Playful Flavor at Black Walnut
Deep Deuce dining in the mood to impress
Photos by Scotty O’Daniel
The menu at Black Walnut in Deep Deuce is arranged by what type of flavor you might be in the mood to enjoy – such as this Strip steak with heavenly mushroom gravy from the Smoky and Satisfying section. Fortunately for visitors, all options fall under the heading of “Something Delicious.”
It’s a wonderful feeling to be pleasantly surprised. I have met chef Andrew Black several times, and spoken with him at some length about his enthusiasm for the three new restaurant concepts he’s adding to the Maywood apartment building in OKC’s Deep Deuce neighborhood. I have fond memories of his previous eatery The Meatball House in Norman’s Campus Corner, and have made several trips to La Baguette Deep Deuce, the first of that aforementioned trio. I was expecting good things from the second location, Black Walnut … and I’m pleased to say my expectations were not high enough.
On the south end of the building, La Baguette serves breakfast plates, sandwiches and pastries, mostly inspired by French cuisine (although its Reuben with chipotle mayo is marvelous). On the north side, Grey Sweater promises a multi-course tasting menu for long, luxurious feasts. The dinner- and brunch-focused Black Walnut lies between, and is somewhat less easily categorized. Our host, Sandy Wasswa, told us, “It’s a new American restaurant aiming to capture flavors from across the globe, and capture an experience. It’s not too serious; you’re here to enjoy yourself but still be surprised by the food.”
Before that, though, I was surprised by the menu, which is categorized not by appetizers and salads and entrees, but by what type of flavor you might be in the mood to try. Each of the individual sections – Sweet and Savory, Fresh and Light, Smoky and Satisfying, Casual and Comforting – includes multiple possibilities that are intended to give anyone’s palate some tempting choices and emphasize sharing among the table.
“The way we do things is all about your mood,” says Wasswa. “The recommendations will vary based on how you’re feeling.”
In practice, that means you could stick to Fresh and Light for the spinach pappardelle with crispy anchovies, plus an order of the exquisitely creamy burrata and fried green tomatoes; or elect to pair the baked chevre (fans of the Meatball House will recognize the French for Goat Cheese appetizer) from the Sweet and Savory section with the Smoky and Satisfying strip steak with mushroom gravy, fried Brussels sprouts and Peruvian potatoes topped with parmesan and honey. The touch of sweetness is unexpected and wonderful.
This unusual approach to menu design seems like a good way to get people to consider the full range of options, and give real thought to what sounds most satisfying in the moment – it also feels ideal for groups to plan one big communal sampling.
The same categories are also present on the stacked weekend brunch menu: My toasted coconut pancakes were both fresh and light, and the generous coating of salted mango syrup just sweet enough without going overboard. Plus, I already want to go back for the fried chicken “bonuts.”
In atmosphere, presentation, flavor and imagination, Black Walnut has proven well worth the wait. Color me impressed.
100 NE 4th, OKC
Opt for seafood, because the barramundi (Asian sea bass) with a feather-light pumpkin gnocchi and rich tomato-cinnamon sauce we tried was an absolute gem of a dish.
You might get lucky and find street parking along NW 4th, but why chance it? Use the underground garage off Oklahoma (on the west side of the building), bear left as you enter and you can park for free – just remember to get the gate code from the staff before you leave.