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Brasa - Peruvian chicken (and more) in Berkeley

Brasa, a new Peruvian style rotisserie chicken is open in the space that was eVe. The same couple that ran eVe are still in charge here, but the new restaurant is much more in tune with the neighborhood and the small space than the previous incarnation. Gone are the dark tones and low lighting. Now the space is bright and airy. Order at the front off a menu displayed on a wall mounted flat screen monitor, take a number and find a seat. The food comes out fast. Beyond rotisserie chicken in various sizes (whole chickens, half chickens, quarter chickens, chicken sandwich, chicken rice bowl) they serve some other Peruvian style meats like chicharrones (pork) and lomo saltado (beef), shrimp and also tofu in the same sandwich/rice bowl style. Sides include fries, a few salads and rice which come with the chicken meals.
The chicken rice bowl ($7.50) is pulled roast chicken mixed with a creamy sauce served over lettuce, tomato and rice (essentially the sandwich with rice instead of bread). It was tasty, quite salty and mildly spicy.
Last night we got a whole chicken with rice and salad to go ($19.50). The chicken is more than enough for two hungry eaters. Crisp skin, moist meat and light spice rub make for a mighty tasty bird. A trio of thick, creamy sauces are included in the deal, including a white one that was what came with the rice bowl chicken as well as a green one and a spicy red one. The sauces are well flavored but sort of mayonnaise textured and overpowering if used in too large quantities. The same thick, creamy texture is found in the salad dressing.
The house made alfajores (cookies) look fabulous but will have to wait until next time.
Considering what it would cost (time & money) to make an equivalent meal at home, the value of the whole chicken dinner is really good.
Oh, they also have wine on tap priced by the ounce. One red, one white. Order as much or as little as you want. What a great idea!

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  1. Great report. I want to try the lucuma soft serve. It is supposed to taste like maple. Anyone tried it?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pouteria...

    They also sell Cusquena beer
    http://www.cusquenabeer.com/

    How is the seating? You mention wine so i assume it has some tables. i read there might be outdoor seating.

    address and website

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/brasa-a-peruv...

    4 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      Haven't been yet, but I bet they share the out back rose garden picnic table area w/ Slow, next door.

      1. re: drewskiSF

        That is correct. It is very pleasant. Picnic tables and several round tables surrounding the rose garden back there.

      2. re: rworange

        Answering my own question, the lucuma soft serve really does taste like maple ice cream.

        Like acai, another South American fruit, it has a little grittiness to it. i liked it though. I forget what their base is, but I think it is different than the usual Straus. It is a dense soft serve.

        The cone is on the small side, but for about a buck and a half more you can buy a pint. I think a pint mixed with chopped walnuts would make a lovely maple nut type of ice cream.

        There are a number of tables inside and a nice patio in back

        Berkeley: The Gourmet Garden on University
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/836074#

        1. re: rworange

          After reading this thread, I dragged two co-workers here for lunch.

          I bought a round of lucuma ice cream. My take on it was that it was like the cake and the ice cream mixed together. The powdered lucuma added to the basic ice cream mix, gave it texture and chew. The mouth feel was of some healthy food stuff. The young woman from Peru working the register (owner?) said that lucuma ice cream rivals vanilla back home. It did taste somewhat of maple and was very filling in a pleasant sort of way.

          I had the quarter chicken. The skin was too salty and the portion too small, but it was juicy and tasty. The sweet potato fires were just barely too salty and nicely crunchy. The purple corn drink was refreshing and tasted like grape juice spiked with clove. My co-workers enjoyed their chicharron pork sandwich and rice bowl.

          A pleasant place to lunch as long as you order an extra side or are not too hungry.

        2. Oops, here are the coordinates:
          Brasa
          1960 University Ave. Berkeley CA
          510-868-0735

          3 Replies
            1. re: ernie in berkeley

              in the address link

              it probably isn't useful to cut and paste as this is a new place and if they are like most places subject to change. the website is still a work in progress ... even then ... new place ... hours may change.

              it is best to keep track of in a place where the hours can be easily updated.

