When I was a letters major working my way through most of the surprisingly large number of classes OU offered on Greek and Roman history and culture, I picked up an aphorism: “The classics never go out of style.” My professors might have been using it in the “capital C” Classics sense – “The Odyssey” is still a great story, the Parthenon is still a breathtaking building – but it can be broadly applied to a large spectrum of life, from fashion (the little black dress) to action movies (“Die Hard”). It kept running through my mind while seated in Twelve Oaks Restaurant, a secluded spot outside of Edmond that feels, in ambiance and experience, almost outside of time.
The restaurant is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2014, but it could easily be mistaken for someplace much older – not because it’s run-down, but because all the details in the converted Victorian home feel deliberately traditional and timeless: white tablecloths, heavy silverware, candlelight, broad fireplace, framed paintings of horses and street scenes … a couple in their 40s would feel as perfectly at home as a couple from the ’40s.
That applies to the menu, too. If you were to close your eyes and imagine a menu for a classic, classy restaurant that specializes in steak and seafood, you’d probably open them to find you were mostly right. The appetizer list boasts shrimp cocktails, escargot, sautéed mushrooms and baked snow crab claws (which are a must, despite being impossible to eat suavely). Entrées include Certified Angus steaks, pork chops, grilled quail, lobster tail and shrimp scampi, accompanied by amply sized salads (either house or Caesar) and a selection of sides spanning usual suspects like rice, vegetable medley, pasta or the like … though the cream of the crop is almost certainly the little ramekin of baked potato au gratin.
Two special recommendations: the 8-ounce salmon filet is nicely grilled and delicately elevated with a lemon-basil-caper cream sauce – it does well with the rice – and the chargrilled lamb chops with mint jelly are excellent, both in taste and texture.
Dessert (you are staying for dessert, aren’t you?) is going to be a piece of cake, be it apple walnut, lemon crème or Chocolate Lava Divine. But if this is your first visit, take the menu’s hint and order the one Twelve Oaks dubs its “House Dessert,” a hefty slab of pound cake that’s been lightly toasted for structural integrity, then topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, splashed lightly with praline sauce and served with whipped cream, a cherry and a sprinkling of roasted pecans. It’s rich and sweet without being overly heavy; a nicely balanced end to a meal and an evening.
Plus – and if there’s one sure way to enhance dining atmosphere, this is it – they have an in-house piano player. I only caught a glimpse of him because he was in a different room, and he didn’t look very much like Dooley Wilson, but I bet if you asked him he’d play “As Time Goes By.”
Twelve Oaks is not a haven for flights of gastronomic fancy, nor is it trying to reinvent the culinary wheel; it’s simply old school. And that’s hardly a bad thing. A steak is still a steak, after all, and the fundamental things apply.
TWELVE OAKS RESTAURANT
6100 N. Midwest Blvd., Edmond
(call for reservations)
Come hungry, but not too hungry. You’ll need a well-primed appetite to do justice to the board of fare and still have room for dessert. On the other hand, the entrée isn’t going to follow 90 seconds behind the salad; it’s an atmosphere paced for lingering and conversation.
Try to arrive from the south. This may sound like needless hair-splitting, but the visual pop of the approach makes it worth coming up Midwest Blvd. from Sorghum Mill rather than Waterloo – it’s the difference between “Oh, there it is” and “Oooh! There it is!”