Although they shouldn’t, expectations can make or muff a meal. Walking into a place with low expectations can elevate the experience when you are pleasantly surprised, but entering with elevated expectations can detract from a good-but-not-epic experience.
On paper, the Loro lovechild of James Beard award winners Tyson Cole of Uchi and Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue induces a Pavlovian response. Thankfully, this Uchi-Franklin fusion isn’t raw brisket wrapped in rice and kelp: it’s a new, mid-fi, Asian smokehouse collaboration that doesn’t detract from each others’ core businesses. Unfortunately, Loro doesn’t rise to the reputational occasion. Don’t get me wrong: the food, drink, and atmosphere are good–they just don’t provide that sucker punch of greatness I was expecting. It’s good, but it’s not let’s-drive-across-town goodness (showing that 1 Beard + 1 Beard = 0.65 Mustache).
The space is a lovely indoor-outdoor upscale beerhall, but the service model is awkward, something up-and-coming called fine-casual instead of fast-casual (casual counter ordering but with a 20- to 30-minute wait for your food). If you arrive early for your party and camp out at a table (something I did on a recent visit), someone needs to stay behind to guard the fort when the group decides to order, furthering the awkwardness. And woe to the eater who wants to order something additional, having to re-enter the line and wait yet again.
I’ve tried the Texas Sweet Corn (with yuzu kosho aioli, lime, and sunburst tomato; $5) and the Crunchy Sweet Corn Fritters (with sriracha aioli and cilantro.; $7.75), both adequately corny. The Smoked Pork Sausage (with papaya salad, peanuts, chili aioli, and Thai herbs; $11) and the Smoked Prime Bavette Rice Bowl (with coconut rice, seasonal pickles, and Thai herbs; $13.75) continue the meekly-mild fusion of Asia and central Texas. Unfortunately, these dishes (and others) are half-sleepily thrown together: “Let’s take a [insert iconic central Texas BBQ item] and throw some [insert iconic Asian ingredient] on top!” They come across as exquisite corpses rather than intimate collaborations between Cole and Franklin.
Don’t get me wrong: this is a fun place with good food, and the trees and setting are glorious. And at that price point with a limited waiting time, visitors can affordably knock two Beards off the bucket list in one sitting. But if you want the full hairy experience of what Cole and Franklin can do, you’ll need to visit Uchi and Franklin’s instead.
web&where: interwebs; 2115 south lamar boulevard; (512) 916-4858
what’s the deal? Asian-Central Texas fusion from two James Beard winners (Uchi and Franklin BBQ); counter service
overall: ** (food**; drink**; atmosphere***; service*; instagrammability***)
– meh [think twice]
* OK [it’ll get the job done]
** good [solid neighborhood joint]
*** damn good [we’ll definitely be back]
**** yippity-yikes that was amazeballs [fantastic; one of the best]
***** holy sh!t [transcendental; best of the best]