I was surprised when, after a recent, delicious visit to Brasabana, I checked and found it had not been reviewed by this newspaper since it opened in January last year. That was an oversight that had to be corrected.
Brasabana is in an unassuming strip shopping center on Lane Allen Road, far from the traditional trendy restaurant hubs in the Lexington area, The interior is a pleasant, bright mix between a restaurant and a sports bar.
On both recent visits I ate in the first room, which is more of a traditional restaurant. The other side is more of a bar atmosphere, with the large bar itself in the middle, a large screen TV in addition to the smaller ones throughout the restaurant and, sometimes, music and dancing, I'm told.
Anyway, to the food.
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It is good from the start, when a basket of fried plantains are delivered to your table with pico de gallo. From my point of view, they, along with the excellent black beans and rice, could easily be an entire meal. The slightly sweet plaintains are sliced in long, thin strips, fried beautifully and salted. A perfect combination of sweet and salty, the fresh, fresh, fresh pico de gallo is a treat in itself and a lovely complement to the plantains.
My favorite entrees included the carnitas ($14.95), described on the menu as "slow-roasted chunks of pork, fried and topped with sweet pickled onions and peppers." This mention of "sweet" made me a little nervous since I'm really a savory and not sweet person but no worry, the pork was tremendous, the onion and pepper mixture worked well with it and the whole entree was a wonderful taste experience.
The dinner include the aforementioned black beans, which are just great, and a couple of fried sweet plaintains. An ample and tasty dinner.
The other standout of the main dishes I tried was the citrus herb shrimp ($15.95), a slightly lighter but no less inspiring offering. The shrimp are first roasted and then bathed in a slightly chunky and very herb-infused tomato sauce. Black beans and rice, this time yellow, are again part of the dish along with crunchy tostones that are good for dipping up the extra tomato sauce.
I was a little less impressed with the Peruvian chicken. Although the garlic papaya mojo that topped the marinated chicken breast was, like so much here, a wonderfully balanced blend of fresh flavors, the meat itself was unimpressive.
I'm often a little reluctant to order chicken breast in restaurants because it is easily overcooked and so often dry. It's quality as a low-cal meat obviously relies on the absence of fat and that, in turn, means it takes a lot to make it tasty. Brasabana's kitchen made a game effort but I'm afraid it's often an uphill battle.
We sampled two appetizers; the empanadas and the island chips, both $6.95. The empanadas are true to the menu description of a flaky dough, and the beef filling is great. Although they don't really need anything else, they are served with an excellent chipotle aioli.
The island chips are a large serving of fried plantains and other root vegetables and are served with guacamole as well as the pico de gallo. I thought they were good, but not really an improvement over the chips that come to the table for free. Unless you're there just for a drink and want a wonderful accompaniment, I'd pass on the separate order and try another one of the appetizers.
Also worth a mention is the Roca Rita, Brasabana's take on the margarita. At $14 it is not a cheap drink, but then, as our waiter explained, it's made with the best ingredients. The difference is evident. No sirupy mix here, the individual ingredients are sharp and clear and the overall effect is great. It is also a generous serving.
A final note: the service was uniformly pleasant and responsive. My first visit was on a very busy night and things were a little slow but the waiter took note of it and went out of his way to make us comfortable during the wait. One suggestion: Perhaps the TVs could be removed from the dining side. This food is really too good to suffer that distraction.