have been designing the decor and supervising the construction for over a year.
Walk inside, past the covered patio with fireplace and huge fountain, through the waiting area, and you come to the bar. Dominated by a towering, intricate mahogany back bar and a bar top made of a long slab of exotic polished granite, gray with flashes of orange, black and green, that’s the place to grab a burger and perhaps watch a game on one of the three televisions.
Past this, the dining room beckons. It’s spacious – 3,700 square feet – with walls of burnt orange accented with beige trim and black wood molding. One wall is made of rustic stacked rock. Sit down at one of the 24 tables, peruse the menu with its encouraging quote from Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own: “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
Perhaps an appetizer of Baja Fish Tacos or Artichoke baked with Brie, or an entree such as Pistachio Crusted Sea Bass with Brandied Berry Coulis or Filet Mignon with Peppercorn-Cognac Cream. Almost before your order is in, a crusty, gleaming boule of home-baked artisanal bread is set before you. It’s accompanied not with butter but with the rich olive flavor of a Provencal tapenade. It promises a meal leavened with generosity, creativity and family tradition, and that’s what you’ll get at Ridge Grill.