What’s in Store at La Brasa, Coming Soon to Somerville
Hint: It won’t be a Peruvian chicken restaurant.
Chef Daniel Bojorquez would like to clarify something: La Brasa, the L’Espalier and Sel de la Terre alum’s forthcoming Somerville restaurant, will not be a Peruvian chicken restaurant, as has been reported. It won’t, in fact, even be a Peruvian restaurant. The confusion is, however, understandable–in 2012, the chef offered up a pop-up-style preview of La Brasa, with a menu that included “Peruvian grilled beef heart” and “fluke with aji amarillo.” (Based on this, we at Boston magazine thought that it would be Peruvian-inspired as well.)
But two years is a long time, and long-awaited concepts shift (Bojorquez acknowledges that the pop-up menu, which was created at a nascent planning stage, perhaps implied something different). So with that in mind, let’s get onto the important stuff—like what actually is in store. “Really, the concept is wood-burning grilling,” Bojorquez says. The chef hails from Hermosillo, a city in the Mexican state of Sonora, and says that the name La Brasa (compounding confusion: the term is often associated with Peruvian-style grilled chicken) is actually a reference to the embers that remain after cooking over an open flame. Sonora specializes in carne asada, and as a result, “I grew up grilling, and that’s what I cooked myself,” says Bojorquez, who moved to Boston after attending culinary school in Puebla. After cooking stints at Masa and Aquitaine, he worked under Frank McClelland at L’Espalier for seven years before heading up the Natick outpost of Sel de la Terre (which closed January 1). La Brasa is Bojorquez’s vision, though McClelland is taking on a “mentor and partner” role, and has spent lots of time grilling with Bojorquez at Apple Street Farms in Essex, we’re told.
While Bojorquez’s starting point may have been carne asada, La Brasa won’t hew to one specific cuisine. Mexican, Peruvian, Middle Eastern, French, and many other influences will come into play as well, with one uniting factor: everything will be cooked with live fire. “There will be a cooking line, all fueled by wood,” Bojorquez says. “The idea is to really do everything [over open fire], even boiling water if possible.” To make it all happen, he’ll be using a custom-made grill from friend Jason Hoynash of Blue Barn Designs (who has also done custom work for for Steel & Rye and Asta). And what pairs especially well with char? Meat, of course. So expect lots. “I will always have lamb, beef, pork, and chicken, with game meats as specials,” Bojorquez says. There will also be fish and seafood. Dishes to look out for: a whole grilled ribeye with chimichurri sauce; grilled chicken thighs with parsley, oats, and brown butter-roasted snails; lamb shank pozole; and smoked beets with hazelnut vinaigrette and pickled black mustard seeds. There’s a full liquor license, so expect cocktails to go with all that protein. During the day, the prep area will double as a small market (with lunch fare like sandwiches) and a CSA pickup. It’s been a long time coming for La Brasa, but the wait will end shortly–Bojorquez says to look for a late March opening.