105degrees: pioneering living cuisine
Matthew Kenney OKC
Please note: 105degrees changed its name to Matthew Kenney OKC in June of 2011. This was a name change only. Everything else about the restaurant remains the same.
Since our goal is to highlight restaurants that bring something truly unique to the Oklahoma City landscape, 105degrees is a natural fit for EatAroundOKC. That’s because you cannot find another restaurant in Oklahoma City currently that offers anything remotely close to what 105degrees is offering. It’s worth your attention if for nothing more than giving homage to the bold effort its ownership has made in bringing this concept to our city.
But, of course, “uniqueness” can only get you so far. To endure, a restaurant has to offer enough to build up a clientèle and keep them coming back time and time again. Does 105degrees have the staying power? Well, answering that might be a little beyond our expertise, but we attempted to at least find out how they’re doing by taking our whole core writing team for a lunchtime visit.
First off, in case you are not familiar, let me offer a little overview. 105degrees is a cafe and an academy focused on “living cuisine,” a term they define as “foods that contain all of their natural beauty and nutrition.” They don’t cook anything over 105 degrees, ensuring that all of the foods’ natural nutrition and flavor stays intact. They also only use fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes. There are no meats and no dairy products. So, this restaurant is an exceptional place if you’re a vegan as everything served here will fit your diet.
The atmosphere at 105degrees is outstanding. It’s one of the first businesses to open up in the new Classen Curve development, a very modern structure with full glass front walls for every outlet. The towering glass and very open dining area (which includes the kitchen) gives a nice, airy feel. Its all appointed with simple but tasteful decor and furniture, all created with a focus on sustainable materials. Bravo for a job well done on creating a unique environment to accompany the unique cuisine.
One small note — if you go when it’s very cold outside, the glass front wall can make for a fairly chilly dining area, at least on the day we visited.
Now on to the food. This is higher-end fare where everything is ala carte with main courses at lunch in the $11-$13 range. At dinner, the main courses are $16-$18. Of course, there are appetizers, side items and desserts as well, all sold separately. For me, this puts it in the range of an “occasional special treat” restaurant, but that’s just me. By the way, you can view all of their current menus and prices here on their website.
There is value to what you’re buying here, though. Everything is extremely creative and artfully presented. 105degrees creates an experience. An adventure in discovering new ways to think about food. I was extremely impressed with the staff. Our server was obviously passionate about what she does and was able to answer every question we had about everything on the menu in detail. She could list every ingredient in every dish and even tell us a bit about how they put it together. I enjoyed my visit as a learning experience as much as for dining.
But I also enjoyed the dining. I’ll discuss a few of the items we tried here, but keep in mind that 105degrees changes its menu regularly, so the items discussed here may not be available when you visit. In fact, our server told us they were very close to changing their menu completely. As in, nothing from the current menu will exist soon. But that’s alright, just new things to try.
We started by sharing the Spicy Vegetable Summer Rolls ($6). They were served with a mango tamarind chutney and toasted salty coconut. These were perhaps the best thing I had. Sarah described them as “a riot of flavors and spices — sweet, spicy, tangy and fresh.” I agree. It was like a flavor explosion in every bite, and surprisingly filling, considering they are all vegetables.
Our main dishes were the OM Gardens Mushroom Pizza ($12), the Blue Corn Tostada ($12) and the Heirloom Tomato Lasagna ($13). Each one of these was a beautiful creation with very unique ingredients. For example, the “cheese” used in the tostada and the lasagna is actually made from nuts. On my lasagna, it literally had the same consistency of ricotta cheese, and even tasted a little cheese-like, but no dairy, remember, just nuts. Interesting. The lasagna also used thinly-sliced cucumber as the “noodles,” in case you were wondering.
I think Sam enjoyed his main course, the pizza, the least of all of us. He says, “the title of this dish is mushroom pizza, and mushroom-laden it was indeed. I thought it was way too salty and that saltiness really overcame all the rest of the flavors.” I tried a bit of the pizza as well and I have to agree. The flavors were overpowering. I can imagine that after eating the whole thing even the biggest mushroom fan would be weary of the flavor.
And if there’s one complaint we would issue about our experience as a whole, it would be this issue of overpowering flavors. Every single dish we had (except the dessert, see below) was like an overwhelming combination of so many different flavors. Perhaps this approach is used to offset the lack of more savory elements like meat and dairy, but I must say, over the course of the meal, one’s palate begins to grow weary of the intensity.
But then we got to dessert, and it was a welcome relief. On the recommendation of our server, we shared the Sicilian Pistachio Nougatine with orange marmalade and dark chocolate. Now this is a dish I really enjoyed. First off, I’m not a fan of heavy desserts, so eating one of the three small but dense pieces in this presentation was perfect for me. And, no more flavor explosion. Just a simple, tasteful, well-balanced flavor wrapped up in another stellar presentation. I have to say, 105degrees would be a great place to come for just dessert and coffee, if that’s your thing.
In short, 105degrees is worth your attention. I think everyone ought to check it out if for no other reason but to explore a new way of experiencing food. Whether or not it keeps you coming back will be up to you, but at least consider giving them a try. Oh, and keep in mind that this restaurant isn’t designed to be super filling. I was surprised at how filling the dishes actually were, considering they are entirely made up of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, but if you’re the type expects to leave feeling really full, you might be disappointed. But hey, you can eat a snack later if you want, right? Just come with the right expectations and see for yourself what “living cuisine” is all about.