            2. re: flavorenhancer

              Monday-Sat from 11:30 "until close" which I take as they're going to play it by ear for a while and close early if they run out of food. It's the old eVe (same people, new concept) so shares that same outdoor seating area with Slow and the others in that little row.

              Not much on http://www.brasajoint.com yet but they have the menu on https://www.facebook.com/pages/Brasa-...

            3. I've been twice already and really like it. Their hours are 11-8pm I believe, though I forgot to check if it was 6 or 7 days a week.

              I've tried the rotisserie chicken which comes with choice of generous sides. the rice bowl with shrimp was very good and I especially liked the beef heart skewers over fries.

              And the Chicha Mojada drink (purple corn drink)is really good.

              2 Replies
              1. re: nicedragonboy

                closed Sundays. post from Saturday night on their Facebook:

                "Yes we are close on Sunday's. Open Monday to Saturday from 11:30 to 8:30 pm"

                1. re: nicedragonboy

                  They were closed last Tuesday night. Not sure if this is a regular thing.

                2. I had the chicken rice bowl for lunch, and it was very good. Shredded dark meat spiced with black pepper in a slightly creamy sauce over rice with lettuce (iceberg) and tomato. But the rotisserie chicken that most other people were eating looked even better and I'll be back soon. Word is spreading fast--the place was very busy.

                  1. This is Cal-Peruvian. it is good, but lacks soul.

                    While i know they are all diferent styles of rotiserrie chicken, i prefer Zaki's and Roli Roti still rules. Actually the Braza chicken reminded me a little of the Kwik Way chicken I had last week.

                    The green sauce is supposed be ajai, a sauce made with huacatay, sometimes called black mint. It was ok Not sure if huacatay was actually used. The yellow sauce, aji amarillo, uses specific yellow peppers, and has more kick. i did like the yellow sauce here actually more than the same sauce at local peruvian restaurants. Didn't get the red sauce as they gave me two greens.

                    Here's an interesting chowhound discussion from years ago (natch) about the green and yellow sauces ...lots of variations

                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/348806

                    i've had better caesar salad from the supermarket. The veggie salad was ok, beets, green beans, carrots and an avocado drizzled with some sort of white sauce.

                    i'd still give some of the other menu items a try. The sandwiches looked great. However, this is to Peruvian like Slanted Door is to Vietnamese

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: rworange

                      RW, did u try the lucuma or the alforjores? I'm still looking forward to trying the place out, will go in with lower expectations.

                      1. re: hhc

                        Not lower, just different. it depends on whether you've eaten at Peruvian restaurants. i never got to the popular ones in sf so I might finally give one of those a try.

                        here's my post further up on the ice cream
                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8359...

                        Didn't get the alforjores, since i just had an ice cream and had a bag of chocolates and a german pastry.

                        1. re: rworange

                          There's another newish Peruvian spot, Tumi, where Ariba Peru was and before that Fonzie's Peruvian Chicken (same building as Norikonoko, Fondue Fred, and Koryo Restaurant).

                          Is there a rule that the same cuisine has dibs on failed restaurant spots?

                          Pollo a la Brasa is their first listed entree on the menu so could be good comparison for that style before embarking across the bridge.
                          http://www.tumibk.com

                          They have been getting good reviews over on *elp, including a 5-star from a Peruvian
                          http://www.yelp.com/biz/tumi-peruvian...

                          1. re: drewskiSF

                            Funny. There is a Thai place near me in a forest of Mexican restaurants. Thai restaurant after Thai restaurant has moved in there. Thai restaurant after Thai restaurant has failed.

                            Gosh, that looks like a wonderful tip ... and they mention organic ... the dinner menu states " We do our best to find the healthiest, freshest, and most authentic ingredients, hence, our menus will reflect local market conditions "

                            Morton ... if you are reading this ... a quick digression. I hope you have tried Gaumenkitzel which is probably one of the top restaurants in terms of sustainable, organic, etc, etc.

