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Louro at the moment: review + photos

Louro has been open in Greenwich Village for over a year now and is still surprising me with its robust flavors every time I go. Sometimes I’ll be sitting at a happy hour spot closer to home, and I’ll think, “Yeah, I could be at Louro right now instead, but what’s the big deal?” And then I’ll actually go to Louro and am like, “Why have I been wasting my life?” Chef Santos has let me come photograph his food several times, so I didn't Louro a score so as to avoid looking like a shill, but I thought you might want to see some photos of what's going on there right now.

• Whiskey in the Jar: Irish whiskey, grapefruit, ginger, spices

I went with five of my friends, so we basically ate the entire menu. But first we started with many, many rounds of half-price happy hour drinks. This was the table favourite.

• beef tartare, caraway sauce

Off the menu and so bright with those pickled onions but then also earthy and pungent with that caraway spread. Caraway isn’t the first spice I think of for anything, but I loved seeing Chef Santos use it in a non-Indian, non-Middle-Eastern context.

• heirloom carrot salad, miso

This was a special the night we visited, and THANK GOD, because this is my favourite thing at Louro. I encouraged my entire table to get it, and everyone outright ignored me. Not that I blame anyone for scoffing at carrots, but these are not only incredibly visually beautiful but also unexpectedly Asian-flavored. I never even thought I cared that much about miso until I had this dish for the first time. And then there’s the rice wine vinegar, the mirin, and the scallions. Incredibly, the New York Times just published the recipe for the heirloom carrot salad this week, so now I’m going to be eating it every night at home when I can’t get to Louro. Every night, I said.

• bone marrow, mussels, red curry, crisps

This had the same flavor as a big hunk of steak but melted in my mouth even more.

• piri piri shrimp

My other favourite thing at Louro. The chili is so surprisingly spicy that I feel like its name is an onomatopoeia you might see in a comic book. “Piri piri!” the superhero shouts as he delivers a one-two punch to the villain’s gut. It somehow manages to not overwhelm the shrimp at the same time, though. It seems so simple, but it’s so simply perfect.

• smoked tomato soup, pork grilled cheese

I had made grilled cheese the night before for my roommate/landlord/former co-worker/boyfriend, so I asked him how mine compared to this one, and he had to very, very gently put me down.

• lobster larb salad, chopped lobster, bibb lettuce, thai dressing, cilantro, peanuts

I’m not sure what to think of this. The common thinking with lobster is that it should be broken down as little as possible, right? But we were Googling larb as we were looking at the menu, and it’s a minced meat salad that’s apparently the national dish of Laos. So I guess you either mince the lobster or you’re not making larb. This was super, super spicy and herbaceous.

• pork & beef ragu, anson mills polenta, Parmesan

Wish I had tried this.

• biscuits & gravy, soft poached duck egg, duck sausage, gravy

Really, really wish I had tried this.

• gnocchi Parisienne, cipollinis, wild mushrooms, Parmesan, thyme butter

I only tried one of these little pillows, but I’m convinced they were more gnudi than gnocchi. All cheese, not enough flour to even matter. Just how I like it.

• octopus bolognese: hand cut tagliatelle, goose pancetta, parmesan

It’s been on the Louro menu for as long as I can remember, and for good reason. It’s like beef bolognese but with a little chew from the octopus and then the deep flavor of the bacon as contrast.

• lobster lasagna

I love Chef Santos for throwing us a little extra lobster here and there, but most of us thought that this lasagna was so good on its own that the lobster didn’t even matter. Take THAT, ocean.

• kibby goat & falafel, cucumber, parsley, lemon mint cream

I actually met this dish one afternoon while taking pictures for the Louro website and haven’t stopped eating it since. The combination of the super-light cucumber and rich goat is too much for me to resist, and I could have the minty sauce on just about anything, including my own hand.

• The Hemingway: key lime curd, gingersnap crumble, vanilla ice cream, toasted meringue

I only tried a bit of the lime curd, and it was not shy about the lime.

• A Walk in the Woods: pine needle & porcini ice creams, pine nut puree, maple “dirt”, Maine blueberries

I needed to have this just for the pine needle ice cream, and it was everything I wanted it to be. i.e. like chewing on a forest. The maple dirt was crunchy and sweet and as if I’d stuck a tap on a crispy tree. I love that a restaurant that’s partly food the way your mama makes it can also put out a dish this wild.

All of the photos in context are here: http://www.donuts4dinner.com/2014/01/....

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  1. My son had the carrot salad the last time we were there. He finished it before we had a chance to try some. It certainly looked lovely, though.

