Go to Loro. Now. In three years, this place will be so embedded in the Austin psyche it will seem like it’s existed forever. You want to be able to brag, “Aw, man, I remember when that place was new.” Open since March, this brilliant mash-up of pan-Asian flavors and Texas barbecue occupies a new but very believable facsimile of a big old Texas dance hall in a grove of live oaks on South Lamar. Outside, picnic tables fill up the deck as people mill around, hoping to claim an empty swing; inside, they gather at long tables and blond wood booths, chatting and watching sports on a smattering of TVs over the bar. There are five ordering stations, so the lines move right along (one recent Tuesday at 7:30 we waited twenty minutes—but it can easily be longer). As most locals know, Loro is a collaboration between two of the most famous chefs in Texas: Tyson Cole, chef-owner of the modern-Japanese Uchi group, and Aaron Franklin, chef and founder of Franklin Barbecue. The result is an Asian-tinged smokehouse where judiciously chosen sweet/salty/sour condiments counterbalance the deep, earthy flavors of smoked meats. If you’re looking for something to share around the table as an opener, consider the Indonesian batter-fried corn patties called perkedel jagung, accompanied by sriracha aioli. For something a little less sweet, there are oak-grilled sugar snap peas with a kimchi dipping sauce. Both of these are perfect with Loro’s two signature drinks: sake slushies and frozen gin and tonics. Properly fortified, you can get serious with brisket (available after 5 p.m.), stupendously tender, deeply crusted slices that owe much to the efforts of on-site pitmaster Bram Tripp. A chile-tinged sweet-sour sauce gives it character. Feeling piggish? Try the satisfying rice bowl with lovely roasted and grilled pork shoulder char siew seasoned with Loro’s house hoisin sauce. (A lot of the Asian dishes and treatments come courtesy of chefs Jack Yoss and James Dumapit, who migrated over from Uchi’s parent company.) There’s only one fish dish on the menu, but it’s terrific: smoked salmon with cucumber-yuzu broth. In fact, the whole menu is short—22 dishes in all, not counting dessert. But that’s more than enough.
It’s not the meal you’d find at Franklin Barbecue. That’s not a bad thing.