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La Brasa, Somerville

I have been working way too many hours and preparing way too many meals this month. I needed a change of pace. A chance to get out of the house and let someone else do the cooking. We decided to go to Taco Loco. I was craving their salsa verde; something to break my culinary boredom.

As we walked by La Brasa it was open! After reviewing the menu, we had a change of plans. No doubt most of you have seen pictures of the interior on eater Boston, so I won't describe the decor too much. We were seated at a long wooden banquet; an unfinished wood banquet. There will be splinters as the weather gets warmer. Napkins are set at each place. Well, really, dishcloths folder into quarters. Real cotton dishcloths. Possibly, never washed dishcloths given how much lint was in our laps when we left. Big plus on cotton napkins. I hate the polyester ones! The front door person took us to the table and left drink menus with us.

Water is served in an Italian limonata-style bottle which is left at the table so you can refresh your own glass. When the waiter arrived, he had the dinner menus. Since we weren't drinking, this little menu dance seemed a bit contrived.

We ended up ordering a tacos de carnitas, roasted carrots with mole and sesame, grilled onions and romesco, bon-chon fried chicken, and a roast pork loin sandwich with rapini, chorizo and fiddlehead tomme. This was the most eclectic menu I think I have ever seen. Every dish is from a different culture and/or country. There was no way to order any quantity and stay in the same region at all.

So let me state up front. We really liked our dinner. I had quibbles with some of the menu choices, and a few of the preparations, but this is a restaurant that is making some really delicious food with really quality ingredients.

The waiter warned us that food would come out "shotgun" style. Given the different flavors, in hindsight, this is a really good thing. The carrots arrive first. No mention of the carrots being baby carrots on the menu. What a nice surprise. The mole sauce was very pumpkin-based. More so than any mole I have had before. Took a bit, but I really warmed to this sauce as I ate more. The carrots were unevenly cooked. Some were almost raw, while others were soft. I suspect that this is a technique problem, but we actually enjoyed having each carrot having a different texture and taste.

The onions with romesco arrived next. Again, the menu understated the item. These were spring onions, that had been split and then cooked in the fire, drizzled with oil, and the sauce on the side. I loved this dish! In the future, I might ask for a bit less olive oil drizzled over the onions. We ended up eating some of the sauce straight since no bread seems to be the rule here and there was more sauce than the onions needed.

The bon-chon chicken was terrific. Perhaps a little less spicy than a true bon-chon chicken, but the balance of spicy, sweet, salty was pretty well done. The skin was crispy, crispy, and the meat was cooked perfectly. The serving included a chicken leg and a wing. The picture attached is minus the wing. My dining companion couldn't wait to grab that wing until after I took a picture. The side slaw was delicious. Much of the bon-chon chicken sauce had seeped to that side of the plate, so I couldn't really tell what the dressing was made of besides vinegar.

The final arrival was the sandwich. It was a good sandwich, but didn't live up to its menu description. The pork loin was touch and almost flavorless. There might have been two stalks of rapini total. The fiddlehead tomme was undetectable. But the chorizo was fabulous! The sandwich was served on a Texas toast kind of bread, and it was a really nice component. I guess I just don't think that the sandwich quite reached the balance that was indicated by the menu description. However, I am willing to give them another chance just to have the chorizo again.

The taco never arrived. Someone forgot about it, and we asked them not to bring it. We had had enough food.

We will be back. No question. I hope that they add some green vegetable options that aren't a bland salad that anyone can make at home. Right now, this is not a particularly vegetarian-friendly spot. Our waiter said that this was third night they had been open and that each night the menu has been different. I like that. I don't want to order the same thing every single time I go somewhere. The space is huge, but didn't feel cavernous. The music was a tad loud. I didn't care for the early selections, but like the food, the music was eclectic so eventually it was more my style. We found all the folks working there to be friendly. Our waiter was knowledgable about the menu, and attentive without being oppressive.

We spent, without alcohol, including a 20% tip, $20 per person.

