At the brand-new Loro in Dallas, you may as well start with a beer because the draught list is a tour de force. Lucky diners who arrive before the dinner rush snag a coveted barstool and belly up to the restaurant’s centerpiece—a sleek pale-wood bar with a long row of stainless steel taps: Firestone Walker, False Idol, Jester King. Not in the mood for a craft beer? Go for a Ginger Old Fashioned—Loro’s cocktail list is like one of those boutique clothing stores that sell only six pieces (and they’re the six pieces everyone covets, of course).
Loro is the love child of James Beard Award-winning Tyson Cole of Uchi, Uchiko, and Uchiba and Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue (“Best Barbecue Joint in Texas” according to Texas Monthly; “Best Barbecue Joint in America” according to Bon Appetit). A translation for those not versed in Texas foodie lexicon: Two of the Lone Star State’s culinary stars, one an Austin sushi master, the other an Austin pitmaster, combined their talents in 2018 and made Loro, a Southeast Asian-Texan fusion concept. An instant classic in Austin, Loro has finally ventured out. And Dallas has been waiting.
It’s hard to overstate Cole’s and Franklin’s statewide foodie-celebrity status—perhaps Cole’s in particular. With restaurant group Hai Hospitality, Cole has Uchi, Uchiko, and Uchiba locations in Austin, Dallas, and Houston. Any Texan who knows the state’s restaurant’s scene would list at least one of those Japanese spots among his favorite eateries. Cole’s food is famously high-quality, famously fresh, and famously innovative—not a California roll insight. Food & Wine named him “Best New Chef,” Saveur named him among the “Top 6 Texas Tastemakers,” and the James Beard Foundation named him “Best Chef: Southwest” (Aaron Franklin won that same James Beard Award four years later). So a new Tyson Cole restaurant, not to mention a Tyson Cole restaurant with a side of everyone’s favorite barbecue, is a Dallas dream come true.
At Loro, the Asian-Texan fusion shows up in the details—courtesy of award-winning Michael Hsu Office of Architecture. The space itself, all polished wood with clean lines and minimalist architecture, makes you want to slip out of your street shoes and into Japanese slippers, but at the same time, the vibe is distinctly country: Laidback patio seating and a wide selection of canned beers (craft, naturally) are a hat tip to Texas culture. So are the smoked baby back pork ribs served only on the weekends, the crispy smoked chicken sandwich on the Happy Hour menu, and the peach-yuzu cobbler.
Playful hipster touches—a pinot grigio on tap, candied kettle corn with brisket burnt ends served in a white paper bag, a solitary bare bulb casting a soft light over each of the window booths—meet sophisticated flavor pairings and artful plating. Homemade Japanese marinades complement meats sourced from single-family farms and finished over oak wood on the open-fire grill. Mexican street food (one of the best contributions to Texan gastronomy) looks like haute cuisine: The elote is served deconstructed and the corn kernels taste freshly plucked from the cob.
Loro’s fun high-brow/low-brow vibe extends to the service: The staff is friendly, attentive, casually dressed, and obviously highly trained, but guests order food and drinks at the bar. (Servers do the delivering, the checking in, the clearing away.)
The dishes, and really the whole experience, are carefully designed for sharing. Even the main courses—fall-apart beef brisket, oak-smoked salmon in cucumber-yuzu broth, char siew pork belly in hoisin sauce—make their way around the table. With its casual, bar-centric ambiance, Loro will appear inconspicuous to those who aren’t in the know. But like any well-kept secret, that’s what makes it cool.