There is something timeless about old-fashioned steakhouses and the predictable format they often employ. Diners can expect sultry lighting, gin martinis, wedge salads dripping with blue cheese dressing and — most important — well-cooked steaks.
Brasa Churrasqueria opened this summer in a quiet pocket of Old Metairie, and it follows that format to an extent, but in a modern, refined way and with distinct South American inspiration.
The restaurant was opened by the owners of Magazine Street restaurants Baru Bistro & Tapas and Basin Seafood & Spirits. It features sleek design with low-slung ceilings and dark wood paneling. Bright lights are anathema to many restaurants, and steakhouses in particular should have soft, romantic lighting. While Brasa's dining room has the right warm, welcoming vibe, the bar area is far too dark.
The kitchen plays with the nuances of texture and flavor with great skill, contrasting salt, fat and acid in a way that lightens some of the heavier dishes. A thick avocado crescent with black char marks brims with olive oil and sits on a nest of arugula with wedges of heirloom tomatoes, shaved radishes, wisps of red onion and a tart thyme-laced dressing. Grilled lemons are included on many plates. In a dish of mollejas, they brighten tender sweetbreads with lightly charred exteriors.
There are dishes that speak directly to owner and chef Edgar Caro's Colombian roots, such as the herb-packed ajiaco, an Andean chicken and potato soup. The menu dances across the South American continent, taking inspiration where the chefs see fit, but wood fire-grilled Brazilian and Argentinean-style cuts of meat are the heart of this operation.
Picanha, a staple of Brazilian steakhouses, is the sirloin cap or coulotte, and it arrives with the fat cap on, rendering the meat intensely flavorful. As with other dishes, including entrana (skirt steak) and a thick-cut lomo (Black Angus tenderloin), the meats are complemented with brightly colored peppers and a selection of chimichurris, some more garlicky and oregano-packed than others.
The refined approach to presen- tation isn't exactly minimalist (a la steakhouse tradition), but the dishes here are clean and sophisticated. There isn't a demi-glace
or sauce au poivre in sight, and rather than overwhelm dishes with ingredients, the chefs let a few elements sing.
Side dishes include excellent grilled carrots, which arrive with a healthy char in a bed of creamy goat cheese and honey and a drizzle of chili oil. A bowl of button mushrooms was slightly salty on one visit, but still hard to resist, doused in buttery garlic, chilies and red wine sauce. Potatoes arrive in myriad forms, from the salt-cured papas saladas to the bubbling au gratin version, where a blanket of melted Gruyere cheese tops potatoes smothered in cream.
Like any steakhouse worth its weight in beef, Brasa Churrasqueria charms not only through the kitchen's skilled cooking but as a place where the timeless appeal of a perfectly cooked steak is appreciated.