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  1. Oh no! I'm sad that your taco never arrived. That was my absolute favorite part of the meal. In fact, my boyfriend and I joked about coming back just for a lot of tacos and cocktails. Maybe we were half-joking, because I won't be at all surprised if we do end up doing that one of these days. The tacos are priced at $4 for an order of two, which felt reasonable.

    The lamb saddle - one of the specials for the night - was also quite good, although I was actually even more into the couscous it was served on than the meat itself. We also got the brisket, the carrots, and the fried rice (another favorite). No complaints at all, really. Service was very enthusiastic. Our overall impression was extremely positive.

    When I showered later, everything smelled like a campfire! The smoke will definitely cling to your hair and clothes. In the restaurant, the smell is very present but not overbearing. The sound level was also quite good - loud and energetic, but we didn't have to yell at the table. (It was admittedly a little hard to hear the soft-spoken coffee "sommelier.")

    I can't wait for the market to open and lunch to become available. I live/work about a 15-minute walk away, so I can definitely see myself grabbing a sandwich or whatever they'll be selling for lunch. (Fingers crossed for tacos, although I can always go to Taco Loco for those.)

    Editing to add that before tip, our total was around $90, which included two cocktails and one beer, plus the right amount of food to leave two people satisfied - or just a tiny bit overstuffed. The beer list is tiny - not sure if that's just for the soft opening. There were three choices: a Coors, a Narragansett, and a Notch session, if I remember correctly.

    1. Kudos for this detailed peek at an exciting new place!
      While i know you enjoy the nearby tacquerias(have you tried Rincon Mexicano yet?) I bet you are thrilled to have the variety that las Brasas offers!

      I was able, thx to your photo, to enlarge the menu enough to read it, but my interpretation was a little diff from yours:
      <This was the most eclectic menu I think I have ever seen. Every dish is from a different culture and/or country. There was no way to order any quantity and stay in the same region at all.>

      Maybe it's just what i was able to decipher, but most of the menu items seem Mexican based to me. Chiles, nuts, moles... Then some Spain and nearby Morocco,
      with a venture or two into soy. But I'm with you- this variety is certainly heaven to me! (BTW, if you love that spring onion/ romesco combo, Sarma has it as part of their delic Moorish Pork skewer tapas.)

      Thx again. we'll be over there very soon!

      8 Replies
      1. re: opinionatedchef

        It seems all over the place, culturally: za'atar, posole, tacos, korean bon chon chicken, mole sauce, roasted romesco, chorizo...

        1. re: Boston_Otter

          maybe you didn't have time to read my post?

          posole- mex
          chorizo- mex, and spain
          zaatar- neighboring morocco

          <but most of the menu items seem Mexican based to me. Chiles, nuts, moles... Then some Spain and nearby Morocco, with a venture or two into soy. > yes?
          and then there are the other dishes on the menu....

          I want these!!

            1. re: Boston_Otter

              Aren't Spanish and Mexican chorizo different?

              1. re: CportJ

                I thought they were, personally, and saw a bunch of food on there that looked Italian, Brazillian, Portugese, etc, but I don't have time to read people's posts, so what do I know?

                1. re: CportJ

                  Yes, and there's also chouriço from portugal & their former colonies and chaurice (sp?) down in the NOLA area . IIRC in a some of cases it can be not much more of a descriptive word than simply saying "sausage" to boot.

                  I think for most use cases the real difference people get at is that they're talking about the dried/smoked sausage when they refer to spanish and the fresh one when they say mexican.

              2. re: opinionatedchef

                Hysterical!, considering an interview with the chef:

                "I think people try really hard to attach some ethnic niche to the concept. Most people assume it’s going to be Mexican"

          1. just found this link about the menu on the Facebook page

            we were hoping to go tonight but I think they are closed.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Madrid

              Yeah, they just posted on Facebook that they're closed on Mondays.

