When Vast, 333 W Sheridan Ave., opens its doors Wednesday, the Oklahoma City dining scene will literally reach new heights — 726 feet to be exact.
Opening a fine dining concept at such a lofty elevation is a big responsibility, considering the fledgling nature of Oklahoma City's culinary reputation.
Oklahoma's dining scene didn't begin percolating until the mid-1960s, when Frank Hightower opened The Cellar at Hightower with help from James Beard and stewardship from chef John Bennett.
It would be another two decades before the birth of The Coach House and the dynamic duo of Chris Lower and Kurt Fleischfresser raised the bar again by popping the top on new, forward-thinking concepts through the 1990s. The Hal Smith Group's success led to the development of Lake Hefner. La Baguette Bakery evolved from the only French bakery in the western part of the state to a pair of bistros, one purchased and expanded by brothers Alain and Michel Buthion, and an industrial bakery that reaches beyond the state's boundaries.
More recently, Keith and Heather Paul's A Good Egg Dining Group has opened great, creative local concepts across the metro area; chefs Jonathon Stranger and Russ Johnson opened the farm-to-fork Ludivine to much acclaim; and in the last year, chef Ryan Parrott helped open the ambitious Local in Norman. Next month, Del City's chef Josh Valentine can be seen on “Top Chef: Seattle,” premiering on Bravo channel Nov. 7.
All the local sweat and sacrifice leads back to downtown, not far from where Hightower's culinary dream came to fruition beneath the ground. Vast will serve lunch and dinner high above where any restaurant has ever dared to serve in this market.
View from the top
The trip up to the 49th floor is rapid. When the doors open, a television screen and check-in station await. Take a right across the shiny floors, and you'll see a series of low-lit acrylic vertical louvers that cloak the 140-seat dining room in privacy.
Overlooking the spacious, 41-seat bar to the north and south are glass-encased rooms for large dining parties. The bar lies beneath small light fixtures hanging from long, iron rods. Between the bar and a massive V on the bar's west wall are a community table and lounge chairs.
Private banquet rooms for parties of two and larger occupy the north and west perimeter. The kitchen takes up a healthy portion facing south. The two dining rooms, under sprawling ceilings, are carpeted in gray with burgundy banquettes and chocolate-colored tabletops and chairs.
But the predominant surface feature is glass, and after a brief perusal of the architecture and interior design, all eyes will be drawn to the view. Guests in the dining room and bar will see Oklahoma City and far beyond to the north, east and south. The view is as breathtaking as you'd expect, and it gradually pushes the imagination to picture the view blanketed in snow, alive with spring or the night lit up with holiday lights.
Food has to be good
As spectacular as the view is and will continue to be, Vast won't survive on view alone. The food is what ultimately will determine its relevance. John Williams and his vice president of culinary operations, Andrew Black, both previously of the Skirvin Hotel, have brought in a well-heeled team to make sure the food is worthy of a trip to the 49th floor of Devon Tower.
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