The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Brasa: Ideological Quandary?-Maybe. Good Chicken?-Yes

By Michael Juhasz

Bring on the global warming; I’ve had it with the cold. The novelty of subzero temperatures has worn as thin as the soles of my exhausted snow boots. The few solaces for my dampened-then-refrozen spirits include furtive glances cast at my neighbors’ vestal hot tub, microwaved suede moccasins, and enthralling indulgences of my cabin feverish delirium, trying to convince myself that it’s not winter and I’m not in Minnesota.Sniffing around an online Minnesota food forum, I spotted potential salvation from the bitterly biting Minnesotan malaise: Brasa: Premium Rotisserie – a recently opened, Caribbean and South American inspired restaurant with (and this really got my mouth watering) an attractive patio for outdoor dining.

I manically raced to Northeast Minneapolis, thrilled by the chance to defy the distasteful weatherman and enjoy my meal en plein air. In my delicious craze, I failed to anticipate that the packed ice covering the patio might disincline the wait staff to serve ardent outdoorsmen. Ah well – I thought, entering the cheerfully lit dining room – the southern feel ought to suffice.

Brasa is unabashedly image conscious. The black-on-yellow theme, boldly displayed on the brightly-lit outdoor sign, continues into the dining room, where black block print and silhouetted birds have been stenciled onto the saffron-colored walls. Brasa’s unconventional space, a barely converted garage, retains its former occupants’ concrete floors and garage doors, which, in the spring and summer will open onto the desperately appetizing patio.

The designers did well in fully maintaining the thematic consistency. Water is served in paper cups, the exposed kitchen is decked solely in polished steel, the massive maŒtre d’ must be a recently retired teamster and the saucier bears a striking resemblance to a brash Macalesterian barista. The dirty steak knives, while stylistically agreeable, were somewhat less appreciated.

Enough with the amuse-bouches.

Owner Alex Roberts (also the co-owner and chef of Restaurant Alma and nominee for a James Beard award – that’s a big deal!), continues his commitment to the Slow Food movement, supplying Brasa with “local products, naturally raised free range and pasture raised meats, organic produce, fair trade and sustainable agriculture minded products.” Though the locally grown food is prepared with Latin American embellishments, the superb quality of the offerings more than excuses their ideological inconsistency.

Brasa’s menu exemplifies the trite tenet “less is more,” offering only two entrees: Spanish Creole Style Rotisserie Chicken and Twelve Hour Slow Roasted Pork. Before flinging dismissive accusations of unappetizing pretension, note that a quarter of a chicken, or a quarter pound of pork, with two sides, costs less than $12. For the less ravenous appetite, Brasa offers a spicy chicken, or a roasted pork sandwich (both for $7.50).

Neither of the two mains offers a terribly unique gustatory experience, relying instead on the expertness of their preparation. I’ve been roasting a lot of chickens recently, and delighted in Brasa’s birds, which, while somewhat less tender and moist than one I’d pull from my own oven, develop a well balanced, piquant zest, mellowed through its luxuriously slow roasting. Similarly, the pork was flavorfully correct, but a bit dry and cold, leading one to wonder how many of the twelve hours it had spent under a heating lamp.

Why then go so far out of your way for a meal of which Kowalski’s prepares a fair imitation? If the chance for being seen in Northeast Minneapolis, catching the tail-end of the hip revitalization of the neighborhood doesn’t sufficiently whet your appetite, the selection of eleven sides Brasa serves along with its roast chicken and pork ought to suffice.

It’s in this portion of the menu that Brasa really takes full advantage of its chef’s playful, interpretive style. Here, the jaded gourmand delights in clever twists on southern American classics: no complaints with the Creamed Corn Bread, or Creamed Spinach with Jalapeno. The Slow Cooked Collard Greens with Smoked Turkey would have been fantastic, if it was served hot. The adventurous eater could explore the more obviously Latin American/Caribbean influenced Fried Sweet Plantains, Crispy Yucca (excellent on their own, astounding eaten with their enticing chipotle-tomatillo and cilantro-ginger sauces), or that night’s special, an intriguing barley and chickpea salad.

I’d caution diners to stay away from the lack-luster dessert menu and warn that the drink selection is unfortunately slim (though I certainly appreciated the bottled Grain Belt), but as I’ve said, the quality of the reliable roasts and the cleverly imaginative sides, along with the charmingly quirky attitude and eventual promise of outdoor dining, warrants serious merit, and probably your attention. When the thaw finally comes, you’re sure to find me on Brasa’s patio, chicken-leg in my hand, a stained shirt on my back.

Brasa: Premium Rotisserie
600 East Hennepin Ave.

Minneapolis, MN 55414

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    Ella SutherlandSep 8, 2019 at 6:39 pm

    some truly fantastic posts on this site, thanks for contribution.