[All Images by Emily Hingle]

Brasa Brings South American Flavor To Downtown

17:48 May 29, 2024
By: Emily Hingle

South American Meets NOLA

Contemporary South American steakhouse Brasa opened on Metairie Road in 2017 to high acclaim and excitement. The rich flavors of churrasqueria-style meats served with sides and appetizers unlike those at any other local steakhouse have made regular customers in the Old Metairie neighborhood. Opportunity to bring Brasa to a wider audience opened as Morton's Steakhouse in One Canal Place finally ended its historic run. Brasa opened in the spacious second floor room in April and was an immediate hit with in-the-know local diners, tourists looking for local flavor, and everyone in between.

Where Morton's had a dark, imposing exterior, Brasa welcomes you in with a hip, yet sophisticated black tile and wood exterior. The open door leads to a small room with an elevator that brings you straight to Brasa's host stand. You will walk to your table passing the impressive South American wine rack next to the meat aging room lit by glowing blocks of salt (great for picture taking).

The cream-colored interior comes alive with deep green plants, gorgeous dark wood accents, and interesting red cord decor that brilliantly breaks up the dining room without the use of a wall. You practically melt into the deep leather booths that, with the fresh mossy plants behind you, add an incredible earthy scent to the affair. I very much appreciate the attention to sound suppression in part due to the use of tablecloths and a smart folded fabric decoration on the ceiling. This makes for not only a more enjoyable dining experience but better conversation with your meal partner(s).

Indeed, I noticed over the course of my meal that several tables had parties over five people, and they took longer than me to leave. They were having a great time talking to each other and got very deep into stimulating conversation, not really noticing the time flying by and not being rushed to leave by the staff. As a ridiculously slow eater, I'm relieved by this freedom.

Having missed out on Cinco de Mayo festivities, I really wanted to have the good ol' Margarita, but this was unlike any margarita I've ever had. What is salt foam, I wondered. My question was answered when the drink arrived in rocks glass with a delightful lime zest-dotted foam atop it. This margarita is topped with a salt-infused foam that tickles the nose upon sipping and gives you a tasty dose of saltiness with every sip. It almost smells like your having a drink at the seashore, especially with the pop of herbaceous lime shavings.

I wanted to have a fresh dish alongside a savory dish to begin the meal, and it seemed like the best choices for that juxtaposition would be the Tuna Ceviche and Chorizo. I love showmanship, and the Tuna Ceviche did not disappoint as our waiter poured a hearty amount of Leche de Tigre upon the pile of fish at the table. The flavorful mix of yellowfin tuna, bursting watermelon, crunchy red onion, and creamy avocado awakened my palate. It was especially good to put a spoonful on the ultra crispy plantain chips for more crunch and saltiness.

But I can't say enough about the Chorizo. The placement of the Ternera Sausage and the thick crackers formed a sad face, but there was nothing sad about the incredibly smokey flavor of the meat that so easily crumbled upon cutting it. You can easily scoop up some of the meat with a bit of chimichurri and the incredible Colombian red beans for one hell of a bite. Layers of smoke, especially from the magnificent beans, are transcended by the bright chimichurri. Alternating that with the lighter Ceviche is quite a culinary trip.

To prepare for a savory entree, I ordered the Pisco Sour. A woody undertone from the Machu Pisco was brightened with some acidic tones from lemon and lime juice and sweetened with guava. Some egg white foam made for a richer mouth feel.

My Pollo Adobo smoked Heritage Green Circle Chicken breast was so juicy so that I needed to wipe my chin a few times, and I mean that in the best way possible. The smokiness was excellent with the pop of freshness from the microgreens garnish. The chicken had a great crunch from the bit of char on the outside and a charred orange pepper accompaniment. I chose to have this entree with the Mushrooms Al Ajillo which were very rich in a red wine sauce. There was a simmering undertone of heat and just a hint of spice from Chile de Arbol infusion.

Simple elegance were the words that came to mind when the Picanha arrived. The 10 oz. Texas Wagyu Coulotte was perfectly cooked with just a touch of char on the outside with a heavenly moist pink inside that felt like it melted on the tongue. It's not overdone to the point of being unrecognizable as Wagyu beef yet the richness that the combination of the aging and flame provides is noticeable.

The Esparragos shoots were a great complement to this dish as the greens provide a clean palate for another bite of steak. The massive asparagus shoots were blanketed in Huancaina sauce which was a new sauce to me. It's a thick cheese sauce of peppers, queso fresco, and onions.

I asked what cocktail on the menu is very photogenic, and I was immediately told that the Pornstar Martini is the one. I thought that perhaps the drink has an eye-catching hue or a pretty garnish, but I was mistaken. The drink arrives on a platter with several components to it which is as photogenic as it is playful. I had to inquire as to how to assemble it, but I was told that you can do anything that you want.

The components include a sweet martini of Haku Vodka, Chinola, passion fruit, vanilla, and lemon. A shot size glass holds not-as sweet cava. Yellow boba ball rest upon a wooden spoon, and the fourth corner holds an edible purple flower. Some people mix all the ingredients together while others have them all separately, but most people take photos or videos of the cocktail to induce FOMO in their followers. I chose to drop the boba into the martini glass, then take a sip of it followed by a sip of the cava. I then bit off a petal of the flower.

While the Pornstar Martini was engaging my Millennial desire to assemble foods together, two delectable desserts arrived and pulled that attention away. What I loved about these desserts is that they were just a couple bites each. At the end of such a big, beautiful meal, a huge dessert would have been impossible. These baby plates were perfectly sized to enjoy without going over my stomach's budget. The Cheesecake was a dainty dollop garnished with purple edible flowers that the waiter drizzled in an amazing sauce and candied oranges that were so well dried that they crumbled into the confection.

Not to be outdone, a pretty scoop of Flan sat on the next plate, strewn with more edible petals and swimming in a sweet strawberry compote. You know this is real strawberry compote and not a fake sauce as big chunks of strawberry comprised most of it. The flan was the seat for the cutest scoop of strawberry sorbet ever.

If you've tried Brasa Old Metairie before, you need to see Brasa Downtown. If you've never been, you need to go, too. This is a culinary experience unlike any other you'll find in this city.

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