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At Park Slope's Lore, Find Inviting Food With a Global Influence And an 'Indian Tweak'

Chef-owner Jay Kumar ran a successful restaurant in Basel, Switzerland before coming to Brooklyn for love
Chef-owner Jay Kumar. Photo: provided/Kate Previte

On the corner of 15th Street and 7th Avenue in Park Slope, you’ll find an Indian restaurant serving butter chicken without the butter, fish and chips minus the gluten, and samosas baked-- instead of fried-- in puff pastry.

The restaurant is called Lore, where chef and restaurant owner Jay Kumar-- instead of butter-- covers his expertly seared chicken with a cashew-based sauce. In fact, most of the menu caters to people with allergies or food intolerances.

But ultimately, it’s the exciting Indian flavors that have brought Lore its early success and earned it a shout-out from the Michelin Guide.

Lore's interior. Photo: Supplied/Kate Previte

“Success for me is when people come to you because they know they get the quality they look for-- They get the flavors they look for and the friendliness and the service they look for,” said Kumar, 56. 

The dishes at Lore are inspired by Kumar’s travels around the world and then given an “Indian tweak,” he said. The sea bream is served with lettuce wraps, in the style of a Korean ssam, and paired with two Indian chutneys — one mint and one red hot.

The roti ravioli, a new menu item and Kumar’s current favorite, adds eggplant, vindaloo and curry leaves to the typically Italian dish. 

He's careful about the ingredients he chooses, because in 2015, Kumar faced tumors in his large intestine, which pushed him to avoid dairy, gluten and sugar in his diet, shaping the menu at his establishment. After 23 rounds of radiation and a diet change, he said he is doing well now.

Sea bream ssam. Photo: provided/Kate Previte

That’s only part of the story behind Lore, a restaurant with a name that represents storytelling, Kumar said-- one that hearkens back to his childhood roots in Mangalore, India. 

Kumar’s parents hoped their children would become doctors or engineers. And while his sister did become a gynecologist, Kumar’s parents thought he might want to try dentistry. But, “I didn't want to have a situation where I would regret not being with the person I wanted to be with,” Kumar said. 

So, with his parents' support, he instead went to culinary and hotel management school in Switzerland.

At 23, he started working his way up through Hilton Hotels’ management program, until 2000 when he started a catering business serving Indian food. A guest was impressed by the food and asked if Kumar wanted to open a restaurant, and for nearly the next 20 years, he ran Jay’s in Basel, a 36-seat restaurant with a menu that changed weekly.

In June of 2019, Kumar moved to Brooklyn. By September, he was already in negotiations to rent a space for his restaurant on Dean Street and Vanderbilt Avenue, but the talks dragged on and eventually fell apart when the pandemic hit in February 2020. 

Finally, after opening his 50-seat restaurant in Park Slope in February 2022, Kumar is now a staple in the community.

Kumar’s wife, Daria Greene, is an artist. She designed the restaurant, imparting a rather baroque-style earthiness that evokes folk and lore. It might also be why some of the cocktails are named after rather obscure yet legendary writers and artists, like the filmmaker Federico Fellini and the poet Sappho.

The fermented dosa is stuffed with potatoes and served with coconut chutney, red lentil daal and tomato chutney. Photo: Provided/Lore.

The fermented dosa-- a thin, crispy and savory crépe made of ground rice and lentils-- is a star appetizer at Lore large enough for two. It's a faithful recreation of his grandmother’s, down to the coconut oil it’s fried in, a distinctly Mangalore technique.

“I started eating dosas, because my grandmother made it. And then later on in life, I started going to the kitchen to see what she was doing and how she was doing it,” he said.

For Kumar, dining is a very personal affair. If he's not in the kitchen, you can often find him mingling through tables, greeting diners with his brawny handshake, confident there's something on the menu for all of his guests.

This also includes canines: One of the first things Kumar noticed about his South Slope area was the large number of dogs in the neighborhood, which he treats to chicken sausages on the weekends.

“I have these dogs coming in almost every day to say hello to me,” he said.

Most importantly, he wants people to feel good when they come into his restaurant, "Not just come and try not to eat this or try not to eat that," he said. 

"A good restaurant should always have an intention of the health of the people."

Lore is located at 441 7th Ave., Brooklyn, NY.