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Illuminating local fare at Luminosa

The newly opened Flat Iron Hotel will be home to three dining concepts — and the chefs behind them are bringing their passion to the plate.

Open kitchen at Luminosa

Luminosa’s open kitchen offers a view of live-fire cooking.

Photo by AVLtoday

Graham House and Sean McMullen have known each other since high school, but the positions they now occupy as executive chef and chef de cuisine at the new Luminosa restaurant is nothing more than “serendipity” — as House would say. Not just because of their familiarity or coincidentally having their tasting interviews less than a week apart, but because they approach food with the same delighted, focused vehemence.

When they joined Indigo Road, the hospitality group behind the Flat Iron Hotel, about a year ago, they were given a general concept of Luminosa. It was going to be an Italian restaurant (partially because a pizza oven and pasta cooker were already in place), but other than that, the team was given free rein.

An Asheville-focused approach

“We both get really bored of dishes quickly,” laughed House, “So we change the menu all the time.” And as much as this mercurial creative impulse governs the menu, it’s also influenced by Asheville. Appalachian culture, of course — but we’re actually talking about the weather.

Luminosa sources as much as possible from local farmers and food purveyors, so rolling out strict seasonal menus doesn’t really work because seasons can be fickle around here. Instead, House and McMullen have to follow the whims of the soil + sky alongside their culinary inspiration. Right now, you’ll find dishes like campanelle with country ham and nettles, risotto with spring alliums, and flowering broccoli with puffed quinoa.

However, the weeks between initial menu development and actual opening meant a transition in available produce, and last week’s hailstorm required a revamp too. Even between Wednesday’s grand opening and now, two more dishes needed tweaks. Cooking hyperlocally and hyperseasonally requires flexibility.

The cocktail menu also falls right in line with those principles. "[Beverage and Restaurant Manager] Sarah Charles is just as nerdy about cocktails as we are about food,” said House. “She loves using byproducts of our cooking, like pickle juice or brine — there’s a lot of cross-utilization.”

Inspecting the space(s)

Luminosa’s interior really shines, and aesthetically, it’s harmonious with its historical home. The interior is cozy but filled with light, and vintage touches add warmth and understated sophistication. The rooms flow with the existing structure, and original details + nods to the building’s history can be found throughout.

However, Luminosa is only one of the culinary concepts housed in the Flat Iron. From 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Caffe at Luminosa serves coffee and pastries, and in the evening, you can head upstairs to the rooftop, where a bar offers cocktails, small bites, and breathtaking views. Later this month, a basement speakeasy, The Red Ribbon Society, will open with the same Art Deco elegance as the other spaces. Live music and inventive cocktails have been mentioned, but details are intentionally hush-hush for now (we do have it on good authority that you’ll need a password to get in).

House hopes the restaurants’ heart-of-the-city location encourages more locals to come downtown. “We live in a great town,” he said. “I just want this to be the new spot where people can come and have a good meal.”

Luminosa is open daily starting at 5 p.m. and is located at 20 Battery Park Ave.

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