Restaurant News & Reviews

Developers of failed downtown SLO bowling alley turn focus to new tapas restaurant

A new tapas restaurant in downtown San Luis Obispo focusing on “Mediterranean dishes re-imagined through a fresh and innovative California prism” is now open on Chorro Street.

Branzino has opened in the commercial space formerly occupied by Pluto’s restaurant, which closed in December 2017.

Head chef Carlos Lool has served in various roles in several high-profile restaurants in the Los Angeles area, including chef de cuisine at Fig & Olive (Newport Beach), executive sous chef at Baltaire (Los Angeles) and executive chef at Monsieur Marcel (Los Angeles).

Lool also has trained under Master Chef Nobu Matsuhisa at his Michelin star restaurant in Beverly Hills, the restaurant owners said in a statement.

Branzino is owned by Josh and Jeremy Pemberton, in partnership with Lool.

Their new SLO restaurant is currently open Wednesdays through Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. and from 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday, specializing in tapas and sangria.

A new tapas restaurant has opened in SLO called Branzino in the old Pluto’s space at 1122 Chorro. Elegant casual dining and it’s main chef, Jeremy Pemberton, left, is co-owner. Carlos Lool, has opened several restaurants in L.A. David Middlecamp 3-22-2019 David Middlecamp

“We’re honored and thrilled to join the long list of superb gastronomic experiences available to the residents and visitors of San Luis Obispo, and look forward to being added to this area’s ‘must-try’ dining destinations,” Jeremy Pemberton said in a statement.

The name of the restaurant means “European sea bass,” and the eatery will serve sea bass cooked in a Mediterranean style.

The restaurant, which has a parent company called Porto León, features tapas dishes such as: paella del mar (paella from the sea), truffle mushroom croquettes, gambas al ajillo (shrimp with garlic), hamachi (Pacific yellowtail), pulpo a la gallega (Galician-style octopus), zarzuela (seafood stew), patatas bravas (potatoes), as well as a full raw bar with six different types of oysters available daily.

Jeremy Pemberton said in a statement the vision for his new restaurant “was to create a bold re-invention of classic Mediterranean cuisine with freshly sourced ingredients on both land and sea, from right here on the Central Coast.”

A new tapas restaurant has opened in SLO called Branzino in the old Pluto’s space at 1122 Chorro. Elegant casual dining and it’s main chef, Carlos Lool, has opened several restaurants in L.A. Jeremy Pemberton is co-owner. David Middlecamp 3-22-2019 David Middlecamp

The Pembertons had plans for another high-profile project in SLO’s downtown that never materialized.

Their company DIscovery SLO promised a highly anticipated bowling alley and entertainment center at nearby 1144 Chorro St., but it was called off last year after years of planning led to a contentious relationship with the landlord, Jamestown Properties.

Jamestown filed a lawsuit against Discovery SLO on April 25, 2017, claiming the business had failed to pay rent for more than a year and owed Jamestown at least $750,000. But the case was dismissed in 2018, and neither side directly addressed publicly how the legal action was resolved.

“As with any civil filing in our court system, any party can make claim or filing at their discretion,” Pemberton told The Tribune. “No judgment was awarded. We have since arrived at a mutual agreement to pursue new development plans that meet our respective goals and objectives.”

Pemberton told The Tribune his company pulled out of the project for a variety of reasons, including unforeseen safety upgrades and “conditions and restrictions imposed on the project and limitations on future operations including required closing hours, all of which negatively impacted potential economic return.”

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Nick Wilson covers the city of San Luis Obispo and has been a reporter at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo since 2004. He also writes regularly about K-12 education, Cal Poly, Morro Bay and Los Osos. He is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley and is originally from Ojai.