    1 Reply
    1. re: foodiemom10583

      I'd do everything in my power not to share those carrots, too. That's why I tried to convince all of my friends to order the dish for themselves!

    2. Great review. Do you have more details about the happy hour?

      2 Replies
      1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

        $4 beer, $6 wine, $8 cocktails
        A complimentary plate of small tapas-like bites when you order drinks. When they have them in, they also do $1 oysters. 5:30-7:30pm, I don't think they do the late night happy hour any more.

        A relatively recent article describing it: http://nyc.thedrinknation.com/article...

        1. re: fooder

          Oh wow. That's great. Thanks for the article. This is even more motivation for me to get there; I've been meaning to and I can't pass that up!

      2. If you like pine... go to Pegu Club as the Douglas Fir Gimlet is on the menu right now.


        1 Reply
        1. re: kathryn

          Thanks for the heads-up. That sounds delicious. And the pear-in-the-bottle is so neat!

        2. Nice photos. good review. The octopus bolognese is my favorite dish at Louro.
          Was the lobster larb spicy?
          Everytime I have the piri piri shrimp, the sauce tastes great but the shrimp have an "iodine" taste to them.

          6 Replies
          1. re: foodwhisperer

            I had shrimp larb when I was there the other night, it was delicious and pleasantly spicy, but toned down from Thai spicy.

            1. re: foodwhisperer

              Thanks! Someone in my group has to get the octopus; we can't resist. Maybe we're a bunch of wimps, but the three of us who tried the lobster larb thought it was incredibly spicy. Delicious, though. I had the piri piri shrimp again last night but didn't notice an iodine taste. How strange.

              1. re: plumpdumpling

                I'll be there this weekend. I look forward to a great meal.

                1. re: foodwhisperer

                  Let me know when your here. Would love to say hello.

                  1. re: chopjwu12

                    I was just there tonite. Decided I couldn't wait. The menu was different on many dishes, compared to the OP. So maybe they change it everyday and leave their core dishes.
                    I had the bone marrow for the first time, it was delicious. I don't know what it was mixed with , tasted like a bit of cheese maybe. It was well balanced and better tasting than straight up bone marrow.
                    The octopus bolognese was as good as ever.
                    The shrimp piri piri was great. The shrimp were much improved over my past experiences. They were not iodiny and they were a bit larger than previously.
                    The oysters from Martha's Vineyard were delightfully plump and so delicious.
                    The gnocchi dish was a good dish.
                    The venison over cauliflower and pickled cherry tomato( i think) was fantastic ( photo attached) the portion was big, it was perfectly cooked. It was up there with the best venison I have had.
                    The potato soup with suckling pig was amazing.
                    The desserts were great, the "walk in woods was my favorite" but we had them all. We ordered a la carte, had 10 courses, the bill with drinks $80pp. I'm stuffed.
                    The food is better than ever.

                    1. re: foodwhisperer

                      One of my friends had the venison the other night, too, and we were blown away by the texture. So unbelievably tender. I think the chef said it was from Australia; it was clear he tried a lot of venison before settling on this one.

                      The desserts were so good the other night, too. I love the pine needle ice cream, but the "vanilla" ice cream on the Hemingway was my favourite. It tasted like toasted marshmallow to me.

            2. Thanks for the great review and especially the pics. You didn't even mention a bunch of my favorite dishes on the menu now:

              #1 might be the uni with grapefruit and truffle, with great mizuna tempura. A spectacular combination.

              It sounds that you, like me, tend to stick toward the left side of the menu. But the last time I was there, we tried the prawn hot pot, and it was fantastic, especially the vegetables. Chef Santos has been experimenting a lot with kimchi, and I think this has been his most successful execution (others had eaten all the prawns by the time the pot came to me).

              The farro salad is as good as ever, and one of the best uses of parmesan cheese in a non-Italian context I've seen.

              The pumpkin salad is something I wouldn't have ordered on my own, especially when the carrot salad is available, but as usual, I would have been wrong. Great textures and flavor.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Dave Feldman

                I went back again last night and still didn't hit all of the dishes you mentioned! Mizuna tempura sounds so interesting, and I've been dyyyyying for the farro salad but keep choosing something else at the last minute. I got to try a bite of the pumpkin salad last night and also loved the skate, but the hot pot is so out of place on the menu that I've always wrinkled my forehead at it. Glad to hear it's not to be missed! I think the menu is changing really soon, so hopefully I get back before it goes away.

                1. re: plumpdumpling

                  My partner had the prawn hot pot and I tasted it. It was delicious and not extremely spicy.

                  I should mention I had the braised calamari and it was a wonderful dish.

