Walking into JK by Chef King, a lavish new Midtown restaurant abloom in sprawling floral decor and more hot-pink hues than Barbie, you might feel transported to Miami or Las Vegas. That’s because the contemporary Asian newcomer, from business partners King Dey and Josh Balan, is unlike anything Oklahoma City has tasted before — a decadent dining experience where the intricate plates and playful cocktails are as photogenic as the fairy tale decor.
It’s all in the meticulous details, from the zesty yuzu caviar atop slivers of hamachi crudo to espresso martinis topped with customized cocoa patterns. The decor itself is the stuff of Instagram dreams, from pink floral arrangements and gilded mirrors to Versace-wallpapered bathrooms and the pièce de résistance: an indoor wisteria tree in the middle of the dining room, whose nearly 20-foot canopy dangles with flowers and Norwegian lamps. Every element was hand-selected and designed by Dey and Balan themselves, bringing their well-traveled resumes — and flair for pageantry — to a space directly across from the Oklahoma City National Memorial.
Born in India, and raised both there and in London, Dey attended culinary school in Paris before falling in love with Asian cuisine. “I moved to Tokyo and lived there for a few years, and then moved to Bangkok,” he recalled. “From there, I visited Vietnam, Malaysia and that region of Asia and fell in love with the cuisine. I started using those spices and flavors and mixed it with my French cooking technique.”
After working in restaurants all over the world, Dey spent several years in Dallas refin- ing a vision for a restaurant of his own and partnering with longtime friend Balan to bring that vision to light.
“Josh and I worked together 10 years back in London, and we stayed connected,” Dey said. “We chose Oklahoma City because it’s an upcoming and growing city, not yet overcrowded like Dallas or Houston, and the people are the most amazing people.”
Such opportunity provided them with a blank canvas. They started by transforming an interior pillar into a lush wisteria by enrobing it in real imported branches and decorating the rest of the chic 130-seat space with vibrant velvet, chandeliers and bouquets reminiscent of an Italian garden.
As for the food, its flavors and techniques harmonize on plates such as eggplant miso, delicate cubes of roasted nightshade that are flash-fried, enrobed in miso-caramel and topped with crispy threads of filo pastry; rock shrimp tempura adorned with a “tree” of fried Japanese noodles; and an Asian romaine salad that sees baby gem lettuces flecked with multicolored beets, roasted quinoa and yuzu buttermilk.
Dey described the oxtail and bone marrow fried rice as an instant crowd-favorite and a dish that typifies his ethos of Asian inspiration-meets-French technique. Cooked in a wok, it’s tossed with tender oxtail that’s slow-baked for 24 hours then served alongside grilled bone marrow, the smoky and buttery innards of which guests can scoop into the olio. And while everything looks and sounds like something off South Beach, the price point is anything but, with almost no dish above $30.
Cocktails are a theatrical experience in and of themselves. The bar area, backed by a 40-foot custom mural depicting an enchanted forest, is Balan’s playground for crafting some of the most elaborate drinks in town, such as Deluxe Espresso Martinis made with fresh espresso and cocoa powder printed as custom images on the foam using a Ripple machine. Inspired by a cocktail favorite in London, the Hibiscus Royale is a gorgeous medley of peach vodka, prosecco, orange bitters and hibiscus syrup, while the Empire of the Rising Sun is a twee sake and coconut vodka cocktail, with a maraschino cherry that’s topped with a fragrant bubble of celery-lime air via a food vape.
It’s all a part of JK by Chef King’s playful pageantry, where the menu matches the motif to create a wholly immersive — and fantastical — dining experience. “It’s not only about the ambience,” Dey explained. “We’re matching the ambience with our food and drinks in every sense.
612 N. Robinson Ave., OKC