Review: Brasa Rotisserie [MSP]
I rarely get to a new restaurant when it's still actually new, but when I heard that Brasa Rotisserie just opened yesterday, I had to rush right down. (Brasa's owner is also the chef/co-owner of Restaurant Alma, one of my favorite places.) I'm now basking in the glow of a full and happy tummy. Brasa is great!
It's a small place with a small menu. There are two choices for a main dish - roast chicken and roast pork shoulder - and a dozen or so side dishes. You can order family style or choose "individual plates," which offer meat (small or large portion) with a choice of two sides plus cabbage salad.
Mr. Tastebud and I shared some chicken, some pork, and five sides: cabbage salad, collard greens, pink beans and yellow rice, fried plantains, and marinated chickpeas with barley. The collard greens and cabbage salad were my favorite, but all the sides were delicious.
The pork is to die for, but very rich - it's shredded and resembles carnitas in its richness and flavor. The spice-rubbed chicken is simply roasted, without saline injections. As a result, it was drier than a supermarket rotisserie chicken, but had much better flavor. And such beautifully crispy skin - I can usually pass up the chicken skin, but not this wonderful stuff.
We shared an order of tapioca pudding for dessert - it comes topped with passionfruit sauce and diced fruit (pineapple today). Yummy and rich. (Actually, a little too rich for someone who ate all that pork and plantains and chicken skin.) They also have chocolate cake and a fruit-and-cream biscuit/shortcake kind of thing.
The only negative I noticed is that vegetarians don't have a main-dish option, but there's a vegetarian plate that offers a choice of four sides plus bread. (Note that a few of the sides contain ham or sausage or bacon, but most appear to be meat-free.) If I were a vegetarian, I'd eat collards and cheese grits and rice-and-beans and cabbage salad and corn bread. In fact, I think that's what I'll get the next time I'm there.
Our bill came to $45 with two glasses of wine. I thought it was a bargain for food of such high quality - an especially good value because Brasa uses locally sourced, free-range and/or organic, fair-trade, and sustainable ingredients. I can't wait to go back. Maybe tomorrow!
600 E. Hennepin Ave. (in the former "Betty's Bikes & Buns" site)
The menu says they're open Monday-Saturday, 11am-11pm.
I couldn't find a web site, but here's a recent Downtowner article:
Yes, let's! But not all at once - the place only seats about 30 or 40. Plus the outdoor seating (5 or 6 tables when I was there).
I want Brasa to be a huge success, but not so much that that there's no room for ME when I get a craving. I need to try the sweet potatoes with Andouille sausage!
I'm reporting on my husband's visit there yesterday for lunch while I'm thinking of it. He got the pork with sides of grits and sweet potatoes. His opinion was that it was all good, but not great. He's not normally one to pay attention to prices when it comes to good food but he felt like the meal would have been satisfying for $8, but for $14 for lunch he was expecting much better. He didn't have any specific complaints, just that it wasn't fantastic for the price. I'm still hoping to get there though because I love cheese grits and they're so hard to find up here.
The prices are the same at lunch and at dinner. I agree - it's expensive for lunch. It seems like a better deal at dinner.
And note that there's a choice between a large portion ($14) and a small portion ($11) of meat and three sides. For me, at least, the large portion would be way too much food for lunch. (Even the small portion would probably put me to sleep.) But $11 is still a high price for lunch, especially when you add a beverage.
And remember, the food is local and/or organic, which probably increases the price somewhat.
I made it to Brasa Rotisserie for dinner tonight. I'll confess a bias right up front: to me, "brasa" means a particular chicken dish that I found all over Peru, where the rotisserie cooking infuses the bird with the smoke & flavor over time. The meat parts tenderly from the bone and the skin is just fantastic. That's what I was hoping to eat tonight.
