Dinner At La Brasa, Somerville, Mass.

Bar at La Brasa, Somerville, Mass.

I've been making some great progress on my must-try restaurant list lately -- with visits to Sycamore, Parla, Bronwyn, Sarma, and Bondir, among others -- which is a good thing because I seem to keep adding to the list faster than I can check things off. One restaurant to recently hit the list that I have already made my way over to is La Brasa. From former L'Espalier chef Daniel Bojorquez and L'Espalier chef and owner Frank McClelland, La Brasa is a stunning new restaurant in an unexpected location -- on Broadway in Somerville.

The space has an industrial feel to it, with lots of metal and wood and exposed duct work. An open bar and kitchen sit side by side and provide plenty of activity to watch throughout dinner.

Some friends and I recently got together there for drinks and food.
We kicked things off with the artisanal cheese platter. The platter offered a trio of cheeses along with a ginger-rhubarb chutney and some toasts. Layering toasts with the different cheeses and and flavorful chutney helped hold us over while we decided what else to order.

Artisanal cheese with assorted condiments at La Brasa, Somerville, Mass.

After checking out the drink menu, I knew I wanted to try the paloma, but it's offered as a drink for four, so I first had to convince ask my friends if they'd want to try it too. Everyone was in, so we placed the order, and soon the drink arrived at our table… bottled.

Drinks menu at La Brasa, Somerville, Mass.

The tequila, grapefruit, and bubbly concoction is mixed up in house and then bottled. After one sip, I started hoping that they might sell it in the adjacent market. The drink was fizzy, light, and pleasant. If we hadn't ordered the last bottle, we might have gotten another!

Palomas for Four at La Brasa, Somerville, Mass.

While we nibbled on cheeses and sipped our palomas, we systematically talked through the menu options, making sure to select a variety of dishes.

Dinner menu at La Brasa, Somerville, Mass.

And as we were getting ready to place our order, we saw a rib roast pull up next to the table beside ours. It came our way next, and we knew not to pass it up. The waitress asked if we wanted a piece for the table (the meat is sold by the ounce), and we said yes without hesitation.

Rib roast at La Brasa, Somerville, Mass.

She served us up a nice thick slab of the roast in a pool of chimichurri, with a red wine beef jus on top.  We joked with her later that we had pre-gamed with the beef, and that's definitely what you should do too should the cart stop by your table before you've even ordered. This dish is not to be missed. It was one of the best we had.

Rib roast at La Brasa, Somerville, Mass.

We polished off the beef and started in on the dishes we had ordered, which arrived at the table as they were ready, giving us a chance to pace ourselves. The tacos de carnitas featured corn tortillas filled with tender chunks of slow-roasted pork shoulder, salsa verde, and chile de arbol. These were another table-pleasing dish.

Tacos de carnitas at La Brasa, Somerville, Mass.

Next came the dish I had most been looking forward to trying: the Mexican fried rice. It starts like a traditional Mexican rice dish with some tomato and cilantro, but then it gets fried up with favas and scallions. The fresh flavors along with the crispy bits of rice made for an interesting comfort food dish. The only disappointment? That it's such a small bowl!

Mexican fried rice at La Brasa, Somerville, Mass.

I wasn't interested in the Swiss chard pie, as I'm not a big fan of Swiss chard, but my friends wanted to order it and I'm always willing to try foods I don't like in case a dish makes me change my mind about them. The pie looked gorgeous, topped with a runny egg and some ham, but I just didn't find it very flavorful, and it ended up being my least favorite.

Swiss chard pie at La Brasa, Somerville, Mass.

A special that night, the soft shell crab was amazing. The crab was crispy and crunchy. It was served with a simple salad with black-eyed peas and thin circles of a meat similar to pepperoni.

Fried soft shell crab at La Brasa, Somerville, Mass.

It might sound odd but when I saw the smoked pork milanese with mushy peas on the menu, I just had a feeling that I needed those mushy peas in my life. Turns out I was right. The mushy peas had a lush, creamy pureed component along with whole peas. The pork milanese set on top was crispy and covered with lettuce and cheese. I loved this take on pork milanese and of course those mushy peas.

Smoked pork milanese with mushy peas at La Brasa, Somerville, Mass.

We really wanted to order the fried chicken but were a little nervous about the escargot-brown butter vinaigrette. After we asked our waited to explain it to us, we set our fears aside. The crispy chicken was so flavorful (how could it not be with that sauce?), and I've never had such tender escargot in my life (in all the three or four times I've had it anyway).

Fried chicken with escargot-brown butter vinaigrette at La Brasa, Somerville, Mass.

Pleasantly full from dinner but still looking for something sweet to end the meal, we opted to share the market sweet-treats, butterscotch pudding, and a caffe corretto (espresso with amaro). The market sweet treats were simply a plate of some Taza chocolate, a salted caramel, a thin cookie, and licorice. To me it was more like the sort of thing you'd just get with your check rather than something you'd order, but if you want a couple of bites of candy at the end of your meal, it could be a good option.

Dessert menu at La Brasa, Somerville, Mass.Desserts at La Brasa, Somerville, Mass.

The butterscotch pudding is definitely the way to go for something a little more indulgent. The pudding comes topped with fried Rice Krispies, which took the dessert up a notch, offering a crunchy contrast to the creamy pudding.

Butterscotch pudding at La Brasa, Somerville, Mass.

I really enjoyed the food and atmosphere at La Brasa, and even though it's off the beaten track, I know I'll make the effort to go back.

What restaurants have you recently added to your must-try list?

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