Think posh tiki bar serving up mum's home cooking. Newly opened and already booking out, Luis Tans is on its way to becoming the next Bondi hotspot. It's easy to see why, considering the hype around the restaurant's opening and coupled with the owners' impressive resumes. Their now infamous character was meant to remain as an inside joke, but once the story got out Luis became the fictional mascot and later namesake of the restaurant. "It was a snowball effect" says co-owner Ryan Ginns (ex-design coordinator for The Grounds of Alexandria).
Backstories aside, the real star here is the food, brought to you by Venezuelan head chef Alejandro Franco Lancini. While Luis himself may have Latino and Japanese influences (this marriage mimicked in the decor and cocktails), the share plate menu is much more authentic South American than the story would suggest. The menu is mainly inspired from the dishes chef Lacini's grew up with; the 'El pan de abuela' ($17) gives an obvious nod to Lancini's grandmother, a dish that uses her secret recipe. It reminds us of a decadent French onion soup — the creamy, smoky leeks giving the dish a meaty flavour, while the sourdough bowl really soaks up the juicy stew. With a nod to the Aussie pallet, this is better than any meat pie we've had.
Of the ceviche menu, our favourite is the ceviche de pulpo y cobia ($19). Impeccably fresh and bright, the palm hearts add a meaty component to an otherwise delicate dish. The fish roe and red onion give the colour and crunch contrast that balances the dish.
The menu is quite a healthy one, with plenty of gluten-free, vego and vegan options. The mains, however, are all about the slow-cooked, sustainably-sourced meat, and you'll be out of luck if this isn't in your diet. The gluten-free Costillas de Res ($23) is just beautiful — 270-day-grass-fed and tomato-braised, the angus beef short ribs are the epitome of succulence. The chimichurri sauce adds a fresh, herby pop while the black turtle beans contribute to the richness of the dish. It's best to order one of these heavier meat options with a salad — the broccoli and faro ($13) is notable among the ensaladas.
Late night, this joint turns up its music and the bar scene takes over. The creative cocktail menu is well-suited for this crowd, like the Choco Loco Pisco ($19), a fresh, clean cocktail with a mild chocolatey twist. Questions? Just ask the staff — they are attentive and knowledgeable about both the food and drink menus.
With an ideal, tucked-away location just off Campbell Parade, looks like Luis Tans and his crew are here to stay.