The good notes:
1. Prompt, friendly service.
2. Emphasis on local poultry & pork.
3. Pickled vegetables are a nice crunchy bit of sweet, tart & salt. My portion came with a smoked pepper and a warning about its spiciness. Just as an experiment I cut into the pepper and it seeped a bit of rich, wine-colored juice. On the tongue it tasted surprisingly fruity, a bit like a dried fig, and the heat came later. It might have been a bit like eating the garnish, but no regrets there.
4. The shaved cabbage salad is so simple that it's really attractive: green cabbage sliced so fine there's nary a hint of cole slaw, chopped cilantro, and a little liquid to bind them. A nice contrast for everything else on the plate.
5. The fried yucca was perfectly done, perfectly salted, not at all greasy.
6. The tapioca dessert just as rich and yummy, just as Anne says. The passionfruit topping is concentrated, like for sorbet, with little chunks of pineapple. The pudding was creamy, not at all gummy, as though perhaps some whipped egg white had been folded in.
Pink beans and yellow rice are okay. I should have squeezed the lemon pieces on the plate into their mix.
Sadly, the weak part of the meal was the chicken. An order for a quarter-chicken should prompt the server to ask whether that's for light or dark meat. No such luck here -- white meat by default. The skin had a bit of salt & herb but the rest of the portion hadn't yet picked up any flavor yet. The meat was cooked to just done, rare enough that knife & fork had to join in urging it off the bone.
Perfectly fine bland chicken, but it doesn't wow. And of the three MPLS spots that allude to a South American brasa style in their rotisserie chicken preparation, this was the weakest. (The other two are Charly's Polleria, at 28th & Central Ave NE, and Rotisseria, at Lake & Lyndale. The search continues for a place that serves the usual trio of cremas/salsas that go with Peruvian pollo a la brasa, including one made with olives.)
But the dessert was good and when the weather gets colder I could go for a plate of collard greens and grits w/sharp cheddar. Maybe I'd try a leg & thigh then, to see if that was better.
One quarter-chicken meal that is served with shaved cabbage and two side dishes, one side order of yucca, one beer and one dessert to go: $23.65 plus tip.
Just wanted to add a second impression of Brasa. A notion about cold weather and cheddar grits sidled into my head last night and just wouldn't leave. I went back, despit not having loved the chicken on the last visit that I wrote about.
There have been some tweaks worth noting here.
- The pricing structure has changed a little bit. There is a price for the meat portion of the dish, which comes with two sauces and a shaved cabbage salad. Other side dishes are priced separately at $3.00 each.
- The side dishes are served family-style, and the small portion is quite a bit larger than it was. Meat and two sides will be more expensive than before for a single diner, but less expensive for people eating together. I took half my meal home.
Perhaps because I had no fixed ideal for it, the pork was a much better experience for me. Flavorful, smoky, moist. Ohh, it was good.
Of the two sauces, one appears to be made from fire-roasted tomatos and peppers, and the other is an aioli with cilantro, garlic and ginger. They were both really nice, and might be just what the yellow rice/pink beans dish had been needing.
Don't know if this is a change or if I finally identified the flavor, but the shaved cabbage was mixed with a little bit of cilantro, then moistened with lime and coconut milk. Still a nice taste contrast.
For sides, I ordered the cheddar grits and the collard greens. The seasoning on the collard greens is pretty subtle: I mostly noticed the peppery greens themselves. And yes, they are chewy but I liked that. The cheddar grits was a little more soupy than I would have expected. Folks who are thinking of a to-go order might want to know that they congeal rather quickly.
We stopped by there on Saturday, had chicken and pork plates, with sweet potatoes, greens, plantains, rice and pigeon peas. All the sides were very good and the meats were tasty, light and fresh tasting. The surprising aspect of the meal was the light touch on the seasoning of the meats. They are seasoned well, but not as strongly as is typical for this style of cooking. The meal was certainly good value for money.
Quarter chicken served with a choice two side dishes and shaved cabbage: $11.00
Extra side order of yucca: $3.00 -- not a terrific value for the amount on the plate.
Yeah, you could drop the extra side order and get there for $20.
I wanted to love this place, too. But no.