This Bricktown restaurant’s success is not suspect.
The challenges for a hotel restaurant are manifold: three standard services a day, plus brunch on weekends, in addition to room service, banquets, business meetings and full bar service, among others. To provide excellent food to diners given all these complexities is an impressive accomplishment, and Culprits — one of our Best New Restaurants in 2022 — has thus far managed to impress hotel guests and local diners alike.
Located in the Renaissance Hotel at 100 E. Sheridan Ave. in Bricktown, Culprits is a collaboration between Jeff Dixon’s Provision Concepts (Broadway 10, Sidecar, Hatch, etc.) and Phoenix-based chef and James Beard Award nominee James Fox. Fox acted as a consultant on the menu, and the style he made famous at his Arizona restaurant Vecina is visible throughout the menu in Latin-and Asian-inspired dishes and ingredients. At the core of Culprits, though, is the steakhouse-meets-sushi-bar vibe that has made Broadway 10 such a popular destination in OKC.
The evolution of the steakhouse theme is something Dixon has thought about and discussed at length with his culinary director Edd West. Dixon and West went to Phoenix after Dixon established a relationship with Fox over several visits to Vecina. The three went to the markets together and then cooked, drank, cooked more and talked about what Culprits would look like.
“I wanted to continue on the theme of Asian highlights and a mild steakhouse feel, while letting James (Fox) finish out the rest,” Dixon said. “His pastas, sauces and demi-glaces are all extremely good. We have a fairly small prep kitchen in the space, so we had to tighten up the menu from what was originally crafted. We’re planning to freshen it up next time Chef comes to OKC.”
The result is Culprits’ eclectic menu that ranges from traditional breakfast — biscuits and gravy, French toast, omelets, etc. — to tartare, sushi rolls, steak and spicy seafood. Fox’s influence is especially noticeable in the strategic use of chiles like aji amarillo, thai chile, Fresnos and even chile jam on the delicious steak tartare. Sometimes they’re present for spice, sometimes for sweetness, occasionally for a pop of heat that lifts the dish into a pleasant warmth on the palate.
The stars of the menu are the Phoenix Fire Shrimp, Vodka Mezzi, Ahi + Aji, Flaming Scallops, Crunchy Salmon Roll and the aforementioned tartare. For less adventurous diners, there is a ridiculously good chicken-fried rib-eye, as well as more traditional options like filet, strip, porterhouse and rack of lamb, the latter of which is served in a beautiful presentation. You can top the steaks with a choice of five sauces; the chimichurri and black garlic demi are highly recommended, although chimichurri is always appropriate for almost any dish — except dessert. Speaking of which, another of the must-have items on the menu is Chef Fox’s whiskey cake served with orange sherbet. We’ve watched several I’m-not-the-dessert-type guests change their minds after one bite.
The variety of ingredients combined with the different menus makes an already difficult logistical issue even more complicated. Dixon said, “Banquet business has begun on the second floor in the private ballrooms and meeting spaces, so that’s been a nice boost on top of our three regular services. Three squares is a lot to coordinate and staff. The beauty is that if we execute well on one service for the guest, we’ve usually got them hooked for the other services, as they are captive to the hotel usually for one or two nights.”
That captivate-the-guest strategy isn’t limited to hotel guests. Like many hotel restaurants in recent years, Culprits is public-facing, too. Dixon designed it as a local restaurant, not just an amenity for hotel guests. (Side note: You should definitely play with the interactive screen near Culprits’ bar; it makes people look like sprites or pixies spinning and frolicking through a meadow.) There is no “hotel bar” feel here; rather, the vibe is very much that of a modern American bar, with craft and classic cocktails and a solid wine list.
Getting familiar with Fox’s range of flavors and dishes is a good idea right now. He’s a partner with Dixon in Riserva at Chisholm Creek, and initial tastes of the menu indicate the 405 is in for a special dining experience. Dixon is also teasing a possible third collaboration as of press time, but no details are available yet.
Bricktown in particular can always use a boost in good options. Several have come and gone over the years, and Dixon’s presence near the west entrance to the district is a positive step forward and should help bring locals — many of whom are often reluctant to venture into a “tourist” area — into Bricktown just to try Culprits.
“We are excited to brighten up Bricktown with our offerings,” Dixon said. “I have been very pleased with the reception and amount of business we’ve been fortunate to have thus far.”