Every now and again a new restaurant explodes onto the scene in Boston. It opens to rave reviews and the hype builds until all of your friends are talking about it, checking in there and posting photos of their meals on Instagram.
This summer, that restaurant is La Brasa in Somerville.
After weeks of hearing about the new East Somerville watering hole, I grabbed one of my favorite dining out pals to experience it for ourselves.
La Brasa is located on Broadway, right off 93 and McGrath Highway.
The front door is carved out of a wall made of futuristic looking LEGOs.
Inside, the restaurant has beautiful furniture, especially the wooden tables.
The dining room feels very open and airy.
We were seated in the front window, in a corner, but we still had a view of the open kitchen at the back.
Our booth was part of one long bench along the front window.
La Brasa has very simple decor on each table, one flickering candle and a small bunch of wildflowers.
The menu offers a solid variety of choices. Each night the staff writes the specials by hand in the top right corner of the menu.
Entrees are separated by the type of meat featured in the dish, each category marked with the appropriate farm animal.
On the drink menu I was thrilled to see they serve Horchata, my favorite Spanish cocktail! In fact, you can order it by the pitcher.
After perusing the menu, we each ordered a cocktail. My dinner date went with the Red Duster Swizzle which was gin, falernum, campari, citrus and bitters. It had a very beautiful ombre look to it.
This is going to sound weird, but I love the size of these ice cubes. Perfect ice can make or break a cocktail.
I went with a drink called the Penny Brave which was vodka, sercial maderia, hibiscus, dolin blanc vermouth and citrus. It looked and tasted like Robitussin cough syrup.
Drinks in hand, we continued to scrutinize the menu, attempting to narrow down our choices to a reasonable number of dishes. Once we ordered (without much narrowing) our waiter brought us a beer mug full of silverware. Not your average presentation! This is how I imagine Sam Adams kept his silverware.
The first dish to arrive was sliced vine-ripe tomatoes with cashew-parmesan crumble, ricotta cheese and basil. Because it was the height of tomato season, these slices were incredibly fresh and juicy. Who knew a tomato could be such a stand out ingredient?
The parmesan-cashew crumble tasted just like Ritz crackers! This was a fun twist on the traditional tomato/mozzarella salad. I loved it.
Next up, the quinoa hushpuppies.
One hushpuppy was enough for each of us. After two, they started to feel super heavy. The best part of the dish was the spicy aioli dipping sauce.
On the recommendation of our waiter, we also ordered the Swiss chard pie. It is served with Colorado chile, a farm fresh egg and piperade. It usually comes with ham, but we asked for it without.
Each bite of the pie had a strong BBQ, smokey flavor to it and I really liked the egg on top. That being said, the BBQ taste was a bit too strong for my liking. I wouldn't order this dish again.
For her entree, my friend ordered one of the evening's specials, the east coast halibut with summer vegetable ratatouille. When the runner brought her plate to the table, it was covered with a silver warming dish. He lifted the top off and shouted, "Booyah!"
Though I thought the dish looked beautiful, especially the fish, she said it was lackluster all around.
Since there weren't any vegetarian entree choices, I decided to order two starters for my meal. The first was the greens with buttermilk poppyseed dressing and almonds.
I really enjoyed the rich, creamy dressing, but there was so much frisee in the salad that it was difficult to eat.
The second dish was the Mexican fried rice with charred scallions and summer vegetables. The first bite was fantastic, but with each bite after that it began to taste very salty.
Though we'd already eaten enough to feed a small village, we had to at least ask about dessert. The dessert menu is small (four choices) but packs serious punch.
We decided on two treats, the first of which was the triple cheese cheesecake with spiced stone fruit. In the case of this particular dessert, stone fruit is code for Del Monte canned peaches. At least that's what they tasted like.
The cheesecake itself was very light (tasted more like savory cheese than a true dessert cheesecake). The graham cracker crust was on point.
For the grand finale, we had the affogato. For those who are unfamiliar, affogato is usually one scoop of ice cream (traditionally vanilla) which is topped with a shot of espresso (either tableside or they let you do it yourself). The runner who delivered the plate poured the espresso for us.
The affogato was hands down the best thing we tasted all night. The ice cream was pure, creamy vanilla and the jolt you got from the espresso was awesome. I would come back just for this.
We lingered at our table for another half hour or so, talking to our fabulous waiter.
When it was time to get the check, it arrived with a clipboard soliciting guest feedback. It simply asks "How'd we do?"
Though La Brasa is off the beaten path, they make it so easy for you to come for a visit. There is a parking lot behind the building and they also offer valet parking for just $6 dollars.
The atmosphere of the restaurant is very fun and they play killer music - Ottis Reading and Michael Jackson were the first two artists we heard.
The service is terrific and our waiter was particularly excellent.
Though I didn't love the savory food, that affogato was outstanding.
The only thing that out shined the affogato was the man sitting at the table next to us, Garret Harker, the owner of Eastern Standard, Island Creek Oyster Bar, The Hawthorne and Row 34. I tried not to stare, but he's such a celebrity to me! Dinner with a side of local legend.
Tell me, have you been to La Brasa? What was your favorite dish?