            2. I just got back from my first time there. I live in the neighborhood and at first gave an inward groan when I passed by ... this is East Somerville, after all, and there's already some pretty authentic Portuguese, Mexican, Italian and even Ethiopian cuisine to choose from within a few short blocks. This restaurant at first appearance seems "upscale" for the location, I didn't know what to make of it. On closer inspection the facade fits well with the street and neighborhood and so does the interior... unfinished wood and brick and then tall windows that face Broadway. It was very busy yet the two of us were seated at a four-top. The drink menu was well-thought out and paired well with our dinner. We got starters and a main course. The food was good, I don't know how to describe it.... It's not an everyday menu. Everything went well together, all the varying tastes from the separate dishes along with the drink created different flavor notes depending on whether I took a sip of my drink first then a bit of veg then fish, or veg first then fish then drink. The wait staff was attentive but not pushy. They let us enjoy the meal. We sat for over two hours and were not rushed in any way. I can not remember the last time I was left to enjoy a meal like this. I realized when we were finishing up and about to leave that I had spent the entire meal just glad to be right there -- I wasn't thinking about where to go next, or if I was tired, or worrying about work, or all the things I have to get done tomorrow. All the elements are working at La Brasa -- food, atmosphere and service, with a fourth unnameable element that holds it all together. It already feels like part of the neighborhood.

              1. i guess i ll post some food pix

                6 Replies
                1. re: lala010addict

                  This is funny, because we went there last night and ordered every dish you photographed (except the carved beef w/ chimichuri [last photo] ) plus two others. Great photos, btw. I figure you'll write about your dinner, so i'll chime in later. We loved that bright yellow Israeli couscous and the crunchy skin of the lamb saddle.

                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                    lala, fyi, your link to your blog has an extra http in it.

                  2. re: lala010addict

                    La Brasa is the greatest thing to happen to E Somerville. We live within a 5-minute walk and are so happy to finally have a food-forward restaurant in the 'hood. So we have been twice so far and grazed on a few things - the Bon Chon chicken (otherwordly!), the roasted carrots with mole sauce (great!), Duxbury oysters (can't go wrong), grilled Spring onions with Romesco (delish), the tacos (serviceable, which is not to say bad in any way), and the kale tart (outstanding!). These dishes augur well of the menu at large and more to come from this fab sibling of L'Espalier and Sel de la Terre. Chef Daniel Boroquez is clearly having a good time, and so are the staff. The place is jumping and the vibe is fun! We had some great drinks from Steve and bar program manager Matt - Steve served us his signature Cinco de Mayo tequila cocktail which was well-made and deserving of a few reorders. Forget what we had for wine on another occasion, but it was great. Going back again tomorrow night - which is to say, I can't get enough. I love La Brasa. Welcome to our neighborhood - glad you are here!! :)

                    1. re: Small Plates

                      Your chicken presentations is completely different than our was just last week! And all of your plates are white. The night we were there, they were doing "grandma's mixed china." It is going to be very exciting to watch La Brasa "grow up."

                  3. We tried this out on Friday - incidentally, right before I noticed it's mentioned in Food & Wine this month. Stopped by at about 8... there were a few empty tables but we were told there were reservations coming in. We easily found two seats at the bar.

                    I thought everything was mostly good, with a few misses. The scallop ceviche (which wasn't quite ceviche - served on some sort of cracker, with thick slices of scallop), grilled harissa chicken, and brisket were all really good, I thought. The mussels en escabeche were kind of terrible - really bland, with the only flavor coming from some very spicy chiles. The Mexican fried rice was also kind of blah - very under-salted, very boring.

                    I had some sort of Campari-tequila cocktail which I really enjoyed.

                    Hopefully they'll fix the things that were off. Those things aside, I'm sure I'll be back.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: nyc_to_ma

                      I had 2 or more of those Cinqo de Mayo special tequila cocktails that Steve created. Reallllly good! :)

                    2. We when on Saturday night and got seated for our 8pm reservation and a trolley o' meat comes rolling over. She is offering rib roast cooked in La Brasa's wood burning oven.

