I am not usually fond of highly experimental complex combinations. Usually the food tastes don't enhance each other. Some over-arching flavors mask the others. You are left only with texture, which is not all bad, but not quite the promise of the individual ingredients. It often falls flat unless it is tested and vetted extensively which many chef's don't have the time to do. Sometimes an amazing combination comes about. Years ago, when Nobu Matushisa combined ponzu, jalapeno and raw fish. So delicious that you see it across the U.S. Usually I am not crazy about Asian fusion cuisine which will often take a few Chinese or Japanese key ingredients and mix it with all manner of foods without obeiscence to the ancient combinations that have developed from hundreds or even thousands of years of experimentations as to proportion and flavor. The hodgepodge is weak and disapointing compared to the original which can be powerful and direct. Hence, I was a little but concerned about Louro when I read up on it. We were going for thanksgiving, and I was scared. This guy seemed to try everything udner the sun. What strange combinations. But when we had thanksgiving there-I am not sure what got into me-I was totally delighted. David Santos' bonafides are great. Per Se, Nicholas, Bouley. He's the son of immigrants-dad made his own wines, grew their own fruits. Traveled in Europe. Big guy who is shaped like Henry VIII-he likes to eat. I usually don't like restaurants where you see the hipster crowd-too young for my older tastes. Too noisy and intense. But this place proved me wrong. I love to be proven wrong.
BREAD AND BUTTER:
We were first delighted with the bread and butter-not your ordinary butter. No, this butter was made with a 4 to 1 ratio of pork fat and duck fat plus a combination of spices. We were told that pepper was an important and expensive component of the butter, since pepper was once valued as much as gold. Perhaps in the 15th century when Ferdinand Magellan was spending a huge chunk of the king's treasury in portugal just to find a better trade route to the spice Islands, they were pricey. But it's not now. Works anyways. The butter was amazing. The mustiness of pork lard was most predominant, and it worked beautifully. The bread-they don't make their own-was hot, delicate crusted and light and airy in an almost focacchia style.
PASTA WITH OCTOPUS BOLOGNESE: We had the pasta with octopus bolognese. It had much more cream than most Bolognese sauces. The octpous worked well to add a sweetness and the flavor of the sea. I could taste some permutation of pork in there, perhaps pancetta-which is used in many authentic Bolognese recipes from Bologna, though not on the preeminent one that is found on the Bologna chamber of commerce website, I think. The noodles tasted home made, but I don't know if they were. They were soft, and were an egg based pasta, common in North Italy. Was the combination worth it? Who cares. Cream, intense meaty flavors and noodles. A certain sweetness and delicay Why complain?
UNI OVER JAPANESE PUMKIN FRIED SWEET BREADS IN A CREAM SAUCE WITH BASIL: Wow. This was the one that really proved me wrong. David Santos said the sourness came from a white balsimico. But this combination worked amazingly well. The sweetbreads were crispy, and sweet. The basil was almost like a more modern take on tarragon. The creaminess and sourness were a perfect way to balance it. The pumpkin was so fresh and well prepared and tender. The uni was a little lost, but the texture of uni is so nice. It seemed like it was the standard high quality uni from Santa Barbara that is usually exported to Japan before repatriation (who ever heard of repatriating uni).
CHESTNUT SOUP WITH WILD MUSHROOMS AND TRUFFLES: This was incredible. Cream soup turned dark from the wild mushrooms. Truffle oil-not truffles I think-soft chestnuts. What a great combination. Later I said to Mr. Santos "You really love cream". "Yeah". He laughed delightfully.
I think the key to this restaurant is that Mr. Santos cooks with cheerfulness. That is his key ingredient.
TURKEY PLATE: How do you make turkey taste great? Gravy, mashed potatoes. Wonderful job, and a well brined turkey, cut properly. Lot's of great technique. The stuffing was light and fluffy-somehow-but a bit disapointing as to flavors. The vegetables were extremely well handled and precise. They were mixed together, but each had their own wonderful taste and texture. The gravy was great and the mashed potatoes oozed with well flavored fats.
AGED RIBEYE: Okay, but not great. We were told that the steak was super quality. It was great technique and good gravy. But a bit tough. Aging didn't add a lot of the rich flavors of good aging. I would talk to the meat purveyor if I were the chef.
WILD STRIPED BASS: IT was served in a coconutty sort of cream sauce. It was served perfectly and tasted extremely fresh. The flavors didn't overwhelm the fish. It was beautifully white everywhere. Some sort of whitened rice dish that I couldn't even make out was served under this. The vegetables were some kind of cruciferous macerated mixture that softened the bitterness, and was delicious. This was extremely well executed. We were told that the fish was caught the day begore? "In the East river or the Hudson", I asked. "We're out of river fish" joked the waiter.
WINE: We brought our own. Their list wasn't impressive. We brought an incredible Clarendon Hills Old Vine Granache 1996. It was incredible. Parker gave it a well deserived 95 ranking. Not at all jammy like many Granaches, but rich and fruity with a lot of hidden complexity. Made me a convert to Granache from Australia which I hadn't tried before.
Pumkin pie and icecream
Chocolate valrhona desert meddley.
These were over the top. David didn't have a separate chef for these and that alone is amazing. How could 3 chefs alone in the kitchen produce not just such an exquisite meal, but deserts that were some of the best in the city. NOtably, they were not overly sweetened, and hte icecream was home made pumpkin. Wow. I wish the chef had more time to chat about recipes. I love this place.