Judy Allen for Tulsa World
Colin Sato has cooked at some of Oklahoma’s finest restaurants – Nonesuch in Oklahoma City and Oren in Tulsa.
But, in his new venture and such, he joins a collective that is fast becoming the most talented group of creatives Oklahoma has seen, serving up some of the most delicious food in the state.
Sato is probably best known for his work at Vintage Wine Bar, where he was brought in by owner Matt Sanders to revitalize the food offering in the restaurant’s new downtown location. Sato’s dishes offered a nod to his American-Japanese heritage, and it was at Vintage that he partnered with chef Marco Herrera, whose El Paso, Texas roots guide his cuisine from Mexican American inspiration. Together, they had just moved into the Vintage kitchen when the pandemic came to town and closed the restaurant’s kitchen in March 2020.
To support their co-workers and other out-of-work restaurant workers, Sato and Herrera launched “Food for the Screwed,” a paid pop-up offering food to those struggling in the food industry. It was such a hit that the duo brought more people into the kitchen to help out. From the start, this collective of creatives was unique in that everyone was paid the same, from those who did the dishes to the chefs who ran the kitchen. This transparent business model is still practiced today. When Vintage reopened in July, the group was ready to start offering pop-up dinners — the first was a home-style Japanese dinner that included 10 to 15 small plates and “a whole lot of wine,” according to Sato.
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“There were three of us cooking and serving from 10 a.m. until closing time,” he continued of the dinner service. “We slowly added to the team until we were eight.” The group had to split the hours because there was not enough space in the restaurant’s small kitchen. The group eventually chose to branch out and do other things (Sato continued their dinners under the Natsukashii brand, and Herrera launched Tres Nidos). They collectively decided to break up with Vintage but to stay together. Foolish Things cafe owner Justin Carpenter had attended one of their dinner parties and was so impressed he offered his restaurant to use as a collaboration space, et et al. formed in early 2022. Et al., which means “and the others” in Latin, is the culmination of effort, and as a glance at Instagram will show, the band are off to a busy start, with Foolish Things serving as a “home base”. ”
Taqueria et al. takes place every Tuesday night, is led by Herrera and features Tulsa’s only nixtamal program. Et al. will cook, steep and grind field corn from Masienda each week. The masa used to make each tortilla is freshly made daily and the tortillas are hand pressed to order.
“Masa is so special to me,” Herrera noted in a recent Instagram post. “It captures the true essence of Mexican cuisine – a product that takes a lot of work and love.”
Every Wednesday is dumpling night, a service loosely run by Sato. Look for hand-folded dumplings and Japanese fried chicken with sake and beer. The à la carte service offers 5-6 types of food and drink, and no reservation is required.
Showcase dinners are held every other Sunday for two months and take place at Foolish Things Bar and Biscuit in Brookside. Currently, Armonía, a six-course tasting menu, uses food as a vehicle to tell the story of the Mexican American experience. The green and red colors, symbolizing both fresh and deep flavors, contrast strongly throughout the meal and then come together on the main course. The remaining Armonía seats are April 10 and April 24 and are available by reservation only. In May there will be a new diner, Sun Room, a semi-guided tasting menu based on hand-rolled sushi and will be led by Sato.
For Sato, the traditional Japanese breakfast is both a fun and creative outlet and a way to showcase his heritage, but he didn’t think Tulsa was a market for the concept. However, the monthly meal has often been full, and repeat customers return for the $35 menu.
My husband and I joined last Sunday and were both wowed by the food. Chloe Butler, the group’s ceramist and chef/baker, makes personalized ceramic teacups and mugs for each brunch, available for $20. Butler also prepares the plates for Dumplings Night.
“Not many people seem to be aware of this,” Sato said. “But we seem to have a cult following – some guests have attended 7 or 8 brunches so far.”
Guests start with hot toasted brown rice and green tea (genmai-cha) or a cocktail like a Yuzu mimosa while waiting for the food to arrive. Waiters bring the dishes all at once, which should be eaten a bit at a time, with steamed rice and miso soup serving as palate cleansers between bites. The menu includes a delicate slow-cooked egg with soy sauce (onsen tamago), vegetable pickles (tsukemono), wilted chrysanthemum leaves (oshitashi), perfectly salted grilled salmon (shiozake) and my favorite dish of the meal, soft tofu bathed in ginger and soy sauce and garnished with green onions and bonito flakes (hiyayako). I’m counting the days until I can enjoy this meal again.
If cookies are more your thing, Bischix is a casual pop-up program run by Butler and chef Alex Koch. The couple lead an all-female team and offer irreverent cookies at American brasserie Solera once a month. Last month, 10 minutes after opening, there was a line from the scullery stretching down the long hallway to the front door.
There are so many talented people involved in this group, which also includes chef Julia Johnson (co-responsible for Japanese breakfast with Sato and who has a background in accounting), chef Noah Eagan-Rowe leads beverage development , is a CSS (Certified Specialist of Spirits) and is in training for her CSW (Certified Specialist of Wine), chef Sarah Thompson is also a visual artist and designer who has murals all over town, and chef Peter Greve , Sato’s cousin, helps run dumpling night.
Ethan Schaffer addresses design, branding and social media, central to et al’s vision. Sommeliers include Dalton Smith, who does the wine pairings, co-owns a wine-to-go store inside Heirloom Rustic Ales called Posca Lora, and runs a wine education program called cork.wise, and Ben Deibert is a CSW and CSS who helps run the service and develop pairings and cocktails.
If you’re jealous of that camaraderie, there might be a way to join the group. Sato runs an online cooking school. “How to Really Cook” comes together virtually for 12 sessions over six weeks. He bases his program on the concepts used throughout et al. – seasoning to taste, flavor affinity and recipe development are just a few ideas covered.
“I train people to be confident cooks,” Sato said.
After speaking with Sato, one thing became crystal clear. These people are here to tell the stories of their lives – the stories of immigration, identity and lessons learned – through food, drink, etc.