May 21st, 2018

Loro Restaurant Review

Posted in Celebrity Chefs, Restaurants, Reviews, Trends

Loro Debuts in South Austin

Loro Restaurant Review

If you live in Austin, and have not been hiding under a rock for the past 6 months, you’ve probably heard that Chef Tyson Cole (Uchi/Uchiko) and Aaron Franklin (Franklin BBQ) have teamed up to open Loro, an Asian smokehouse, in South Austin. If you don’t live in Austin, you probably should. Or at least come visit us for the food. It’s worth it.

Situated on South Lamar Blvd, across from the local favorite Black Sheep Lodge, Loro is presented as a rustic/chic Minka with layers of exposed wood, grand windows and skylights providing ample sunshine, and sprawling tables and counters promoting community dining and interactivity.

Austin Dining

Wisely, Loro has minimized staff and wait times by employing batch cocktails and fast-casual style counter ordering complete with GPS-based table trackers, allowing the food runners to find you anywhere in the restaurant. Say goodbye to table tents and card holders! And since we’re talking about cocktails, don’t sleep on the Gin and Tonic Boozy Slushie, it’s perfect on a summer day in Texas.

Loro Restaurant Austin

The menu is a unique hybrid of BBQ (smoked brisket) and Asian flavors (papaya salad, Chili aioli, Thai herbs), which merry in a surprisingly delicate way. This is where I feel Loro makes it’s name. When I first read of the Loro concept, I admit I was hesitant. Aside from the powerhouse names involved, it seemed like a riff off the already popularized Kemuri Tatsu-Ya (a personal favorite of mine). However, while Kemuri lives in a land of deep, bold flavors, Loro exists on a plane of subtle, complex flavors interspersed with dramatic, smoky low tones, for a completely different dining experience.

Loro Reviews

There were some clear standouts the menu, including the sweet/savory Kettle Corn (with burnt ends and togarashi), the beautifully displayed Char Siew Pork Shoulder Bowl, and the unforgettable Malaysian Chicken Bo Ssam. Seriously, the Bo Ssam. Get the Bo Ssam. Did you catch that? Bo Ssam! You won’t regret it. Just thinking about that juicy meat and the yellow curry-yuzu vinaigrette makes my mouth water, it’s Pavlovian really… But I digress.

Austin Restaurant Reviews

My two knocks on the menu would be the Texas sweet corn, which was underwhelming in flavor and seasoning, and the Chicken Karaage, which looked beautiful, but was missing the defining crunch that makes Karaage more than just fried chicken.

Restaurants Austin

Overall, the quality, flavor, and creativity of the menu shines through and makes Loro an excellent addition to the unique culinary landscape that defines Austin. With reasonable menu prices (the most expensive items on the menu sit at $18, while the average cost of a plate is $10.18) and an ultra-casual dining style, Loro also bucks the elitist dining trend, instead choosing to embrace curious eaters from all walks of life. I’ll raise my Apple Scotch Sour to that!

Loro Restaurant Review

Be sure to chime in on the comments section with your thought’s on Loro. Until next time…

Cheers!

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April 24th, 2017

Restaurant Review: Kemuri Tatsu-Ya

Posted in Fire, Food Trends, Restaurants, Reviews, Smoke

Kemuri Tatsu-Ya Reviews

Kemuri Tatsu-Ya Review

IRASSHAIMASE! Or, “Welcome to our place,” (roughly translated at best) is how every diner is enthusiastically greeted at Chefs Aikawa and Matsumoto’s new restaurant, Kemuri Tatsu-YA. Originated from the Japanese word for smoke, Kemuri is a thoughtful blend of Texas fare and traditional Japanese izakaya plates.

I was particularly excited to dine here, not only because I expected the food to be top notch, but also because it combines two national trends I recently wrote about: Fire/smoke flavors and the explosion of Japanese izakayas.

The restaurant itself lies on East 2nd St. in the Holly neighborhood, in what used to be the home of Live Oak Barbecue. The interior combines the street art loving design and flair of the Ramen Tatsu-Ya locations with a hodgepodge of Texas based pictures and knickknacks.

Enough of that though, you came here for the food, and there’s LOTS to cover. So, let’s get to it.

First Wave

Izakayas Austin

Marinated Jellyfish and Octopus

Marinated Jellyfish

Starting off strong! The raw jellyfish marinated in a tangy sweet and sour sauce had an awesome crunchy texture and great flavor balance. Perfectly simple, this turned out to be one of my favorite dishes of the night.

