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Opposites attract



When Pachinko Parlor opened a year ago, few people around town actually knew what a pachinko was. I did, as my late husband bought me one while on a trip to Japan.

A pachinko resembles a pinball machine and really can be entertaining — and so can its namesake restaurant in downtown. Pachinko Parlor, 1 N.W. Ninth, is a clever name for a restaurant, and a quirky spot where customers enter to see a pachinko hanging right on the wall.

“The owners have it hanging, otherwise the servers would be playing it all the time,” said Flint Beard, a waiter at Pachinko.

The place is tucked in near the end of an up-and-coming neighborhood just off Broadway, serving a smart selection of American food inspired by Asian cuisine. Hot and hip, the color-sparked restaurant is most often filled with people who are looking for an adventure. The result? Some of the tastiest food around, with clean, distinct flavors playing marvelously against one another.

You can sense young chef Eric Smith’s enthusiasm and how the Asian/American fusion influences his work. This sort of crazy-fun food perfectly complements Pachinko Parlor’s stylish space.

This unique spot was perfect for a unique review. For the first time in more than 11 years of doing reviews for Oklahoma Gazette, this reporter’s name was announced to the employees. Why? Because we filmed this review to be shown on KOKH- Fox 25’s “Morning News.”

Gazette reviewers (and there are several) are never provided with complimentary food or drinks from the restaurants in exchange for favorable reviews, nor are their identities as reviewers made known before they complete and pay for their meals. May I add that although I know the owners of many restaurants, very few of the servers have ever seen my face.

That particular day, I was joined by the handsome Fox co-anchor Matt Austin, although still in makeup from his morning shoot at the television show, which broadcasts live every weekday from 5 to 9 a.m. He was joined by Fox cameraman Jeremy Ferris, and when he aimed his camera, the food started flying out of the kitchen.

In just minutes, polished server David LeMaster Donahoe started us off with the edamame ($5). These were Japanese green soybeans that were crisp-fried rather than steamed and then livened up with sprinkles of sea salt. We quickly
pulled the beans out through our teeth and discarded the pods. The
spring rolls ($7) were stuffed with roasted chicken, goat cheese,
arugula and presented with a peanut sauce.

Asian variation of French bouillabaisse ($5) was satisfying, with thin
strings of cooked onions and a creamy base. That was just one example of
Smith’s penchant for reining in vivid flavors, making new dishes seem
like classics.

If there’s a common thread among these dishes, it’s a true complexity, yet it all looks effortless.

Merle Haggard sushi roll ($11) was an Okie California roll with real
crab and masago, which are smelt eggs. Meanwhile, Austin was polishing
off the Teddy Roosevelt roll ($14), done with yellowtail, cream cheese,
avocado, habanero, masago and topped with crispy won tons and drizzled
with scallion oil.

We also tried the beef tenderloin “roll” ($12), tender slices of beef stuffed with scallions with wasabi mayonnaise.

we left room for dessert and decided on the chai tea crème brûlée ($5).
It was a reminder that restraint and simplicity are always welcome, but
so is excitement on the plate. This had it all.

If there’s a common thread among these dishes, it’s a true complexity, yet it all looks effortless.

summer months, it’s enjoyable to grab a table outside. Add some suds or
cocktails, and Pachinko Parlor has a great blockparty feel. In the year
it’s been open, Pachinko has really made an impact on the local food

Pachinko is open daily, but do check the hours. From 4 to 6 p.m., all rolls are half-price for happy hour.

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