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.
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.
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!
maybe you didn't have time to read my post?
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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!! :)
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.
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.
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.
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.
A last minute decision to eat out revealed La Brasa to be one of the few restaurants (that we had any interest in) with a Friday 8:00 reservation on Open Table. We entered through the market space which was dark and seemed closed but were immediately greeted by a friendly server who led us through the dining room to the hosting station. We were seated at a nice table along the window.
My wife had a Mezcal-based cocktail and I had a Madeira and Fruit-based cocktail. Both were refreshing and a nice way to start the evening. We also started with the tacos de carnitas which consisted of two good size tacos with some moist flavorful roasted pork shoulder with onions and salsa verde and chile de arbol for some kick!
For mains, we shared roast lamb with spring onions, hanger steak with quinoa fritters, tomatoes with parmesan-cashew crumble & ricotta and finally (and my favorite dish) swiss chard pie with colorado chile, coddled egg, ham and piperade. Both meat courses were perfectly cooked and the accompanying sauces complemented them well. The only let-down was the quinoa fritters which were on the bland side. The tomatoes were delicious (as they should be at the end of August) and the crumble ricotta combination was a really nice addition. The swiss chard pie was an amazing combination of flavors and textures. Next time I won't plan to share this dish. My Pinot Noir held up to the dishes well. My wife's Verdicchio was tasty but overpowered (she's allergic to reds).
Desserts were an affogato (vanilla gelato topped with a very nice espresso) and a coconut tapioca pudding with apricot salsa. Both were served is small glasses which for us was a perfect size (they were also modestly priced).
Service was attentive but a little inexperienced (he kept referring to us as "you guys"). Atmosphere was lively but we were still able to have a conversation! Overall, we were very pleased and it is a good candidate to add to our regular rotation.
Friends invited us again to La Brasa, so after an uncomfortable and previously-noted service experience I gave it another try. Service was friendly and fast, and seating was comfortable. Our waiter made sure to drop the name of the exec’s former Big Name Boston restaurant job.
Oysters: $3 each, which I suppose isn’t too far off base but a little pricey. They were skillfully shucked and grit-free.
Tacos de Carnitas: I only had an “outside third” as these were cut and passed among the table. I didn’t get much filling, but the tortillas were decent.
Roasted carrots: my second try; the mole had much more sweetness this time. I hope they adjust the mole for that day’s carrots, since carrots can vary quite a bit. This was, again, pretty good, and you could make an entree out of it if you wanted. Last time was four carrots about 1.25” at the thickest part; this time was maybe twelve small carrots. If the kitchen adjusted this purposefully because they saw a larger party passing plates, I’d be impressed - or maybe it was just chance.
Mexican Fried Rice - $8 for a scant cup of rice seemed pretty steep to me. It was oily, which I don’t mind but some might. Peas and onion bits were the only identifiable vegetables. One member of my party didn’t like the char on the onions, but I liked the char fine. If you’re trying to order a dish with lots of vegetables, this ain’t it, but the rice was properly cooked and seasoned. There’s nothing wrong with it, but I wouldn’t order it again.
Brisket: this braise arrived alone on a piece of parchment paper on a toaster tray. $19 seemed a bit much to spend for eight ounces of meat and zero garnish, but I suppose at East Coast Grill I’d be paying $28 for the same meat and more veg, so maybe it only seems more expensive. Again, nothing wrong with it - good braise, properly seasoned thick sauce, not particularly to my taste but that’s personal.
Quinoa Hushpuppies: not on the web menu. Some made with yellow quinoa and some with red quinoa. Both properly and freshly fried, good crust, these were a good idea on someone’s part. I liked the cornbready-yellow a little more than the red, but both were seasoned properly. They are shaped, rather hilariously for the farmhouse-and-meat-hunk vibe, as quenelles instead of just balls or scoops, but I suppose if I were that good at quenelling I’d show off too. Garnished with some mayonnaise with some sort of red chile (guajillo? pretty mild) that I found rather zingless (no detectable acid here) but I ate it anyway. A single hushpuppy in our order was undercooked and still batter on the inside, so they gave us a whole fresh order, which was very nice. Quinoa has enough protein and fiber that one could make a utility meal out of this and a veg.
I wouldn’t complain if invited, but frankly I’d rather the space was used by another Salvadoran or Brazilian-owned restaurant.
Oh, on the way out we stopped at the store and laughed at the $17.50 for a fun-size piece of honeycomb and $15 for 12oz of honey. That’s triple the price of stop&shop, but half the price of “Follow The Honey.” Maybe it’s single-bee honey or something.
So disappointed. Warning: long post.
I went last night with five others, and we all had high hopes. The tone was set right from the start, with service that was a bit all over the place: waitstaff disappeared for long stretches, only to have two people come and take drink orders within seconds of each other; the two people who arrived last had to wait several minutes even to get their menus; confusion over two similar drink orders; etc.
