Brasa St. Paul: Just like home

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by Jeremy Iggers June 30, 2009 • Had a chance last week to check out the new Brasa in St. Paul with Julio Ojeda-Zapata, the tech writer for the Pioneer Press. It was Julio’s second visit in two days – he says the cooking reminds him of the food he grew up on in Puerto Rico and that he has enjoyed on his travels in South America. “This for me is a sublime moment,” Julio said as he finished off a plate of spicy beef with tostones (fried plantains), yuca and yellow rice. “This has a Latin urban feel that I adore. They have nailed the feeling of sitting on the street in a South American food joint – minus the smog and the ever-present danger of getting mugged.” Julio also had high praise for the Creole-style rotisserie chicken. which he had enjoyed on his previous visit.

Iggers Digest is the blog of Jeremy Iggers, the TC Media Alliance’s executive director. Jeremy is also the creator of TCFoodies, a local food networking site.

Chef-owner Alex Roberts stopped by our table, and when Julio offered his complements, Alex talked a little about the philosophy behind the Brasa menu. He hasn’t spent enough time in Latin American countries to make any claims to authenticity, but he sees the flavors of the region as a culinary vocabulary within which he can be creative. (Not exactly his words, but you get the idea.) When he lived in New York, Alex told us, he had a Puerto Rican girlfriend, and learned a lot about Puerto Rican cooking from her mother – ideas that he now incorporates into his own recipes.

I enjoyed my plate of slow roasted pork, and sides of roasted yams with andouille sausage, and black eyed peas with ham, too. There is a lot more I would like to try, like the pulled chicken sandwich with smoked pepper sauce. I’ve never been able to persuade Carol to come along on a visit to Brasa because it is so meat-centric (although, as Roberts points out, he does offer a big selection of vegetarian side dishes). But the St. Paul location is currently featuring a tilapia entree and sandwich, so maybe I can get her to reconsider.

The new Brasa has about twice as much space as the original Minneapolis location (600 E. Hennepin), which means we were able to walk in at noon and actually get a table. The garage windows (like at the original) are a nice touch, letting in a summer breeze.

Brasa, 777 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-224-1302 for info and private parties; 651-224-1628 for take out.

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