The best places to eat are always where you least expect them.
Located in a rather unattractive strip mall along Crain Highway, between Aaron’s Electronics and USA Nails Salon, is Brasas, a Peruvian-American fusion restaurant. Established in 2008 by Claudia and David Riva, Brasas specializes in various aspects of Peruvian cuisine. Depending on the time of day you arrive, it can either be packed with customers or, if you arrive on a weekday night like I did, there would only be about two or so tables filled. Nevertheless, there is little or no wait time, and thus no need to get a reservation. Since people of all ages and social classes arrive, from young adults that flock during Happy Hour to well-dressed businessmen that come in at night, there is no dress code for the restaurant. The owners went to great lengths to improve the appearance of the interior of the building, including decorating the walls with abstract art created by local artists to the earthy colors of the cloth hanging from the ceiling. There is a guest lounge and a bar for patrons to relax and the waiters are very courteous and friendly, regularly asking if we need water, or if we’re enjoying our meal. There is also jazz band every Saturday night, adding to the restaurant’s modern and relaxing atmosphere and providing entertainment to the patrons.
The menu is small, but very diverse, ranging from steaks and barbeques you typically find in American-style restaurants, to more “traditional” Peruvian-style dishes. I use the word traditional very loosely because the chefs tend to experiment with the different spices at their disposal to create the perfect blend of flavors that can be enjoyed by all their customers.
I usually order the restaurant’s specialty dish, which in this case, is their Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken. For about $15, I ordered half a chicken, with two side dishes. I chose the rice with black beans and the fried platanos (slices of plantain that has been caramelized and fried). In less than five to ten minutes of ordering, my meal was ready to eat. The chefs are EXTREMELY generous when it comes to serving sizes. My order would have been enough to feed a couple or a family of three. The presentation is very simple, with the chicken on one side, the platanos on the other side, the two sauces in small metal cups on the top corner of the plate, and the rice with beans in a separate bowl.
The diversity of flavors from the food is second to none, showing the culinary talent of the chefs. The platanos were sweet and the rice perfectly nutty and the beans didn’t overpower the flavor of the dish. However, what sets Brasas apart from other restaurants is the chicken. It was evenly cooked, with the meat tender and the skin slightly crispy. I’ve eaten at Peruvian restaurants throughout Maryland and Virginia, but Brasas, by far, has the best combination of spices for the chicken than any other place I’ve eaten before. It was not too salty and the flavor seemed to permeate evenly throughout the meat.
So whether you want to find a place to relax, or to eat and enjoy the company of friends and family, everyone should experience eating at Brasas at least once a month. When it comes to good eats, this restaurant does not disappoint.
Critic’s Rating: 5 out of 5