A restaurant in Oklahoma City that seats only 22 people has just been named the best new restaurant in the land by Bon Appetit magazine, which expressed unabashed surprise at finding such a tasty morsel in “chicken-fried steak” country.
The 2018 Hot 10, announced on Tuesday, placed Nonesuch tasting-menu restaurant at the top of the list, ahead of restaurants in New York City, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
The Tulsa World noted that it’s rare for a restaurant “in this part of the country” to earn “national recognition from any organization.”
In a press release, Bon Appetit editor-at-large Andrew Knowlton described Nonesuch as “the best dining experience of the year,” the World reported. “Flying under the radar — even among OKC residents — I was ecstatic and grateful to have stumbled upon it.
“Its chefs have mastered how to incorporate hyper-local and foraged ingredients in a landlocked state, how to minimally yet artfully plate each dish, and how to express an undying love of all things fermented, pickled, and cured. This is the place that will put OKC on the national dining map.”
Knowlton wrote on the Bon Appetit website that he “stumbled upon Nonesuch while swiping through Instagram during one of those late-night sessions I do after my wife falls asleep.”
How, Knowlton wondered, “did food this challenging materialize in a town known more for its massive chicken-fried steaks?”
The food “looked beautiful and artistic and progressive, the kind of dishes you might find in Copenhagen or Tokyo or New York — but not necessarily the Great Plains,” wrote the man who has led the magazine’s annual search for the best new restaurants for the last seven years.
“I googled it. The results were meager. No big write-ups. No national press ... Should I really book an out-of-the-way plane trip to Oklahoma based off a few well-lit Instagram photos?”
He booked that flight and flew to Oklahoma with Julia Kramer, the magazine’s deputy editor, Knowlton told CBS News.
“Just one late-night session going through the rabbit hole ... and I came upon this dish made of ice and it had all these pickled vegetables, and I took it to Julia, and I was like, ‘Should I go to Oklahoma City?” Knowlton told CBS.
Nonesuch had already drawn national attention in its first year after Bon Appetit named it one of the top 50 new restaurants in the country, a precursor to Tuesday’s honor, according to Dave Cathey, food editor of The Oklahoman newspaper in Oklahoma City.
Cathey describes the restaurant as an “avant-garde dining boutique offering a distinctive seasonal menu,”
“This is a dining experience unlike any the city has ever offered,” Cathey wrote last week. “In fact, it’s a rarity anywhere across the country.
“The menu is not only seasonal, but very often derived from goods farmed by the chefs themselves. Dinner is served in a 10-course tasting menu with chefs placing the food before you and answering any questions on the spot.”
Bon Appetit heaped praise on chefs Colin Stringer, Jeremy Wolfe, and Paul Wang who, Knowlton noted, are all “under 30, and none have much in the way of professional culinary training.”
Cathey reports that Wang is leaving the restaurant for California at the end of next month.
A post on the restaurant’s Facebook page Tuesday said the staff was “incredibly honored” to top Bon Appetit’s list.
On Wednesday, the ranking was listed on the restaurant’s website.
“Thank you to all of our guests who have dined with us. Thank you to OKC and our community in the Midtown District for all the support given to our team,” the Facebook post read. “This community is ever-changing and we’re happy to be growing with it.”
Knowlton wrote that he was three months into his “annual cross-country search for the year’s best new restaurants” by the time he found Nonesuch.
“I’d checked out most of the places I was ‘supposed’ to. You know, those buzzy spots run by pedigreed chefs or by cooks who used to work for those pedigreed chefs,” he wrote on the Bon Appetit website..
”I’d visited San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and the other noted food cities. I’d checked out the vibrant restaurant scenes in smaller towns like Charleston, South Carolina, and Portland (both of them).
“But Oklahoma City? In two decades of covering restaurants. It had never popped onto my radar.”
Here are the other restaurants, beginning with No. 2, on Bon Appetit’s Hot 10 list as listed on its website: Maydan (Washington, D.C.); Ugly Baby (Brooklyn); Freedman’s (Los Angeles); Nyum Bai (Oakland, California); Nimblefish (Portland, Oregon); Che Fico (San Francisco); Yume Ga Arukara (Cambridge, Massachusetts); Drifters Wife (Portland, Maine) and Call (Denver).