Oh. My. Word. What if I were to tell you that you don’t need to fly all the way to Las Vegas for fun and high-end dinners? Well, I made a trip down to Pine Bluff a couple of weeks ago to visit the Director of Food and Beverage for Saracen Todd Gold at Red Oak Steakhouse. Red Oak was recently made the only restaurant in the South and the 36th in the country to be certified to serve A511 Kobe steak – so you know I had to try it out! What I didn’t expect on this trip was to be blown away by every dish placed in front of me.
Gold and his executive chef Joe Coleman are serving up some of the best food I’ve ever had, and that’s saying a lot considering how often I dine out. Going to Red Oak Steakhouse was one-hundred percent worth the drive. From the atmosphere of the restaurant, to the amazing service to the mind-blowing food, I can not get over how wonderful my experience was.
One dish that I want to highlight for being impeccable is Chef Coleman’s twist on a caprese salad. The presentation and colors were gorgeous – I was afraid to ruin it by digging in! The salad had a basil sorbet in the middle of the plate with a balsamic reduction, and surrounding the sorbet were slices of buffalo mozzarella and the freshest tasting tomatoes. I wasn’t sure how to eat the masterpiece at first, but they explained to me that I needed to get a little bit of everything in one bite to really taste the dish, and I am here to say that was the best caprese salad I have ever had. Gold remembers when Chef Coleman first showed him the salad, and I think he had a similar reaction to my first bite. “He came up with this version of a caprese salad and served it to me. I told him that it was definitely going on the menu,” Gold laughs. “With that balance of flavors all at once, everything gets singing and it’s an experience.” An experience indeed as I’ll be thinking about that salad for the rest of my life.
For appetizers, we didn’t know where to start because there were so many good options on the menu. Our waiter, Okan Bingöl, was amazing in helping us decide and teaching us about the ins and outs of the exquisite menu – especially when it came to pairing the perfect drink with each course. He guided us the whole way through and really made the already fantastic experience that much better. With his help, we ordered the fried oysters the Kobe cut as appetizers. You might be wondering why we would order the Kobe as an appetizer and not an entree, but I learned at Red Oak that the Kobe style cut is so fatty, it doesn’t take much to make you full. This meat was incredible. I don’t think there are enough words in any language to describe how spectacular the flavor of this steak was.
“Lots of people say they’re serving Kobe, but they’re really serving a type of Waygu beef. We’re certified to serve A511 which is almost the best you can get. A is the highest grade, 5 is the highest rating and 11 is one step below the best, 12. What we are serving is almost at the absolute top that you can order, and we aren’t trying to make a profit out of it. What we pay for each cut is close to what we price the cuts on the menu,” Gold says. The experience of getting to taste the most sought-after steak is worth every penny. The restaurant also serves cuts of rib-eye (which was also fantastic), a strip, and various sizes of fillets.
“We don’t season the Kobe too much because I like for the beef to speak for itself. Just a little bit of salt and pepper and then we sear the meat at 1400 degrees on a flat top. The muscle is high in fat, so you never watch to overcook or it’ll cook the tenderness out. Searing both sides does the trick to bring that natural flavor out,” Gold says. When we received our steak, we were able to choose a knife from a box, and they were all beautiful – almost as beautiful as the Kobe. I cannot get over how divine that steak tasted, and I definitely understood what they meant when they said it didn’t take much of the meat to feel full. I had to be careful with how much I ate because there was still so much more to try!
We tried the rib-eye, shrimp, exquisite vegetables, creative twists on classic meals, and oh my goodness the desserts. The desserts were incredible, and like everything that was placed before me, beautiful! The colors, the decorations – truly a testament to the skill that is back in that kitchen. I cannot speak highly enough of Chef Joe Coleman, because I am still blown away weeks later. Gold definitely knows how to pick them.
Speaking of the Food and Beverage Director, his career in the business needs to be talked about more. He’s started countless restaurants over the years, and something that I think really sets him apart from others in the field is the various atmospheres he’s able to establish at each restaurant or bar. He has a vision, and he executes it amazingly. In total, he operates over eight different establishments with 220 employees, and after the next opening at the hotel, he’ll have around 500 employees.. He created the culinary department at Pulaski Tech, and the work he has done with Saracen deserves an award. He’s overseen the addition of bars, high-end restaurants like Red Oak and casual spots. He has really helped the growth, and I know he is so proud of his team.
“Joe Coleman, my Executive Chef at Red Oak, deserves so much recognition. He deserves the pat on the back for the fantastic food we serve,” Gold says. “We want to be the best restaurant in the state, and I really think we’re almost there.”
I have eaten at some of the finest restaurants in the country, and I believe Red Oak rivals most of them. I honestly felt like I was back in Las Vegas dining at Caesars Palace. There were limousines, an incredible atmosphere and some of the best food I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying. I cannot wait to go back and try more, and order another fillet of Kobe, of course!
Check out their website, or better yet just make a drive down there!