                  1. re: rrems

                    Thanks for weighing in! Looks like I doubly have to try it.

                    1. re: rrems

                      Thanks for your comment. I had my eye on the braised calamari, too.

                2. And filed under the "So Are You Sure You Want To Be a Chef/Owner" folder: http://blogs.villagevoice.com/forkint...

                  and graphically, http://www.ediblemanhattan.com/eat/pl...

                  1. Thank you for gracing us with your review -- extremely insightful. I hope to try the heirloom carrot salad soon.

                    The Hemingway dessert looks (and must taste) amazing as well.

                    1. I wish I could join in the adulation of Louro, but I feel like I ate at a different restaurant from the one everyone raves about. We were there on Valentine's Day. There were two menu options; we opted for the $65 one.


                      On the upside, the staff could not have been better, particularly the blonde woman overseeing the dining room, who I'm pretty sure could run a midsize country if she felt like it. But everyone was both friendly and professional. This put us in such a good mood that we found ourselves conversing with the couple at the next table.

                      On the downside, well, the food. Only the fresh spaghetti was truly impressive (and I got very little of it, damn it). I had the chestnut soup, which was pleasant, but also heavy and one-dimensional, with little flavor from the wild mushrooms. Of the two fish entrees, the skate had the edge, but neither was anything special - skate and salmon aren't exactly the world's most special fish, and the kitchen didn't do much to elevate them. For dessert, we both had the beer, figs and honey. This was my third time at the beer porridge dance; the versions I had previously at Riverpark and at Acme were much better.

                      So I was disappointed. Not grievously, and I'd still like to go back and see if my experience was an anomaly. I hope so.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: small h

                        Small h, if "skate and salmon aren't exactly the world's most special fish," why did you choose them for your entrees?

                        EDIT: After posing my question, I realized you and your companion may not eat meat. In any decent, I'm disappointed you didn't love Chef Santos's fish preparations. It's his specialty in my book (along with hus pastas).

                        1. re: Rich D.

                          You're correct, we don't eat meat. And I did think the pasta was very good, but the rest of the meal, for want of a better phrase, was phoned in. I'm well prepared to be told that I should expect no better on Valentine's Day, but at a restaurant of this (reputed) caliber, I do.

                        2. re: small h

                          Thanks for the report. I know it isn't easy to come on a thread where everyone is raving about a place and file a dissenting opinion. Louro is a particularly tough case because the menu changes so often, and many of the reports here are about the special Monday dinners. There hasn't been quite as much change in the past few months. If you do go, maybe post in advance and some CHs can have recommendations. If you've tried the same dishes as the fans like, and still don't respond, maybe Louro just isn't for you. I'd focus on the two middle two sections of the menu, which I think are the heart and soul of the kitchen.

                          1. re: Dave Feldman

                            Good advice, thank you. The Valentine's Day menu had no middle section (I posted a link to it in my first comment), but there was some overlap with the regular menu, just nothing that especially appealed to me. I'm pretty sure I'd like the piri piri shrimp, the mahi mahi, the hot pot...but they weren't available. Just bad luck, I guess.

                        3. I had an amazing Louro happy hour experience this weekend! Thanks to this thread, I stopped by for a few drinks before dinner on Saturday, and it was great. We got there at 6 and there were several open spots at the bar so we ordered cocktails and waited for our complimentary snacks. These cocktails are serious and at $8, wow, what a deal. Between my husband and I we had the Belle de Nuit (champagne with pear and cinnamon, and tiki bitters, whatever that is!), the Dominicana (rum, coffee liqueur, and impressively hand-shaken whipped cream), and the Hemingway Royale (rum, grapefruit, lime, sparkling wine). Free snacks were pork fritters, thin sliced roasted potatoes, and little crostini with housemade ricotta. We were still hungry so we ordered the piri piri shrimp and the falafel, both of which were excellent, but the falafel with the shredded goat was the best thing I've eaten in a long time.

                          What's more, the atmosphere was great, it is so laid back and everyone is so friendly. The host in particular was really sweet and the bartender was very no-nonsense but attentive. The stairs down to the bathroom are a little treacherous, so be careful!

                          Thanks for the great tip on this happy hour!

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

                            I'm so glad you enjoyed your visit! It's worth the trek from Westchester, even during the week.

                            1. re: foodiemom10583

                              Haha, yes, definitely worth the trek! I'm already planning my next visit there!

                            2. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

                              I'm guessing I've eaten at Louro as much as anyone here, but I've never sat at the bar during Happy Hour. I'm a little jealous, because the treats you ate aren't even on the menu! At the very least, I'll sneak in one day before dinner.

