Paper City Houston : Loro’s Heights Restaurant Altar

Dubbed an Asian smokehouse and bar, Loro Heights blends the best of Southeast Asian flavors from chef Tyson Cole (of Uchi restaurant fame, who finessed his craft in Tokyo, New York and Austin) with post-oak-smoke-infused meat, chicken and fish from pitmaster Aaron Franklin of Austin’s Franklin Barbecue, which places highly in nearly every Best Barbecue rankings.

Houston is the third city to get a Loro (Austin and Dallas are the other two), opened under the banner of Austin restaurant group Hai Hospitality (Ucho and Uchiko, Uchiba). A fourth Loro restaurant in Addison in North Texas is planned for later this year.

Michael Hsu Office of Architecture reimagined the once-shuttered West Eleventh Church of God in partnership with RE:VIVE Development, preserving the best of the vast 1940s sanctuary with its massive overhead trusses.

The expansive light-filled space now conjures an old Texas dance hall with a suspended art installation in the entry by Fibrous, created from massive ropes knotted together to form a chandelier-like piece that helps ground the 35-foot vaulted ceiling. The dining room is warmed with cedar, white oak and Douglas fir, contrasted with elements of blackened raw steel and sea green tile work. Several long communal tables invite diners to share a meal with friends and strangers.

If dining solo, take a seat at the bar, meander outside to the expansive patio, or sit on the shaded porch, where your meal is couriered to your table within minutes after you order at the bar.

The Loro Brisket Sandwich brings together the best of Aaron Franklin’s barbecue and Tyler Cole’s signature Asian flavors. (Photo by Anastacia Uriegas)

The Loro Menu

The menu fuses bright flavors from Thailand, Japan and Vietnam with the complexity of Franklin’s barbecued proteins. Decisions are hard at Loro.

Start with the pale-ale-battered cod at happy hour, the marinated fish fried in a light tempura batter with hints of curry and turmeric, served with a yuzu-spiked Thousand Island dipping sauce ($7), or opt for the cherry tomato and cucumber salad, drizzled with cilantro oil atop compressed cantaloupe, offset by the subtle heat of Nuóc Châm ($6.50). Starters include crunchy sweet corn fritters with sriracha aioli for dipping ($8), cool sesame rice noodles tossed with chili vinaigrette ($5.25) and a cheeky bar snack: candied kettle corn with brisket burnt ends sprinkled with togarashi, a chile pepper spice blend ($5.25).

Culinary director Jack Yoss and chef de cuisine Marcos Leal (Hotel Galvez, Jasper’s) beautifully translate the subtle smoke of Franklin and Cole’s oak-smoked salmon, seared and served bobbing in a cucumber-yuzu broth with a hint of lemon ($18.50). The bolder smoked beef brisket is the cut that made Franklin Barbecue famous. Here it is mopped with a chili gastrique and enlivened with bright Thai herbs.

The brisket is served from 4 pm until they run out ($18.25). Also limited is the baby-back Duroc pork ribs, available Sunday and Mondays after 4 pm, which arrives with a side of pickled cauliflower ($14).

Sandwich offerings include mighty crisp smoked chicken on a brioche bun, layered with citrus-cabbage slaw, pickles and a touch of honey to offset the smoked hot sauce ($12). Brisket makes an appearance between slices of bread, accompanied by a papaya salad and peanuts-and-chili-laced aioli, which adds crunch and a kick of heat ($14).

Let’s not forget the cocktails. The bartenders at L0ro create tinctures including Blood Orange Blossom with gin, lime and kombucha ($8.50); the Kyuri mule, where vodka is stirred with sake, cucumber and brightened with fresh mint ($8.50); and the Mandarin Margarita with tequila, mezcal, yuzu and tangerine ($9). Perfect for the spring, Boozy Slushee options include a frozen gin and tonic, mango sake slushee and a frozen mojito ($8.50 to $9 each).

Originally published by Paper City Magazine