                            A few things that looked good on the Tumi menu besides the usuals
                            - CAUSA LIMEÑAS Aji amarillo-lime infused potato terrine, Dungeness crab meat,
                            avocado, eggolive, rocoto-cilantro aioli.
                            - COPITAS DE PESCADO White fish, diced ají Amarillo, ginger, celery, parsley, lime, salt, yucca and plantain chips.

                            All that being said, the five star review from the Peruvian is someone who only posted five reviews ... all in the same week. A lot of those other highly rated reviews have fewer previous reviews than that.

                            Any Chowhounds tried this joint?

                            I had some aji huacatay (green sauce) left from Brasa. It makes a great dip for asparagus. I'm thinking it would work with artichokes also.

                      2. re: rworange

                        I stopped in for my first visit just yesterday and had the lomo saltado sandwich. The sandwich filling was tasty, but the ratio of filling to bread was off for me. I'd like to see them use less bulky rolls or increase the portion size on the fillings, or ideally, some combination of the two. Also, the bread they were using could have been much improved with a little time on a griddle.

                        I'm definitely looking forward to exploring the menu, but I think I'll steer clear of the other sandwich options for a while.

                        1. re: hohokam

                          Does the lomo saltado sandwich include french fries?

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            There were some fries inside the sandwich, but in keeping with the overall skimpiness on the fillings, they weren't numerous. A side of fries, which I didn't order, was either $2 or $3.

                            1. re: hohokam

                              Just curious, I thought maybe if they were putting it in a sandwich instead of the traditional over rice they'd drop the fries as well.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                I haven't tried the La Brasa yet. Just FYI, the lomo saltado sandwich is an invention from a sandwich shop in Miraflores (Peru) named La Pava. It's part of a trendy wave of shops that make "criolla style" sandwiches, in which traditional entrees are served inside bread. The Sanguchon food truck from chef Carlos Altamirano makes a good version. The truck also sells pan con chicharron (that's not criolla style).

                                It's not a lomo saltado without the fries. A few Peruvian restaurants in the US serve the fries on the side, that's not typical.

                      3. I really like this place - could easily see it becoming a twice/month stop for us. Has the right combination of quality / price / convenience to be an ideal "Monday night dinner."

                        One thing they don't advertise on-line is that they use organic ingredients - Mary's Chickens, Niman beef. For me - this has become "table stakes" in any restaurant I go to so always good to see.

                        The Mrs. and I each got a quarter chicken so we could order all dark meat (they don't let you do all dark on a half). Also ordered veggie salad, ceaser salad, and sweet potato fries.

                        Chicken was good - moist, nice flavor on the rub. Maybe a bit on the salty side but not enough to keep me from enjoying it.

                        Tried all four sauces. I liked the black mint, which was mellow and herby, and the red sauce, not too spicy (I'm a bit of a spice wimp). Less fond of the yellow and the bbq (bbq was a bit too sweet).

                        I think they did a nice job on the sides - at this price point I was worried the sides would be a "throwaway" but these were well thought out. Ceaser had crisp, fresh lettuce, and the veggie salad was fresh and cooked to a good texture. Sweet potato fries were crisp and arrived hot. The Mrs. really enjoyed the housemade passion fruit drink - she's really picky on her housemade fruit drinks and usually finds them too sweet but loved this one. We also enjoyed the Alfajores.

                        I'm no expert on the style and I wouldn't drive over the bridge for this place - but none of that matters to me. It's a good spot serving honest food and I can get dinner for two for under $30. Similar to Hawker Fare in that regard (except a much shorter drive for us). I'm sure I'll be back many times. Can't wait until they launch delivery (and hope I can talk them into delivering to Kensington).

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Morton the Mousse

                          Glad to see your post. The sweet potato fries lookd good.

