There was a period of my life where I relished trying the newest restaurants, and being “in the know” about every new place, and every new dish. It was, however, exhausting, and while I did manage to eat many a phenomenal meal, I also found myself with quite a few duds, and then I got sick of eating out. It happens, okay? Even to a food blogger. It might have had something to do with working for a dish review site – unlimited delicious meals out felt like both a blessing and a curse. These days we’ve become early bird special type of people, making it out to the same restaurant every week, so often that we’re very much so regulars. Admittedly this has it’s perks. The occasional hot cider donut with salted caramel sauce on the house is one of them.
And I don’t want to sound like a sob story here, because sometimes we actually get out of the house and try new things. Tonight we ventured out into the wild world of Somerville in order to eat at La Brasa, the newest neighborhood restaurant by chefs Daniel Bojorquez and Frank McClelland. I may have made a mistake by describing it to Devon (the Southern Californian) as a Mexican restaurant, but after eating here, I’d call it neighborhood local and seasonal with diverse culinary influence? I suppose you can throw around “hipster” in there, but only if you’d take that to mean people who are a little alternative and very passionate about food.
We managed to get in without a reservation (okay, so it was 6:00 pm), huzzah! and set forth ordering from their family style menu.
Beet pickled egg with dill and micro greens. ($2) First of all, you should know that the interiors of the restaurant are totally welcoming. The tables. The mismatched cutlery. The custom lighting, the wide open seating (the space is quite large, and the kitchen fairly open). The Bose sound system hanging from the ceiling makes the music sound great. And how cute are these plates? That beet picked egg, my first bite of the evening did not disappoint. And it was pink!
Insistent on something green for dinner, we shared this Little Gem salad with buttermilk poppyseed dressing, preserved lemons, and almonds. ($9) For some reason I thought they were pistachios – maybe I’d make this with pistachios in my own kitchen – but this was a nice salad! It always feels good when you order a salad and it comes well dressed, but not overly so. The lemons were chopped into tiny cubes, and gave just enough of a tart and salty hit to make this quite charming.
We then split an order of Tacos de carnitas. Slow roasted pork shoulder with salsa verde + chile de arbol ($7). These were solid, with good mingling of rich pork with bright salsa verde, although truthfully, while I worship the pork, I’m never fully satisfied with carnitas.
Now for our meals. I’ll preface this by saying that for a while I was loathe to review restaurants because I didn’t want to have to write anything negative. But that’s part of the fun of a review now, isn’t it? Forgive me kind folks at La Brasa, but our meal had a low point, and it was, alas, the pork sandwich. While it sounded delicious – roast pork loin sandwich with rapini, chorizo & fiddlehead tomme ($14) – I would not recommend, unless you’d like a dry salt lick for your meal. Perhaps it was a fluke, but the dry pork, bacon, chorizo in combination was difficult to get through even with the nice mustard and cheese in there – so much so that my dining partner suggested that we name the sandwich “The Oscar Wilde“. Truly though, I *really liked each individual ingredient*, but together, alas, no.
Fortunately, my meal (the top picture of the post) was no less than excellent – lamb liver with summer squash pupusa ($14) – although I felt a little sorry that I was the one with the better choice of the two. It’s never fun to have a slightly discontent dining partner, and alas, for him, he doesn’t love liver, so he didn’t share in my gustatory delight. I believe the description mentioned wild mushrooms, but they must have been chopped finely in a tart little sauce, because I couldn’t quite taste them. The squash blossoms were a lovely touch!
Now, as our meal was finishing, we noticed that there was a cart with a massive piece of meat being rolled around. Yep, meat on a cart, and I couldn’t help but think regretfully that I’d never made it to the House of Prime Rib in San Francisco. So it turns out that they sell rib roast with chimichurri for $3.50 an ounce. Because we’d already eaten, I went for a single restrained ounce. There was a brief moment as she was cutting our steak and I was taking my first bite that Akinyele’s “Just Put it In My Mouth” the erm… non-radio version (yeah, there is no radio version, and please don’t look this song up) started blasting on their Spotify soundtrack. Somehow it was an apt music choice for this buttery steak, but ahem, perhaps not for the majority of the patrons. I did however laugh out loud. Someone noticed at some point and we got a new song.
With most of the neighborhood serving local favorites Barismo, George Howell, etc. or sometimes bringing in heavy hitters Intelligentsia and Stumptown, I was excited to try a coffee that I’d not yet had around here – a local espresso from Gracenote in Berlin, MA. I missed catching which one it was, but while I found it a little bit fruity for my taste, it was a very nice cup indeed. Espresso – Gracenote. ($4)
Before deciding on dessert, I inquired about the market sweets (Taza chocolates, and such from their market), but we ended up fortuitously ordering the Butterscotch Pudding with cinnamon whipped cream and rice crispies. ($6) This, my friends, was a great end to the meal. Pudding is the best!
Two final notes: everyone working here was cheerful and nice – and the service was quick, even as the restaurant began to fill up. Also, while we don’t do too much drinking, the drink menu here looks excellent, including a small selection of smoked! beers. And I regretted missing out on their paloma and boozy horchata.
124 broadway street, somerville, ma
617 764 1412