Brasa (Minneapolis, MN)

By Bruce Schneier and Karen Cooper
The Mix
January/February 2008

Cabin fever. Some fight it by getting outdoors to ski or skate, and these build up a good appetite. Some give in and nest, all the while craving the warm richness of comfort foods. Either way, we recommend visiting Brasa to get you through the long dark of winter.

Their Southern-heritage dishes evoke humid air and sunshine. Before long, you'll be thinking of Carolina mountain air, steamy bayou evenings and the Gulf breeze playing over the surf.

Even better, these updated dishes have a fine modern flair and an eye toward top-notch, locally sourced ingredients. Alex Roberts, the chef at Café Alma, owns Brasa and brings his undeniable talent to this menu.

You have two basic options: rotisserie chicken or slow-roasted pork. These are free-range, pasture-raised meats. You can order either to takeout -- a quarter, half, or whole chicken or a quarter, half, or whole pound of pork -- or as part of a plate to eat in. Both are succulent and wonderfully delicious.

But the hard part is choosing your side dishes. We recommend everything.

Garnet yams with andouille sausage is one of the most popular options. We liked the slow-cooked collard greens with bacon, though we found them a little salty. The spinach is creamed with crème fraiche and a bit of spicy jalepeno.

Yellow rice with red beans are splendid, as are the vegan black beans.

The fried sweet plaintains: our notes say simply "yum!" The yucca strips, potato-like and gently fried, are another good vegan choice.

Cabbage salad is puckery with vinegar, which makes it the terrific counterpoint topping on the chicken sandwich.

The cheesy grits are perhaps the ultimate comfort food: warm, filling and simple.

Brasa also serves two sandwiches. First there is the shredded chicken sandwich is mixed with jalapeno onion and held together with crème fraiche, topped with the cabbage slaw and served with tomatillo chipotle sauce. The combination is sublime. We also loved the pork sandwich topped with pickled onions and ginger mayonnaise, and served with cilantro ginger aioli. Both sandwiches come with the side of the day, recently a good traditional potato salad made bright with chives.

Either of the sauces served with those sandwiches are delicious on pretty much anything on the menu, so dip in your yucca strips or your chicken; it's all good.

One of the nice surprises at Brasa is the drink selections. You can order a from a few good beers or have a glass of wine. The lemonade is freshly squeezed and is a perfect balance of tart and sweet. Iced tea comes Southern-style sweet (and it's not too sweet) or plain: both are good. And try a Mexican Coca-Cola. Made with sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup, it's different than what you're used to and much tastier.

These are big portions, and you probably won't have room for dessert, but everything is house-made except the birthday cake. All are good, and we especially liked the gently zesty and creamy lemon tart with sour cherries.

Brasa is great winter therapy, and it'll be even better come spring when they open those big windows and seat people outside.

Brasa
600 E. Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN
612-379-3030
www.brasa.us/
Cuisine Type: A mélange of dishes from all over the Americas
Reservations: None
Diet Choices: Chicken and pork, but a few side dishes are vegan.

earlier review: Jay's Café (St. Paul, MN)
later review: Cue (Minneapolis, MN)
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