                      It comes with a cilantro chimichurri and is $3.50 an ounce. Despite the obscene $56/lb price tag (it's better when you don't do the math), I cannot resist a taste. Sadly, it was cold, dry and there was no hint of smoke from the fire. The chimichurri did little to improve the beef.

                      I ordered the La Brasa fried chicken ($17) with escargot- brown butter vinaigrette and Steve had the smoked bone in pork Milanese with mushy peas ($24).

                      My chicken was twice-cooked, Korean style, resulting in a crispy, crackly crust. The meat was flavorful, although a bit stringy. The escargot seemed to clash with the slightly-too-acidic vinaigrette. Any other day, I would have been happy with my dinner selection, however DC's pork chop arrived first and it was phenomenally delicious.

                      It was a thick bone-in chop; the crispy breading contrasting with a juicy, succulent bite of smoky pork. I think I literally swooned. I kept stealing bites of his dinner and watched enviously as he gnawed on the bone at the end. I have been talking about the chop for 3 days now to anyone who asks "how was your weekend?"

                      There were only two desserts offered; affogato (espresso poured over ice cream) and butterscotch pudding ($6). The server said the pudding was "rich and light, at the same time," which was an appropriate description. I loved that it was topped with rice krispies for a textural contrast.


                      1. We had a really great meal at the bar over the weekend. The restaurant was never much more than half full, but it was lively nonetheless. I’m not sure if this was due to the summer, location or a combination. For us, it is nice to have such an excellent option which we can get into last minute. We really liked the space and service at the bar was outstanding. Their bar staff is obviously skilled, and all the cocktails sampled really made sense, unlike some other places touting craft cocktail programs but delivering concoctions that just don’t make sense on the palate.

                        Definitely heed the advice of the servers and on the menu that the food will rapid fire out when ordered. Our bartender advised us to start with 2-3 dishes and then go from there. All the food was delicious. Highlights included oysters that were all fresh, expertly shucked and served with a nice mignonette. The tiradito was delicious and a fresh take on a raw fresh preparation. We spooned up the incredible jus after eating the fried chicken. The skirt steak was tender and perfectly cooked.

                        All in all, great space, service and food. Another nice addition to the area.

                        1. They are, apparently, closed on Mondays.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: enhF94

                            Yes. Hours are posted on their website.

                            Dinner: tue-sat / 6pm-10pm
                            Late Night Menu: tue-sat / 10pm-1am
                            Sunday Supper: sun / 4-9pm last seating
                            Brunch: sun / 12-3:30pm
                            Market: tue-sun / 8am-3pm

                          2. Finally made it to La Brasa. Maybe I was expecting too much.

                            We ate at the bar, sitting on painfully backless seats that are too heavy to scoot without getting up. As my back tired out, it hurt more.

                            It was early in the night and the bartender forestalled boredom by practicing flipping a cocktail shaker, directly in front of us, on and off, until we stopped eating to watch (he did get the message and found something less annoying to do). He spilled my drink and my water while pouring (not a full spill, just enough to require I watch my cuffs for the rest of the meal).

                            Silverware is stuffed into a can “so you can get it yourself, let me know if something’s not in there.” Fun idea, and surely takes some burden off the dishwashers, so yay. But: what’s "not in there" is a way to extricate a piece of silverware without ripping out the whole clot causing silverware explosion, or yanking hard enough to elbow my dining companion. Other things that are missing from the clump: spoons.

                            I think my posts here are known enough for readers to know I’m not a service-complainer. I entered enthusiastic and left annoyed.

                            The food was okay.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: enhF94

                              The bar stools at La Brasa don't bother my back at all. You can see they are backless before you sit down. If that's an issue, why not get a table instead?

                              1. re: black_lab

                                Tractor seat on a swivel. I found it comfortable for a few hours at a time, but I sympathize with back issues.