‘Vegetable Forward’ Chef Gets His Own Patch at Loring Place

There’s a long and busy bar to the right of the entrance where the drinks list offers you very well-made classic cocktails as well as innovations that taste like classics in the making. On the left are two dining areas: one that sits on a platform in the window, and another, bigger one off the kitchen. Designed by Cycle Architecture & Planning, the rooms are full of handsome expanses of white brick and stained walnut.


A long bar to the right of the entrance offers classic cocktails, as well as innovations.

Casey Kelbaugh for The New York Times

Yes, these hard surfaces amplify the noise. Yes, they’re trying to fix it.

Mr. Kluger has said in interviews that at Loring Place he is bringing back some of the tricks he picked up before he learned his ABC’s, while he was working under Floyd Cardoz and Tom Colicchio. That may be true of the recipes, but the template of the menu comes unmistakably from ABC Kitchen, all the way down to the whole-wheat pizzas.

There are more salads at Loring Place, and the saladlike constructions are even more saladlike. At the end of winter, I loved the combination of crisp Bosc pears with soft roasted leeks over thick yogurt, and some sugar-glazed walnuts for ballast. A couple of weeks ago, with pollen in the air, I appreciated the arrival of sweet sugar snap peas, lightly charred and served with bright pink breakfast radishes and shreds of pecorino.

In this herbivorous decade, Loring Place isn’t the only restaurant to try grinding flour from local grains, or the only one to get mixed results. The emmer crackers, armored with sunflower seeds, are terrific with a schmear of the excellent and lightly sweet hummus. So are the breakfast radishes lodged in the surface of the hummus.

A friend who knows her grains looked dubious when I ordered the house-made whole-wheat spaghetti. I was skeptical, too. (It is almost never as good as it sounds.) Loring Place gets it right, though, and lets it be, tossing it with basil, chiles, grated cheese and some velvety leaves of spinach.

The whole-wheat bread, on the other hand, isn’t quite at the point where Loring Place should be charging $6 for a loaf smaller than a football. The crust is impressively sturdy, but the interior is neither tender nor elastic — it’s dry and crumbly.

I liked the whole-wheat pizza crust enough to wish it had been allowed to breathe a little more under a mass of shaved asparagus, maitake mushrooms, jalapeños and three kinds of cheese.


The Loring Place “grandma crust” is thicker than in the archetypal versions of the pan pizza, but flavorful, light and nongreasy.

Casey Kelbaugh for The New York Times

But I have to admit I had a hard time keeping up my interest in the other pies at Loring Place once I’d eaten a square of what the menu calls “grandma-style pan pizza.” Like a less doughy Sicilian baked with canned tomatoes, not sauce, the grandma has been slowly expanding its range west of its traditional breeding grounds in Nassau County. The Loring Place grandma crust is thicker than in the archetypal versions, but flavorful, light and nongreasy. I hope Mr. Kluger has stocked up on pizza pans because he runs a serious risk of selling a grandma pie to every table in the restaurant.

Its only close rival on the menu is the cheeseburger, which comes with bacon made on site, a likably combative pickled-pepper aioli and a cast-iron pan of thick-cut fries that seem to get crunchier as they got cooler, a neat feature.

I don’t imagine Mr. Kluger wants us to think of Loring Place as a place for cheeseburgers and square pizza, but a lot of the other main courses aren’t as compelling for one reason or another. Halibut with a market’s worth of mixed mushrooms in miso and lemon juice was an ideal example of how to cook and serve fish, but I can’t say the same about the nondescript king salmon or the sea scallops in a sauce whose naked acidity was intensified by apples marinated in vinegar.

Grilled chicken breast with carrot barbecue sauce sounded more exciting than it was; the sauce never kicked in hard enough to rouse the warm peas and rice that seemed to have settled down under the chicken for a long winter’s nap.

As much as I want to take Loring Place on its own terms, the menu makes comparisons with ABC Kitchen inevitable, and Loring Place comes off as slightly less interesting. It’s not just that a lot of it feels familiar now; some of it is also unfocused and busy. The plates have more going on, but there’s not as much happening.

To be fair, very few restaurants are as interesting as ABC Kitchen was when it opened, and there are solid reasons that reservations at Loring Place are hard to come by. They include the wine list, which packs a few nice surprises, not the least of which is the attention it pays to the $40 to $60 range. And they continue through the smartly nostalgic dessert menu. There’s a sly update on the Hostess CupCake, a tin of cookies, and a vanilla ice-cream sundae with pretzels, toffee and whatnot, modeled on the Dairy Queen Blizzard.

O.K. It’s kind of like the sundae at ABC Kitchen. It’s still good.

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Correction: May 2, 2017
An earlier version of this article misstated an ingredient in the whole-wheat spaghetti dish. It contains basil, chiles, grated cheese and spinach; there is no tomato.

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