Brasa is one of those downtown restaurants I walk by all of the time but never seem to consider going in. I hear about chef/owner Tamara Murphy from time to time, doing interesting foodie things around town, but something about it never pulls me in. I recently had my first experience at Brasa and now that I know what I’ve been missing I confess that it doesn’t top my list of places to return to, at least not for dinner.
Hats off to Tamara and crew for a fantastic Portuguese Pig. It was beautifully presented atop a bay scented potato and served with clams and chorizo, the broth a terrific combination of spicy and sweet. The rabbit with a cannellini bean stew, bacon, and mustard greens was another well-received entree, though the risotto (asparagus, mascarpone, tempura fried ramp leaves) and the Agnolotti al Plin (ricotta, English peas, porcini mushrooms) both came off as a little bland. Kudos to my fellow diner for ordering the veal marrow bone (with accompanying quince and pistachio marmelatta); the enormous halved bone would have made both Fred Flinstone and Julia Child very proud. Dessert was an overly tart, overly lemony crème brulee with a decidedly un-crème brulee texture. The saving grace of the meal was stellar service from start to finish by a perfectly attentive server who I’m told had a great eye for picking just the right wine when requested. It was an unwieldy group, to be sure, and he did a fantastic job managing all with aplomb.
Although dinner didn’t knock my socks off, I might be lured back for a happy hour that includes things like curried mussels, Catalan fish stew, Moroccan steak sandwich, and Spanish doughnuts. Though I’ll do my best to sit facing the windows that look on to an always colorful strip of Third Avenue, thereby blocking out the interior of the restaurant and its distinctly 1986 vibe. Something about the peach-toned walls, light fixtures, and big, curved booths makes me think that Crockett and Tubbs might walk off their cigarette boat and through the door any second.
Another Tamara Murphy creation that I’ll be checking out, now that I’ve experienced Brasa: The newly revamped café at much-beloved Elliott Bay Book Company in Pioneer Square. The café space had always had a real basement feel with food to match, and if this new menu lives up to expectation then it will be fantastic indeed. And I’m all for giving Ms. Murphy a second try in a new setting.
[Photo courtesy of jdong]