The mood brightened a bit when our starters arrived: three orders of tacos (two in each order); heirloom tomato salad with crushed cashews, and oysters. The tacos were quite good and the tomato salad was exceptional (the best dish of the night, by consensus); I can't comment on the oysters but others seemed happy with them.
We next ordered rib eye from a cart being rolled around the room. It was served with churrasco and jus, and priced by weight. Our first mistake was not asking the price, which wasn't listed on the menu or offered by either our waiter or the waiter on cart duty. The second mistake came when we allowed the cart waiter to give us larger cuts than we had wanted: the two ends of the table each got a cut, but had both asked for smallish because we had mains coming, and my end in particular said this repeatedly. But both cuts each ended up being 10 oz, much more than we'd wanted, and at $4/oz, this alone was a fifth of our bill. That stung. The rib eye was good, but not so good that we were ok with paying that much; and given that we had all said repeatedly that we didn't want big servings, we all felt a bit bilked by it.
The mains began to arrive shortly after this. Mine came out first, about 10 minutes before anyone else's. I had the fried chicken and it was very good - I reckon the best of the mains - but the saucing was heavy and uneven (drowned one piece; left the other untouched). It was a Korean-style fry, which was a surprise. The rest of the mains then came in a bunch: two hangar steak, one skirt steak, one brisket, and one I can't remember - something pork, I think? The steaks and the forgotten other dish were reported to be good but unspectacular, with the most memorable component being the very unsuccessful quinoa hush puppies - chewy, mouth-dryingly doughy, and almost completely flavourless apart from a faint hint of maple syrup. The brisket itself was lovely but was *drowned* in a very sweet, very tangy sauce that overwhelmed it, and was served with no sides at all - just meat drenched in sauce on a paper-lined tray. We also noted that while the menu says that the dishes are meant to be shared, and would be delivered in random order as they were ready (presumably to encourage sharing), they aren't really sized for sharing.
No one was interested in coffee or dessert, so we asked for the bill and when it arrived (...after some time), we were all knocked a bit breathless to see that it came to $70/person, including drinks and the 6+-guest-standard 18% tip. We then had to wait fully 15 minutes for the waiter to take our cards, and it just wasn't busy enough to excuse that or any of the other flaky service we'd had. (Don't get me wrong: all of the staff were lovely, they just didn't seem organised or aware of time.)
It seems, from looking over CH and other reviews, that a lot of these inconsistencies in the food and service have been going on since they opened. While this is absolutely to be expected at first, it's too far along now to excuse it as early-days jitters. For the money we spent, we could all have eaten and drunk considerably better at Alden and Harlow or similar places that we reserve for special treats because they're a bit outside our comfortable price range. The food, drinks (which were similarly... fine), and service at La Brasa simply were not worth it.
Tl; dr: For half the price it would have been amazing; for 2/3 of the price it would have felt appropriate; for the price we paid, it felt like a waste.
I was there the other night, too. Didn't love those quinoa hush puppies, either: a rare weak dish in my experience. I thought they were a little over-salted, and the texture was maybe a little gritty. Not awful, just not great. But I had the carrots with mole and the Korean squid pancake, both of which I adore. Add in really fine cocktails, and I had another lovely evening there.
we went a few days after they opened, and then again 3-4 weeks later, and found the same issues (agreeing with what others have said here).
First time, hostess was also very engaged with talking with a server and we waited for at least 5 minutes to be seated in an empty restaurant. The server was very young, very eager, very talkative, very inattentive and more interested in "bragging" about the famous co owner than giving us any service at all. We noticed four people coming in after we did sitting at the bar getting food and drinks before we even got to order anything or even get water. The famous Benton's ham tasted only of smoke...same smoke of the entire restaurant. Grilled onions with romesco fantastic. We did like the tacos which is why we ordered them again second time. A real disappointment. Took a very long time to get the check and to get the card back.
We decided opening hassles, but the second time didn't help change the impression.
Second time,the hostess was kind of intrusive.....she was busy talking to a server (again) and showed no sign of recognizing us at the door for a while, so we told another server we'd sit at the bar. We were given menus and the hostess came up and literally snatched the menu from my hands and almost toppled me over from the awkward bar seating. to ask if we had a reservation. Tacos were good again, the pork sandwich had major problems with toughness and zero taste and one half of the sandwich had about a tablespoon of pork. Bar service for food and drinks was great.
Finding the restrooms through the maze is disconcerting and there are lots of steps, for those at all mobility impaired, as I am. We will go back for the tacos since we live in the neighborhood but hope for serious improvements. We will never order from the wandering cart.....we usually get small plates only so perhaps I'm not a good judge of the place.
Off-topic a bit, but this comment makes me want to plug Pinxto Pincho just for you. No steps to the bathroom, and the pastry chef doubles as a server, and a small enough staff that they recognize you after just a few visits. I’m not a service-seeker in general, but Pepe, Hernan and Gina made me feel at home enough to learn their names.
Relevant thread including my gushing enthusiasm: http://bit.ly/1u82eg0