More people should be talking about Louro in the West Village. It opened in a space that was once home to Lowcountry, and before that Bar Blanc, which opened was ultimately a bust, too. (Ironically, Bar Blanc’s chef, Cesar Ramirez, went on to open one of the hardest reservations in town better known as Brooklyn Fare.) But the past is the past and the space now looks less flashy. There are white-washed brick walls, cushy, curved banquettes along one wall and tables with burgundy leather seating along the other with mirrored paneling hanging overhead. Upfront, there’s a long white marble bar trimmed in wood, where you’ll find several tables-for-one eating dinner or sipping on one of their housemade cocktails, like the “Royal Avenue,” a bright, citrusy mix of bourbon, Campari, grapefruit bitters and dry vermouth.
Supper Club Mondays
Louro seems more like a neighborhood restaurant than the “hip, new place to eat,” but believe me, Louro is the place to eat right now. It’s not hip per se, but it is warm and cozy, and the staff’s passion for the restaurant is infectious. More importantly, the food is exciting. The chef, David Santos, worked at Bouley and Per Se before launching a secret and wildly popular supper club, called Um Segredo, out of his very own apartment in Roosevelt Island. Now, David Santos has a more permanent stage of his own in the West Village, but instead of giving up his supper club entirely, he transforms Louro into a supper club of sorts every Monday evening. That means themed dinners like the Whole Hog, the Sopranos dinner, or Portuguese Winter dinner.
The Skinny on The Globally Inspired Menu
Snapper with Thai Coconut-Lime Broth
The chef is Portuguese, so don’t be surprised if you find Portuguese influences, ingredients, and dishes scattered about the menu. My favorite example being the “Portuguese butter” that accompanies the bread basket. What arrives at the table is warm, reddish-tinted gravy of sorts — a fatty, blissful blend of pork and duck fat, dosed with smoked paprika — that I couldn’t help dipping my spoon in over the course of the evening. It’s that good. But Portugal is just the beginning. There are influences from all over the world on Santos’ menu, like Red Snapper in a Coconut Thai Ginger Broth, Tempura Piquillo Peppers with braised Housemade Chorizo, or Uni with Crispy Pork Belly and Pickled Cabbage. I had the good fortune of eating at Louro the evening they were serving a special of Kampachi Crudo (yellowtail sashimi). Talk about a fantastic (and I rarely use that word!) combination of textures and flavors. The yellowtail itself was buttery and rich, nestled on a creamy, slightly citrusy puree of bergamot orange with slivers of heirloom red carrots. The crowning touch is a generous sprinkling of Chervil that the chef flash fries in a tempura batter, lending the dish a salty, crunchy boost.
It was the perfect start to the evening. We also sampled a fine, but “nothing to write home about” Arugula Salad with Piquillo Peppers and Pecorino shavings, tossed with a light Roast Garlic Dressing. Then came the pastas, which were excellent. Santos has a way with pasta as evidenced by his homemade, ear-shaped Orecchiette basking in a light, garlicky broth with Escarole and Cannellini Beans. But the one that made me take pause and close my eyes to savor the moment was the Gnocchi Romana. Santos rolls out tiny, pudgy potato gnocchi that come out of the oven with deliciously crispy edges, anointed with a luscious truffle cream. The final touch is an ingenious topping of delicately Fried Onion Rings (not the oversized, overbattered kind you’d find in a steakhouse). You can’t help but eat too much here, like Short Ribs with a Carrot Puree and a Potato Cake, or Roast Chicken over an interesting combination of figs, oats and Maple Syrup. If you’re looking for something a little lighter to balance out the pastas, try the Seared Red Snapper in a zesty Coconut-Lime Broth with Shitake Mushrooms and Bok Choy. Or you could go all out and order the Duck, which comes sliced, and cooked to a juicy medium rare, served over a unique mix of beans and rice, and a plantain puree, that together form this wonderfully comforting gravy of sorts — an unexpected but tasty combination.
Peanut Butter Pain Perdu
A Sweet Ending
Even dessert was good and the chef makes those himself, too. There’s Poached Plums with a Brown Sugar Crumble, a Pineapple Upside Down Cake, and a dreamy Peanut Butter Pain Perdu, served warm in a Grape Jelly sauce with crumbled peanuts and an ethereal marshmallow ice cream that ties it all together. Coconut Tapioca seems to be the “it” dessert right now, because it’s the second time I’ve seen it this week (the first was at El Toro Blanco), so I thought I’d try Santos’ version. His tastes like a thick rice pudding chewy pearls of tapioca, topped with homemade mango sorbet that’s sharp, sweet and sour all at the same time. There may be a few, flashier openings this winter, but few as simultaneously satisfying, and yet unique as Louro.