Oran Mór Bistro has changed owners but not its philosophy.
Feathers tend to ruffle when news breaks that a longtime dining institution has changed hands on Nantucket. Islanders are protective of their favorite haunts, so when Chris Freeman relinquished control of Oran Mór Bistro to Chef Edwin Claflin and Jon Tancinco this February, questions quickly simmered to the surface. Would they be changing the name? The food? The space itself? Was Oran Mór no more?
Thankfully, this change in power is more of a pivot than a complete departure. Chef Claflin is an island native whose family has owned a number of businesses on Nantucket since the seventies. As such, the chef knows how delicately the ingredient of change must be sprinkled into this new venture, beginning with the name out front. “Oran Mór has been associated with excellence since Peter Wallace incepted it,” he says. “We are proud to carry that torch and that name into the 21st century.”
Claflin met his business partner, Jon Tancinco, while attending the Culinary Institute of America, where the chef earned the rare distinction of graduating with a degree in both culinary arts and baking and pastry arts. The two men went on to work under revered chefs at a number of Michelin-starred restaurants always keeping in mind that someday they wanted to join forces on a project. “Chef really understands how important service is and how a strong presence in the dining room can elevate a meal,” Tancinco says. “He knew he’d need the right man out front, just as I knew I’d need a creative force to produce something truly special in the kitchen.”
Teaming up on this next chapter of Oran Mór, Claflin and Tancinco are maintaining the tenets that made the restaurant on South Beach Street so beloved over the years. Diners will still enjoy refined, thoughtful à la carte cuisine — oysters, striper, duck, foie gras — in an intimate old New England setting. “The key differences lie in the execution,” Tancinco says. “We are not trying to reinvent the wheel here or be terribly avant-garde. What matters most to us is that things are delicious — always.”
The quintessential dinner at the new Oran Mór begins with their signature Mortini. Tancinco describes this cocktail of over-proof gin with Dolin Blanc, a rich, slightly sweet vermouth as tasting of “intense floral and spiced notes that harmonize perfectly with the herbaceous botanicals of the gin, offset by an expressed lemon peel.” After cocktails, it’s on to roasted Pocomo Meadow oysters and a half-bottle of bubbly, followed by a middle course of lobster pasta and perhaps a glass of white Burgundy. The wine is sourced from around the world. The main event could be seared duck breast with house-made duck sausage, accompanied by sweet and sour cabbage and a glass of pinot. Before you toss in the napkin, clink spoons over Chef Claflin’s interpretation of an ice cream sundae: white coffee ice cream, chocolate sprinkles, brownie, toffee bits — all covered in a rich chocolate coating that’s cracked open before your very eyes.
Despite their Michelin star aspirations, Claflin and Tancinco are not looking to propel Oran Mór into the rarified and at times stuffy world of fine dining. “The restaurant will somehow be more refined and yet more casual than it was before,” they agree. “Little touches here and there, all in service of the experience, but also just plain fun.” Clearly they know that when it comes to running a successful restaurant on Nantucket, the element of fun is nearly as important as the food.