Farm-to-table master Dan Kluger’s restaurant Loring Place is finally ready to open next week. It's been a long time coming. The chef made a name for himself while at ABC Kitchen and ABC Cocina, leading the former one to a James Beard Award in 2011, and he left the Jean-Georges properties back in summer of 2014 to start working on this new project. He hasn’t cooked in a restaurant since then. The highly anticipated solo venture has taken some time, but here, Kluger was able to put his touch on every aspect of the experience.
For one, it means his philosophy of celebrating raw ingredients in cooking translates into the design of the space. "It’s a lot about these simple, raw ingredients — wood, steel, concrete, things that we almost take for granted," he says. "We pulled them out and made them the forefront." Walnut wood was sanded and oiled for parts of the restaurant, and concrete was treated to become the bar and some stairs. Each one bears different textures and shades. "It’s this mentality of raw ingredients being tweaked in a way that they stand out on their own," he says.
It also means that Kluger drew inspiration from more than just his time at ABC Kitchen for the menu. His tenures at Tabla and Union Square Cafe also made a huge impact on his cooking, and at Loring Place, he’s ready to branch out slightly beyond the American cuisine that put him in the spotlight. Vegetables, pizzas, and pastas will still be highlighted, but expect traditionally Indian, Asian, and Mediterranean spices to pop up more here than at ABC. A crispy cauliflower dish, for example, is roasted with Indian spices, ginger, and garlic before getting fried — a method that reminds him of his time at Tabla. "It’s very well-balanced and spicy and sweet and sour," he says. "Nothing new there. But I think using the spices in this way is exciting for me to kind of remember things and be inspired by that." Other items on the menu are things that remind Kluger of his childhood. For dessert, he’s serving a cookie platter that includes a black and white cookie, a chocolate crinkle cookie, and a coconut macaron, something he used to love as kid.
But controlling all the details doesn’t come without its stresses. With about 120 seats, the restaurant is a big undertaking, and Kluger’s nervous. After more than two years of waiting, a lot of eyes are on him. "It’s nice to be anticipated, but it’s nerve-wracking at the same time," he says. "It’s a big space. We gotta fill every seat. If I wasn’t nervous, there would be something wrong. ...That’s what you bite off when you decide to do a thing on your own." Loring Place, at 21 West 8th Street, opens next week. Take a look at the space below, and stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.