Loro Dallas Sets an Opening Date, and We Meet the New Chef, Mike Perez

Chef Mike Perez of Loro Dallas
Chef Mike Perez of Loro Dallas Loro
Loro Asian Smokehouse, the Uchi and Franklin Barbecue collaboration that hails from Austin, is set to open in East Dallas on Monday, July 5. This highly anticipated debut, which is pitmaster Aaron Franklin’s first restaurant outside of Austin, was originally announced nearly two years ago, but the pandemic put everything on hold.

We know about the James Beard Award-winning Tyson Cole of Uchi, and we know some of the most important people in the world will wait for hours in line for Franklin's barbecue (who also has a James Beard award). But we were curious who they tapped to lead the kitchen for this new place. We caught up with Mike Perez, the chef de cuisine of Loro Dallas, to learn about his path to one of the most coveted new restaurants in Texas.

Perez is originally from Oregon where he was first introduced to fine dining by his high school culinary teacher’s husband, who worked at Tabla. He graduated from Johnson and Wales College of Food Innovation and Technology and has worked in Alaska, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Charleston, North Carolina. But the turning point in his career, Perez says, was at Portland’s Ten01, where he met chef Jack Yoss, the now-vice president of culinary for Hai Hospitality, Uchi and Loro’s management company.

“We’d worked together in Portland. He was one of my first mentors. When I was 22, we were doing this Oregon pinot noir roadshow in Dallas, and he was the guest chef, and I came with him. During the trip, he promoted me to his sous chef. Now, full circle, I’m moving to Dallas to work with him again,” Perez says.

Perez even followed Yoss to Thailand at one point and spent several weeks eating his way through the street food markets and learning from Yoss.

Even with such a thick history, landing the chef de cuisine job at Loro Dallas was no easy task. Perez had to go through a lengthy hiring process — 12 interviews — a trademark of Hai Hospitilty’s standards for culture and hiring.

“I went out there [Loro in Austin] for a week, staged, worked the stations getting to know the cooks,” Perez says. “When it comes to internal hospitality and hiring, they want to make sure they do it right.”

He was eventually tapped for the job but found himself in a Loro-holding pattern for more than a year.

“I was here the week South by Southwest got canceled, and we were all kind of looking at each other like, ‘Man, I think this a lot more serious than everyone is expecting.’ Then I got a call like, ‘Hold tight, it’s still happening. We just don’t know when,’” Perez says.

He spent the past year collaborating with restaurants making meals for people in the service industry. He also helped set up a new restaurant in Atlanta called Hendrik’s. Earlier this year, he finally moved to Dallas for good. Several weeks before the restaurant was set to open, he was busy interviewing house staff, visibly giddy and anxious to so close to opening.

click to enlarge The happy hour burger at Loro ($11) is made with house-made red onion brisket jam, muenster cheese and lettuce. - LORO
The happy hour burger at Loro ($11) is made with house-made red onion brisket jam, muenster cheese and lettuce.
When Loro finally seats diners early next month, we’ll get a taste of this project that’s been in the work for years. Some menu items are unique to Dallas, like their take on fish and chips ($7), a Coney Island meets classic British pub item. Marinated cod is fried in a curry tempura batter, turmeric and Dallas’ own local beer Royal Scandal from Peticolas. Salt and vinegar beet chips are served on the side.

There’s also a French onion brisket melt ($8) on the happy hour menu. It's a classic patty melt on rye with Swiss cheese, brisket jam and sweet and sour onions caramelized with sugar and sherry vinegar. A jus made from rendered brisket juice is served on the side.

The meat menu includes Malaysian chicken bo ssam ($14.50) with yellow curry-yuzu vinaigrette and Thai basil. A char siew pork belly is served with a house hoisin sauce and celery. The smoked prime bavette ($18.75) is made with shishito salsa verde, cilantro and pickled onions. Starting at 4 p.m. every day, Loro will serve smoked beef brisket ($16.75) with chile gastrique and Thai herbs.

After first writing about Loro Dallas in October of 2019, we're anxious for the spot, and its new chef, to finally get settled in.

Loro Dallas, 1812 N Haskell St. Open 11:30 a.m. - 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 11:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Happy Hour is Monday through Friday from 2 - 5 p.m.
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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.