Brasabana – And the Elephant (Bar) in the Room

I spent the day out of town yesterday, communing with ancestors who have already crossed the River Jordan (genealogical research in Wayne County), breezing in around 6pm, with nary a though to feeding myself, let along that hard working husband of mine!

He’s the kind of guy who is okay with this kind of oversight and offered the usual, “Let’s just go out to dinner”.

Actually, what he said was “Let’s go out to dinner! I want to try that new place on Lane Allen. Brasabana. I’m hungry. Let’s go!”

It seemed to me a mighty fine plan and before then engine could cool, we were back in the car, hopping-skipping-and-jumping our way to Brasabana.

I have to say, to begin with, that I have been to this restaurant in a former life or two. The food was generally good bar/pub food. Not great, but good enough. I can’t even remember the name of the previous establishments, which is a bad sign. There is only one thing that really makes that space memorable to me, and it is…

… that damn bar in the middle of the poorly lit room.

Yes, this has been a bar-centric space for quite a long time; that is for certain.

Historically (meaning “as I recall”), the floor plan has always been much the same as it stands today. You enter along the side of the restaurant into a small space. I’ve seen this dressed up as a sitting room with sofas and I’ve seen it serve as part of the dining room. It’s an odd, clunky little space and I imagine an owner thinking “I could sell Cuban crafts or little cookbooks in this space”, to which I reply, “Oh Dear Lord! No!!”

To your left in the main room of the establishment, sits a huge bar-in-the-round. This is a big 1970-1980s bar and I am certain it cost a great deal of money to build. It entertains me to think that it was made so large and unavoidable for one of the three following reasons:

1. Aliens from another galaxy strategically planned to lure drunk and otherwise unaware Earthlings to a central area for transferring them to the mother ship for scientific assessment and experimentation;
2. A large unavoidable bar central to the room forced the partying 80’s ladies to squeeze by and rub up against nearly every man in the room on her way in and on the way out, thereby ensuring numerous “meet cute” opportunities.
3. A large bar with many stools allowed for the largest possible number of working men to sit at the bar and get lit before making their weary way home to the families awaiting their arrival in Garden Springs. Back in the mid-to-late 20th century this was still acceptable post-work entertainment.

Anyway, boy have I digressed! But did I mention the large, ugly bar in the middle of the room?

Past the bar, at the back of the restaurant, is where you would find the stage and dance floor. In the most recent restaurant or two, this has largely been filled with unfilled tables. Mind you, however, evidence of the bar was still there.

I know I’ve yammered on a lot about the ugly bar and things that have little to nothing to do with the current restaurant, Brasabana. Forgive me.

This was important time, however, necessary for you to truly understand how much the space has improved, DESPITE the fact that there is still a hulk of a bar-in-the-round (oval actually) parked in the middle of a nice Cuban restaurant.

Brasabana is a charming restaurant with very good food. The first thing I noticed was how they managed to bring much needed light to a dark space. The restaurant looks so much larger and airier; this is a much more cheerful place to dine. It is the kind of space you can sit and enjoy talking to friends and family and look around and see other diners doing the same.

They’ve placed art work on the walls. Cheerful, colorful painting that you can purchase, if you so desire. I did not walk around to look at all the paintings, but the one by our table was nice and at $150, I thought quite reasonably priced.

The menus are super-cute. I’m not joking here. I believe Brasabana has the prettiest menu design in town! It seems like a minor point, perhaps, but it is important. This is not some Microsoft Word typed menu with clip art photos. The menu reminds me of mid-century graphic art. It was a pleasure reading the menu.

I ordered the Argentinian beef churrasco steak, which had a beautiful char and was served with queso fresco salsa, chimichurri and sweet plantain. The spouse had the pork carnitas.

A lot of attention was paid to details on the plate. The rice was served in a cute little mound topped with a little flourish of peppers and onion. The queso fresco salsa was as pretty as it was tasty. As for the steak – it was cooked exactly as I requested and the spices were wonderfully garlicky.

The spouse says the carnitas were delicious. The outside of the meat was crisp, but under the crisp was tender, flavorful pork. This was served with black beans, white rice and plantains.

Rolls were served with the meal and the butter was unexpectedly flavorful – roasted garlic and guava paste, which brought sweet and floral notes to the butter. I have to admit, I cheated on this point. Spouse and I could identify the garlic, but we were at a loss as to the sweet and floral note, so we asked. We were told is guava paste, and to that I have to say “Yum”!

I would also like to note that the iced tea was out of this world and also had a floral note. I’m not certain if that was also a guava component, or if this note was integral to the tea.

Fork and Spoon loved our first Brasabana experience and we plan to visit again soon. We hope that many people will visit this restaurant and enjoy their meals as well as we did.

We hope they will go back and will encourage their friends to eat there. We hope that our neighborhood will finally have a restaurant on Lane Allen that does not require you drive through, take out, or get drunk to enjoy.

We also hope that as the restaurant flourishes, the owners will devote funds toward the removal of the bar. Perhaps they could place an attractive bar at the back, and allow the restaurant to drift toward the front, where it and the delicious food belong.

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