Brasa

14 Jul

Visited June 29, 2010

Ryan
Lauren and I met up with an old friend of Lauren’s from high school, Chelsea, for a Tuesday night dinner at Brasa. Brasa is located in northeast Minneapolis and is placed in what looks like a former auto repair shop with its big garage doors. Brasa claims to serve comfort food inspired by the Creole cooking traditions of the Americas and Caribbean. Their rotisserie meats and side dishes are 100% natural, local, and organic, and are made completely from scratch.

The girls and I split a pitcher of Surly for $19—kind of an unusually steep price considering a pint was $5 and the pitcher only filled about three pint glasses with a few drops to spare. But the waitress was attentive and we were drinking beer before long. I admired the ingenuity of the establishment with its wide-open atmosphere. The indoor and outdoor sections blended together perfectly into one general seating area. Seeing how it was a hot, sunny evening, it was nice to sit under the roof on the indoor side but still get the benefit of the breeze.

what Ryan ate

After very little contemplation, I ordered a 2-meat/2-side combo, choosing the rotisserie chicken and pulled pork, with sides of yellow rice & beans and yams & Andouille sausage, costing me $15. The food was delivered in about twenty minutes and I dug right in. I expected a heaping mound of meats, but the portions were merely adequate. The meats were amazingly delicious—very juicy with some interesting seasonings. There was no heat, however. The jar of homemade hot sauce on the table barely sufficed, but I guess not all dishes need to be hot and spicy… just my personal preference. Much like the Caribbean joint in Stillwater (Smalley’s BBQ) the sides were great compliments to the main course. The sausage in the yams was a little strange (I tend to find thinly sliced round meats visually unappealing) but all was good.

As you can see in Ryan’s Rankings at the top tab on the page, the highlight of Brasa was the food. The staff was fine, the atmosphere was unusual but nice, the value was reasonable, but the portions were a little small in my opinion. Overall it received 41 points, good for only 10th of 17 restaurant experiences so far, which is kind of misleading as I really enjoyed it.

Lauren

Chelsea and I go way back to the early days of high school, so far back that if I posted a picture from our 15-year-old selves from Eden Prairie she would probably never speak to me again. And I would deserve it – we were both such choir geeks.

As both of our busy schedules would have it, she and I sadly don’t get a chance to catch up that often. Before we met up in late June, the last time I had seen her was before Ryan’s and my wedding in October! So I was thrilled when she had a Tuesday evening available for dinner – even if she did have to run back to work after we ate.

Ryan and I arrived at Brasa precisely at the agreed-upon time, and were seated immediately in a half-booth inside. The patio looked really lovely, but was full, as was most of the restaurant. I was somewhat surprised at how busy it was, but given Chef Alex Roberts’ deserved fame I shouldn’t have been. As Ryan mentioned, we still had a good feeling of being outdoors with the large garage-style front opened up to the summer air. Chelsea arrived as well and we chatted while quickly deciding on a pitcher to share. On further reflection, the pitcher was a rather poor idea. I think that the single pints of Surly are $5.50, while the pitcher is $19, and we got slightly more than three glasses from the pitcher, so I think in effect we paid more for the pitcher than we would have, had we ordered three individual beers.

I also decided on a two-meat platter, figuring that either Ryan would finish his meal and still be hungry (he was, and picked off of mine while I finished) or I would take a bit of food home. I also chose the pulled chicken, and the braised beef. I was disappointed to hear that they were out of the plantains for the day, because that was an item that had caught my eye on the online menu, but decided to go with the yams and a side salad.

what Lauren ate at Brasa

The side salad was great, with a light tangy vinaigrette, chunks of fresh mozzarella and shaved radish. I have never much cared for radishes, but I am trying to get on board with them as we get quite a few in our CSA box. I liked this application of them, probably because they were shaved which allowed them to play nicely with the mozzarella. I also really enjoyed the yams with the Andouille sausage, though it was possibly a side dish that is best saved for colder months.

The meat was naturally quite good, although I didn’t enjoy the chicken terribly. It came in some kind of cream gravy, which is listed on the menu but I don’t think I noticed before I made my order. I think I would have been happier trying the rotisserie chicken, as Ryan encouraged me to do. Still, the chicken that I did eat was quite tasty. As I alluded to before, I ate my dinner rather slowly while Chelsea and I chatted so Ryan had cleaned his plate when I had barely finished my salad! After deciding that the chicken wasn’t my cup of tea, I passed it to Ryan who happily polished it off.

The beef was quite outstanding and I had to trouble myself to offer some for Ryan to try (he must have enjoyed his pork too much to offer me a bite! ;))

My constant fear ordering meat in a restaurant is that it will be greasy or somehow unpalatable by me. I was a vegetarian for many years so a lot of times certain meat entrees look or sound too “icky” for me to try. I have improved a lot in the past few years (I now eat bratwurst, which I wouldn’t have touched a few years ago) and I am constantly challenging myself to step outside my comfort zone. But the braised beef at Brasa was perfect. If I were to have a complaint, it would be that the barbecue sauce served on top was too sweet for my taste.

The service was also quite good. It was a hot night and I emptied my water glass several times, but I never had to wait more than a few minutes to have it refilled, despite the busy dining room. And even more impressively, after the three of us had finished our meals, declined dessert and paid our bill, my water glass was still being filled while we chatted another 15 minutes.

In short, Brasa is a place that I desperately wish I lived near. We will be back soon!

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