                          Sadly no deliery to Kennsington. i asked today and they said it woult only be the few blocks surrounding the restaurant and probably not for another month.

                          1. re: Morton the Mousse

                            Niman meat is not organic. Mary's sells both organic and conventional.

                          2. We went Sat 3/3/12 so it wasn't busy. Their credit card machine wasn't working when I went, had to pay in cash which sucks. Make sure they give you back the correct change back.

                            Look at their menu on the screen then order & pay. We got:

                            half chicken w/ 2 sides $12. We picked french fries & veggie salad. Chicken was pretty good though I thought on the small side. I think I could eat an entire half chicken myself. French fries didn't eat, it's a lot though. Veggie salad was a small bowl filled with a bit of avocado, beets, carrots - just ok for me.

                            Anticuchos $6 was 6 little beef hearts I guess cut up & more fries. I asked if fries come with it & she told me no, I knew it did. Hearts were tough & chewy, not tender. Not my favorite.

                            Chicha Morada $2 ea - sweet purple corn drink. Fine, not that special.

                            Alfajores 2 for $3. Comes in separate plastic envelopes. I liked them, not enough powder sugar for me, but cookies & caramel inside is good.

                            Our total $27.19.

                            Hrs:
                            Closed Sun
                            M-Sat 11:30-8:30p

                             
                             
                             
                             
                             
                             
                            1. Made a return visit to try the chicharron sandwich. Somehow I ended up with the chicharon rice bowl (same ingredients, swapping rice for bread), but I was far from Brasa with my to-go order by the time I noticed. This was not chicharron as I am used to, but rather what I would call lomo adobado, sliced pork loin medallions in a red chili rub/marinade. Nothing fried here. It was quite tasty and generously sized, just not what I had expected. Now if Brasa starts doing the chicharrones de pollo that other Peruvian places are doing, I will be quite excited.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: flavorenhancer

                                Chicharrones de pollo, I thought gribenes but it's really fried marinated chicken with seasoned flour.

                                1. re: wolfe

                                  I bet it would still be great in the middle of a matzo ball ( - :

                              2. Finally got around to trying Brasa and thought the food was fine but a notch below the better traditional Peruvian places in the area. We got a half-chicken, and it was pretty good but quite salty -- way saltier than it needed to be, given that you have the sauces as well. Anyway, I like the chicken at Inkas better, and while Brasa's sauces were all tasty enough, none of them were as addictive as Inkas' magical yellow sauce, which I like so much that I bought a tub of it one year to serve with Thanksgiving turkey.

                                Meanwhile, I thought the anticuchos were one of the worst versions I've had -- overcooked and very very tough. I did like having them over french fries, but as far as the beef heart is concerned, La Furia Chalaca, in JLS, makes a far superior version. Inkas' is good too.

                                The highlight of the meal was the lucuma soft serve sundae, served with coffee caramel and toasted walnuts. Nice combination of flavors and textures, and a fairly generous portion for $4.

                                Anyway, everything we tried was good but not great...but we'd probably still go back. It's a pleasant place for a quick, relatively inexpensive meal -- quite a big step up from fast food without breaking the bank.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: abstractpoet

                                  agree 100% about Inkas' chicken and sauce being better than Brasa's.

                                  I had the anticuchos at Brasa and they were decent - and we got them to go - so maybe they just overcooked them the time you went. The best anticuchos I've had (in No. Cal.) so far are at Limon (the original on Valencia, before it turned into the Rotisserie. Haven't been there since the change, tho I'm sure that wouldn't affect them. However, i didn't like them as well at the Rotisserie on South Van Ness - so, different chefs.)

                                  1. re: abstractpoet

                                    The 1/4 chicken I had last week was inconsistently seasoned with some parts really salty and others fine. The flesh was super juicy and the skin the crispiest I've had on rotisserie chicken in awhile.

                                    The sweet potato fries had weird burned tips. Seems like the tips had dried between cutting and frying so the bodies of the fries were fine, but the tips overcooked.