                              1. re: Dave Feldman

                                hmm… us either, although we did come early to one of the Monday dinners and get a chance to drink a couple of the cocktails -- very nice, expertly done. Guess I gotta leave Bklyn for happy hour? My $1 oyster places will miss me.

                            3. torontonian here: doing a bit of research AFTER booking a sunday night supper here for 4 in early May. even more excited than i previously was!

                              can anyone shed some light on how that goes down? happy hour sounds amazing! any chance they have it on sundays as well?

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: msprnt

                                Hi msprnt,

                                Were you booking a special Sunday dinner (I know that Louro has had special wine dinners in April) or eating from the regular menu? If the former, expect a leisurely dinner, definitely more than 2 hours. In general, the special dinners start a little late.

                                As others have mentioned, the service at Louro is extremely friendly and informal. Most patrons are dressed casually -- there is no dress code.

                                I am not sure if the happy hour is a go on Sundays. I'll try to find out for you.

                                1. re: msprnt

                                  Just checked with the restaurant and Happy Hour is the usual 5:30-7:30 on Sundays.

                                  1. re: msprnt

                                    awesome! thanks Dave F!

                                    i think we're intrigued by the special Sunday Chef's Table (http://www.louronyc.com/sunday/), but a friend made the reservation - so I need to check and make sure we're booked for it.

                                    casual and informal sounds perfect for us!

                                    when diners bring their own wine, how many bottles do they typically bring? we're not huge wine drinkers, so i was thinking maybe 1 bottle each of red and white. my favourite red is cabernet sauvignon (a la joseph phelps), but i've been to restaurants that have suggested going with less bold reds because the food they serve is more delicate on the palate and the cab would overpower it. thoughts on this? what "style" is their food?

                                    1. re: msprnt

                                      It doesn't look like the calendar is set yet for May, so you it might be a few weeks until you'll know for sure.

                                      How much wine you bring is totally up to you. We usually bring a couple of bottles for four people. Some of the food is rather rich, but the food is eclectic so I'd go with varietals you like and hope for the best. A full bar, including wines by the glass and bottle, are always available, even on BYOB nights.

                                      1. re: Dave Feldman

                                        I finally had a chance to go to my first of the several uni dinners at Louro and it might have been my favorite Monday night dinner ever. Almost all of my experience with uni has been in sushi, so it was surprising how well uni paired with so many different kinds of food.

                                        Probably my favorite course was Japanese in feeling, a chawanamushi with uni, mushroom puree, and asparagus, which tasted like luxurious comfort food, familiar even, though I've never had it before.

                                        The uni and beef tartare was an inspired idea and was served with shiso, apricot kernels, and a wasabi aioli.

                                        An uni and lobster crepe with peas (which were especially great) and carrots. It was my companion's favorite dish of the night -- my third.

                                        Dessert was an inspired yuzu cheesecake with a Buddha's hand crumble and a bracing clementine sorbet.

                                        The amuse was also great, a fried wonton with kimchi, pork, and uni.

                                        Delicate uni tortellinis were in a roasted pork dashi. It was just slightly too salty to my taste. I later found out from Dave, that he used some of his home-pickled herring broth in the dashi.

                                        The only dish that didn't quite work for me was the guinea hen with cornbread stuffing, uni pudding, and sauteed arugula. Every component was terrific, but for me they didn't harmonize.

                                        Now I understand why these uni dinners are consistently his most popular. Chef Santos makes a great case for not just the deliciousness, but the versatility of uni.

                                        This coming Monday, Dave is doing a "Save the Ramps" dinner for the second year in a row, right when the local food blogs are bemoaning that Fairway is charging $36 <sic> a pound for ramps. I love the theme of having a dinner where anything goes but -- no ramps.

                                    1. re: Steve R

                                      Wish I could go. That is a great deal.

                                      1. re: Steve R

                                        Looks like my wife and I have decided to go tomorrow so, if anyone's going to be there, say when so that we can make sure to arrange our arrival to meet (or maybe avoid) you :-) We'll probably be at the bar.

                                        1. re: Steve R

                                          I'll be going to this today at 5pm. I'll probably be sampling all 9 tacos and taking pics.

                                          Never really did a full review of Louro for various reasons, but was there for dinner a couple weeks ago and had another great meal.

                                          I especially want to point out the cauliflower for two as a must get as it's leaving the menu if it hasn't already due to seasonal menu change. The cauliflower is first steamed, then roasted, resulting in an excellent texture that is super tender but not soft. The roasted char adds flavor and the addition of walnuts provides great texture contrast, while the pickled raisin puree (more sweet than sour) helps balance the flavor.

