Let Them Eat Escargot

Tulsan Tim Baker, owner of the new French fine dining restaurant The Brasserie at 3509 S. Peoria Ave., wants to keep French food honest, and simple–but still interesting.
Brasseries originated in Northern France, Baker said, and the concept for his new spot is one of the oldest restaurant concepts in existence.
“Brasseries were middle-class restaurants serving honest food with very good ingredients prepared simply,” Baker said.
The Brasserie – from the French, “The Brewery” – opened for dinner Friday, Nov. 3. With sales averaging $60 per plate, business at The Brasserie is booming.
Baker hopes to introduce wines that he finds interesting – especially when coupled with food – to those who wouldn’t otherwise order pricey wines with unfamiliar names.
“You come in here and have an $8 Alsatian Tarte, which is a nice little light meal, and then get a glass of wine and get the whole experience. And that’s certainly not expensive,” Baker said.
In attempts to raise consciousness about French food in Tulsa, Baker said he designed the menu and trained the wait staff in a way that welcomed a customer less-than-versed in European cuisine.
“We intentionally didn’t put everything in French on the menu. We wanted it to be accessible,” Baker said.
The Brasserie touts 75 wines by the glass out of the 120 total wines on the menu.
“We tried hard to make sure the wines were food-friendly and appropriate, interesting and eclectic,” Baker said.
“The wine makes everything taste better,” Baker added.
It’s common for beer, wine and alcohol to comprise 30 percent of the sales of a fine dining restaurant, but “alcohol accounts for 45 percent of our sales, which is tremendous,” Baker said.
The wait staff at The Brasserie is educated on the wine list, the menu, and which foods and wines compliment one another, Baker said. Baker attributes much of his success to a staff of people with a wide range of life experiences.
Good waiters are like athletes, Baker said.
“To get the best possible waiters, you’ve got to get them the best possible package,” Baker said. “That’s what we do.” %9
Baker doesn’t do much advertising. The most important thing in terms of attracting a customer, he said, is “to get people in the restaurant to experience it.”
“That’s the smart way to build this kind of business,” Baker said. “Otherwise, you get inundated with people who have no concept of what you do, and they may get disappointed. We don’t want that.”
Baker was unable to warm up to the idea of The Brasserie as a luxury restaurant.
“I don’t like the term ‘luxury’,” he said. “We just want the place to be comfortable, inviting, and a place you think of as yours. The term ‘luxurious’ turns me on more, I guess.”
With menu items like escargots, roasted chicken on brioche and steak frites, it’s easy to see why Baker tries to blur the line between luxury and luxurious.
“From a food and wine standpoint, we’re certainly very high-end. But I don’t think we’re the most expensive,” he said.
As for the future, Baker is optimistic that his concept will continue to grow a business in the heart of the trendy Brookside district.
Citing a high regard for his wait staff, though, Baker said he didn’t think it would be possible to do on his own.
“If there is something about being a luxury restaurant — if there is a single solitary detail that is more important than anything, it is that you can trust your waiter,” Baker said.
“They will listen to you and then guide you – not guide you and then listen to you,” Baker said. “That’s a huge distinction.” ?

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