Marinated Octopus

This raw octopus bowl was salty, spicy, slimy, and chewy all in the rights ways. Wonderfully unique and a textually bizarre.

Second Wave

Fries with Eyes

These fried whole smelt were served with a nice vinegary dipping sauce in which you are instructed to let the fish soak in for about 30 seconds. While this diminishes the crispy texture, it helps balance the robust fishy flavor of the smelt, leaving a tender, tasty snack. Not bad, not bad at all.

Chicken Liver Skewer

I won’t lie, while I like offal, I don’t love liver. What I do love is courage, especially the courage to put not one, but two liver dishes on a menu. While low on my list of favorites, the chicken livers were smoky and well-balanced with the sweetness from a caramelized onion garnish. This demonstrated a great use of binchotan.

Monkfish Liver

This one surprised me. Made into a pate coin, the monkfish liver was mild and smooth. The flavor profile was very subdued, which is saying something for such a pungent ingredient. Definitely worth a try.

Third Wave

Pickle Plate

A creative assortment of Japanese and Southern vegetables adorned this take on a pickle plate. Standouts were the mushrooms and collard greens, as well as the amazingly complex smoked daikon radish.

Green Tomato and Avocado Skewer

Absolutely nailed this one! Perfect texture, great flavors, and all around fun dish. The kewpie mayonnaise and sweet and sour sauce were excellent compliments to the tartness of the green tomato and fattiness of the avocado.

Fourth Wave (Getting Full Yet?)

Chicken Karaage

Pronounced KAH-rah-AH-gay (and yes we did triple check), these Japanese fried chicken thighs were a fastball down the middle. Crunchy, salty, fatty, and delicious. A can’t miss crowd-pleaser.

Crispy Onigiri

I won’t lie, this one disappointed me. I love onigiri, but this version was oily to the point of greasy, and absolutely required the pickled vegetable to be eaten along with it to balance out the unctuous flavor of the smoked fish stuffing.

BBQ Eel

Holy game-changer! Tender, smoky, flavorful, and extremely unique. This one-of-a-kind preparation personifies the overall theme of the restaurant in a single, delightful bite. Personally, I’d recommend pushing off some of that herb salad to make way for more of that tender meat.

Fifth Wave (Starting to feel it…)

Ramen Austin

BBQ Tsukemen

BBQ Tsukemen

A thousand times YES! Even with our rapidly filling bellies we were fighting over the next bite. No surprise here, but the broth was amazingly rich and flavorful with all the body of Ramen Tatsu-Ya’s fame and the flair of smoky mesquite and spice.

(Seriously!?) 6th Wave

What can we say? We’re gluttons…

Chili Cheese Takoyaki

Another slight miss. The takoyaki themselves were crunchy, gooey, and full of savory octopus flavor, but the chili sauce was just far too sweet. Points for a superb presentation though.

Smoked Edamame

Great flavor and seasoning, robust smoky flavor, and generous portion size, but the pods themselves were soft and uninspiring. I missed the familiar crisp of wok fired edamame.

Hot Pocketz

Brisket and Gouda stuffed between two pieces of fried cheese covered tofu… Nothing else to say. Eat this. Always.

7th Wave (Bring it on)

Culinarians

Sorry for the bad picture, we couldn’t wait.

Yuzu Pecan Pie

A great twist of a classic southern pecan pie. The citrusy yuzu played great with the crunchy pecans and Azuki bean whip. I especially enjoyed the mild sweetness here, making it a joy to eat while finishing my shochu flight.

Roasted Banana Pudding

Loved the miso caramel paired with the smoky roasted bananas. Great texture from the kokuto crunch, again not too sweet, and an all around great finish.

Final Thoughts

I know this has been a long one, so thanks for sticking it out. In the end, Kemuri set out a unique, courageous, and overall delicious spread. While I didn’t love every dish I certainly appreciated the risks they were taking. This is an exciting, satisfying dining experience that I would call a can’t miss. These kinds of bold leaps are what makes dining fun.

Rating: 9/10.

Location
2713 E 2nd St.
Austin, TX 78702
http://kemuri-tatsuya.com/

P.S. I didn’t cover the drink menu, but to summarize: We drank much, all of it was good.

 

Cheers!

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