South East Asian Cuisine at Loloan Lobby Bar in Waterloo

Written by Bryan Lavery

The partners behind Loloan Lobby Bar are seasoned restaurateurs. The primary partners include Paul Boehmer as General Manager and Head Chef, Renee Lees, and Josh Koehler, former partner at Jane Bond and owner of the Starlight Social Club. Leanne Amort, manager of Bhima’s Warung, and Jon Rennie, Executive Chef at both Bhima’s and Loloan, are secondary partners. Boehmer is a George Brown College graduate. His well-rounded career includes apprenticeships at Michelin-starred hotels Langdon Hall (a Relais & Châteaux property) and the iconic Three Small Rooms at Windsor Arms, before opening Bhima’s Warung in 1994. Boehmer travelled all over the Indonesian archipelago and beyond on research trips to spend time with home cooks and document recipes. He owned and operated a fine dining restaurant in Bali for five years, which became part of the inspiration for Loloan.

Loloan Lobby Bar

When Boehmer opened Bhima’s it was an ambitious undertaking, embracing the spectrum of regional cuisines, and a variety of ingredients and cooking methods largely unfamiliar to most diners. Boehmer has made a point of evangelizing cuisines that are less well known while not necessarily sticking to a strictly codified authenticity. That allows room for creativity and high quality alternative ingredients that are locally sourced. 

The Loloan partners travelled to Southeast Asia in January of 2017. It was an opportunity to get to know each other better and to get the lay of the land, culinarily speaking. They sought out the lobby bars in luxury hotels where they could enjoy the amenities offered to guests and visitors. This is how they came up with the idea of modelling Loloan after a lobby bar. Loloan translated means “where the river meets the ocean,” and the pool formed in this convergence is called a loloan. 

Loloan’s décor is elegant, with the owners’ personal tastes expressed in the combination of Art Deco opulence paired with colonial Indonesian eclecticism. The three-sided marble bar seats 25, with comfortable chairs upholstered with soft turquoise leather in the lounge area.  Art Deco statuettes of women holding illuminated globes adorn the top of the quartz bar every few feet like chic hood ornaments. Stylish illuminated globe pendants are suspended overhead, adding to the bar’s timeless ambience. There are heavy revolving doors at the entrance, an intricate Art Deco-inspired ceiling, tiled floors, a rotary phone from the 1930s, and elephant-branded accessories and matchboxes. There are three two-tops in the front window, from which to watch passersby, and a seasonal street-side patio for alfresco eating and drinking called the Tuk Tuk Teras. The dining room seats around 40 in elegant booths and button-tufted banquettes. A well-placed large window above the banquettes gives patrons a birds-eye view into the kitchen. Upstairs above the main dining room is the Map Room. The luxurious room is reserved for private parties and requires reservations and menu consultation in advance.  

From the top, Nem Trio finds its inspiration in Singapore, Hanoi, and Thailand. Centre is Crested Partridge, brined in ginger and roasted with lemongrass and citrus. Below, Laarb Kwai features fresh Ontario water buffalo in a traditional Laotian “tartare” recipe.

Chef Jon Rennie, Boehmer’s protégé and former sous-chef at Bhima’s, is now chef at Loloan. His menus are upscale sensory experiences, meticulously conceptualized with sumptuously textured offerings that are tangy, spicy, aromatic and herbal. Like fresh sambal, the flavour building Indonesian hot sauce, Loloan’s cuisine packs heat and flavour in equal parts. Menus are gastronomic forays through the regional and cross-cultural cuisines of Southeast Asia, with homage being paid to Indonesia, India, Vietnam, Singapore and Thailand. Appetizers are modelled on the offerings of the small family-owned shacks and stalls – warungs – that sell street food alongside Indonesia’s roadsides. 

Traditional recipes often comprise up to a dozen herb and spice ingredients to achieve authenticity. Galangal and lemongrass may be essential to building Indonesian flavours, but the crushing and grinding of ingredients such as chilli peppers and spices, and grinding herbs and even fibrous ingredients like turmeric, ginger and kaffir lime leaves with mortar and pestle are essential. Indonesians have developed distinctly original gastronomic themes with lemongrass, galangal, tamarind, turmeric ginger and cardamom.

Nem Trio finds its inspiration in Singapore, Hanoi and Thailand and consists of seafood salpicón (a combination of ingredients mixed in sort of a salad) in rice paper with lemongrass sambal; ca cuon thit is a catfish and sausage fried roll with sour cherry nuoc (dipping sauce); and ginger-cured arctic char is served with somtom (green papaya salad) roll and crab oil. Try the Kwai Massaman, curry bison short rib, pickled mustard green, chili jam, morning glory, mushroom salad and rice; or Gaeng Dtaeng Pet with roasted Muscovy duck, lychee curry, oyster omelette, smoky gapi rice (shrimp paste fried rice) and prik nam plaa (classic Thai chilli and fish sauce); or Moo Parlow which is pork neck slowly braised in star anise caramel liquor, steamed rice noodle, crackling, pickled duck egg and condiments. Asam Laska features a terrine of seafood, pork meatballs, laksa noodle and smoky tamarind broth with condiments that make it crackle. The Laarb Kwai features fresh Ontario water buffalo prepared using a traditional Laotian ‘tartare’ recipe. Hati Gamuck is a terrine of foie gras with heartnuts, buntut (oxtail) gelée, tourtière croûte and kumquat sambal. Chef recently introduced crested partridge brined in ginger and roasted with lemongrass and citrus, served with fenugreek and yogurt sauce, seasonal vegetables, chutney and belachaung (a traditional condiment of fried onions, dried shrimp, ginger and red chillies). 

Butterfly Pea Flower Martini is vodka, lychee, butterfly pea flower and salty-sweet pretzels served on a wooden board.

There are a la carte and weekly prix fixe and late night street food menus and snacks at the bar. The smartly-attired professional staff take their well-crafted cocktails seriously and the cocktail menu is influenced by flavours and combinations from across the globe. Butterfly Pea Flower Martini is vodka, lychee, butterfly pea flower and salty-sweet pretzels served on a wooden board. It finds its inspiration at the Siam Kempinski Hotel in Bangkok. The cocktail contains butterfly pea flower, which causes the drink to change from blue to violet when you add the sidecar of lychee. The Balinese-inspired Ingat (which literally means take care) comprises gin, wild gunung honey, fresh kunyit (turmeric), tamarind and pomelo.

There is an extensive bourbon and whisky list. Another of Loloan’s strengths is the impeccable Wes Klassen, a certified sommelier who you may know from Bhima’s Warung, Langdon Hall or the former Berlin. He skillfully adds another dimension to your fine dining enjoyment by guiding patrons in pairings that balance the flavours and idiosyncrasies of the cuisine.

Loloan Lobby Bar
14 Princess Street West, Waterloo

Sunday to Wednesday – 4 pm to 12 am
Thursday to Saturday – 4 pm to 1 am
Happy Hour: 4 pm to 5 pm for cocktails and snacks at the bar only.
Dinner: Served from 5 pm.

About the author

Bryan Lavery

Eatdrink Food Editor and Writer at Large Bryan Lavery brings years of experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry, as a chef, restaurant owner and consultant. Always on the lookout for the stories that Eatdrink should be telling, he helps shape the magazine both under his byline and behind the scenes.