Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Getting a Woody
Colombian food at Brasa Rosa

Granted I irk easy, but I'm irked.   Irked at the sudden attention devoted to Colombian food, particularly the El Llano spin-off, Brasa Rosa.   Pretty much from day one on Chowhound, I sung the praise of the simple (simply) delicious food of Colombia and its fountainhead in Chicago, El Llano.   Pretty shockingly to me, my posts created no groundswell of interest [ed., I guess I was right in ditching that line on your masthead, "Chicago's most influential food poster."] Even after showing off El Llano with what I thought was an outstanding Chowhound dinner, people did not seem to be clamoring for steak and potatoes South American style (extra salsa de aji for me).  Still, I am very glad Brasa Rosa has received a bit more attention (follow embedded link to Brasa Rosa article in Chicago's Reader).   Ate there for the first time the other day.   As I imagined, I liked it.

Brasa Rosa, true to its name, improves on El Llano with the addition of a brazier, a device to cook wonderfully marinated chickens over live coals.   More important, they also use live coals in their kitchen for the grilled meats.   Chicago seems so overwhelmed with gas grills, flame broiling in the school of Burger King.   Yet, I know no single item that more improves the taste of food than live coal cooking.   So many of those kebabs, shasliks, satays, churasco's around town could be so much better if their makers followed the folks at Brasa Rosa.   Brasa Rosa uses this grill for an assorment of meats including rabbit, pork chops and brisket as well as the classic thin steak. Unlike at El Llano, they do not offer a mass-meat fest called picada.

Granted, I believe, from El Llano, they start from a high base.   It only gets better at Brasa Rosa.   I actually liked best, a chicken breast pounded to double its size, marinated but not over marinated, and cooked not a second too long on the real grill.   The roasted chicken tasted a bit too charred because of a method they use.   You cannot possibly time the production of roast chickens.   To adjust, Brasa Rosa takes the cooked chickens, hacks them and then places them in a grill basket nearly on top of the charcoal fire for a warm-up.   It puts a flavor in the chicken almost charred, ashy instead of smoky. The fine, spicy green sauce does cover up some sins. A smaller dish of even hotter, green chimichuri came with our "matrimonio", that above mentioned chicken breast and an equally spread out, equally good steak.

Any skill the kitchen used to develop sauces, create marinades, and man the grill were not exhibited in the side dishes. With the meats come exceedingly plain things. That does not mean that I did not enjoy eating the half roasted/half boiled potatoes, the bring out the sweetness ripe plantains, and the extra starchy yucca sticks. Only the dry unfilled areapas suffered from plainness.

Meat and potatoes. I am glad it is now a trend.

Brasa Roja
3125 W. Montrose
Chicago, IL

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