As early as now, I can say there is no other restaurant in the Metro that can provide you with a memorable Latin American vibe save for Brasas. Expect to encounter dishes that aren’t exactly along the lines of more common South American delights such as quesadillas, nachos with salsa and burritos. Dining at Brasas is an exciting, delicious experience. You have been warned.
“It’s so serendipitous,” Karla Licuanan gushes. “Our chef is Columbian, and Latin American culture is something that my partners and I have always been interested in. There’s nothing too weird or too outlandish about Latin American cuisine. The flavors are familiar, but the way we mix the ingredients and plate the dishes is very different.”
Brasas has a bold, bright and cheery atmosphere. The name, a Spanish word for ‘live coal’, pays tribute to how all the restaurant’s food is charcoal-grilled to perfection. For Karla and her team, this is a big step in their careers because it is the first time for the entire group to be involved in a single business venture.
For our beverages, we were introduced to the Guarapo (P80) and the Latin Iced Tea (P60). The Guarapo, a popular drink in Columbia, was very interesting to me because it is very reminiscent of a non-alcoholic mojito. The base ingredient of the drink is sugarcane juice, with muddled mint and lime to add flavors. It is refreshing and definitely a unique-tasting drink. For those who would like to play it safe, the iced tea, with it delicious blend of passion fruit tea, lime juice and honey, will prove to be a complimentary companion to your meal.
I am going to go ahead and say that the appetizer was one of my favourite dishes of the night. The Patacones (P140) are crispy plantain chips with smoked pulled pork, tomato salsa and melted Monterey Jack cheese.
Karla fondly calls this popular dish their “Latin saba.” The flavors go so well together, and the dish also serves as a perfect introduction to the rest of their menu items.
“Our salads are not for dieters!” Karla playfully warns us as soon as the platter is served. And it turns out that she is right, for the Salad is a meal on its own with three kinds of dressings (orange walnut honey Dijon and cilantro lime), fresh greens, vegetables, tortilla strips and a meat of your choice (P150 – chicken; P160 – pork; P190 – beef). If you’re looking for a light meal or a quick fix, this is definitely the dish for you.
Next came a grilled wrap that vaguely reminded me of a giant burrito. “Our key ingredient is Carne Asada,” Karla shares. “Carne Asada is a very popular dish in Latin America. It’s sliced very thinly, marinated in cilantro lime and other spices, and then charcoal-grilled. This is the very base of all our wraps, rice platters and other dishes.”
The Grilled Beef Wrap (P190 – small; P220 – regular) is spectacular. It’s Carne Asada wrapped in flour tortilla with tomato salsa, roasted sweet bell peppers, sautéed onions, and served with their special homemade Chipotte sauce. This dish was very popular in their old stall in Mercato and continues to enjoy that same attention in the restaurant. The regular serving is rather large, though; I recommend getting the small serving or splitting this with a friend.
The Rice Platter (P180 – chicken; P190 – pork; P220 – beef) is a large serving of South American slaw, patacones, yellow rice served with Chimichum sauce and again, a meat of your choice. The real magic, though, comes in the form of their Latin Classics.
I am particularly fond of the Puerco Asado (P240), a Cuban dish consisting of soft, tender pork belly, roasted vegetables and rice mixed with beans. It could be a relative of our famed liempo dishes with a richer, more exciting flavor (I blame the beans; they’re fantastic). The Chilean Pastel De Choclo (P210) is Karla’s personal favourite at the moment. It’s similar to shepherd’s pie, only with a corn-based crust instead of the usual potato. Inside the pie, you can find slow-cooked beef brisket, carrots, green peas and corn mash. Very adventurous—and different—don’t you think?
So far, Brasas remains to be the only contender in the local Latin American restaurant scene. There is definitely no reason to miss out on an opportunity to take a small piece of Cuba, Chile or Columbia home with you. Brasas will be more than happy to help you out with that.