                                          I also got the coconut lime braised fish head, which was kinda hiding at the very bottom of the menu. At $20 it's a great deal, and the broth was nice and soothing. It's delicious but the flavors are quite subtle.

                                          1. re: fooder

                                            Well, congrats to Dave...it's totally sold out, including the bar area. Oh well... Guess I blew it.

                                            1. re: Steve R

                                              I looked for you, Steve, and figured you were there earlier and left. You could have got in late, but evidently it was totally slammed until 9-9:30.

                                              Six of us had 65 tacos <sic> and three pitchers of margaritas. The meal was so inexpensive that we tipped more than 40% in order to compensate the waitress for her excellent service. The tortillas were excellent and I loved having only one per taco. The meat-carb ratio was perfect, and the two salsas were terrific, especially the red one. We had all but the pig ear tacos (I'm assuming they were 86'd on them). The standout to me was the pork belly, which was lightly fried so there was a crunch with every bite. The goat, lamb, and potato tacos were particularly good, too.

                                              Delicious and unpretentious fun.

                                              1. re: Steve R

                                                It was a complete zoo. I was there at a booth at 5pm, then shifted to a two-top around 7-8ish. It's all pretty blurry to be honest. I think I have some taco photos that I'll try to upload.

                                                I tried my best to taste all the tacos, although it was difficult since we ordered two of the 15 tacos + margarita combo and both came with the same three tacos x 5.

                                                My favorites were the goat and lamb's tongue, both very tender and deeply flavorful. The short rib and potato ones were delicious too, though carb on carb isn't for everyone. All the sauces and crema were tasty too.

                                                @Dave On my first order all the tacos had double tortillas. I wonder if he soon realized he couldn't keep doing that just from sheer volume.

                                                Overall, I think he priced it too low. At a glance, it didn't seem like much of the crowd would return to the restaurant normally or actually appreciated just how good his tacos were. There was way too much of the NYU crowd and the deal-seeking, line up an hour early crowd for my taste.

                                                1. re: fooder

                                                  Yep, I agree that it was priced too low (it would have been more than generously priced without the free alcohol). And perhaps he offered too many different types of tacos. If there were fewer, it would have been possible to customize the selection of the 15 more.

                                                  We didn't start until 9:15 and I think the worst was over by then, although it was full or close to full the whole time. Although there were occasional lulls, the service staff was in fine form and kept their sense of humor throughout.

                                                  I enjoyed the informality of the evening, and I hope Dave tries more. When Santos was doing the Um Segredo dinners out of his apartment, he did a Portuguese dinner served family style and it was great fun and fit the hardiness and approachability of the food.

                                          2. For those who missed it the first time, Dave is doing tacos and tequila pop up at Louro today!

                                            It should be less crazy than last time, but still plenty delicious! Details: http://www.louronyc.com/june-9/

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: fooder

                                              I went again and it was great. Much less crowded, because this was a last-minute replacement for a planned Portuguese dinner featuring a guest co-chef.

                                              There were fewer choices this time -- we had shrimp, chicken piri-piri, pig ears, braised goat, potato, and asparagus (surprisingly good). The standouts for me were the pig ear and braised goat tacos. I thought I was a confirmed non-margarita drinker, but I held my own. Three of us split 26 tacos (they were small, honest), and with a pitcher of margaritas and a 30% tip, it was 25 bucks a head. A great deal.

                                              1. re: Dave Feldman

                                                Hope you didn't look for me again, as this time we're in France & the commute would've been too long. I've already asked Dave to do a 3rd one so that I can actually get to stuff my face too (yeah, "they were small").

                                                1. re: Steve R

                                                  Hey, it's not often you find a man bragging about how small something is! This time, we were the old farts that came early.

                                                  1. re: Dave Feldman

                                                    Dave, I left just as your first guest was sitting down. Yes the tacos were small, but even if you considered them half of a regular taco, the price was still slightly cheaper to inline with most of the tacos in the city now. Isn't the average non-food truck taco like $4 now?

                                                    1. re: fooder

                                                      Were you at the bar, because I think we were the first people to be served tacos at a table.

                                                      I love corn tortillas, and Dave Santos has made me realize that it's really far superior to make tacos with only one tortilla. I thought the ratio of tortilla to protein (or in two cases, vegetables) was perfect.

                                                      And I thought, like the previous taco night, it was a ridiculously good value: 26 tacos for three people, a pitcher of margaritas, and a 30% tip and it cost $25 a head, including tax and tip.