CHECK IT OUT: Brasas at The Podium, Mandaluyong
Street food taken up a notch
5th floor, The Podium, Mandaluyong
Tel. No. 0917-897-4005
Open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Monday to Thursday); 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Friday to Sunday)
(SPOT.ph) Latin American cuisine. Somehow we have an image of a woman in ruffles doing the salsa in front of a corned beef backdrop. Bad commercials make Latin American fare feel familiar, but for the more experienced palate, there is, in fact, much more to it. The newly opened Brasas at The Podium introduces curious diners to the delicious world of Latin American street food-the healthier way.
The word brasas, which is Spanish for "red hot charcoal," is an indication of what you’ll find here. Marketing Director Karla Soliman-Licuanan reveals that majority of the menu is centered around Carne Asada, char-grilled, thinly sliced meat served in a wrap or with rice-not exactly that exotic for the hesitant customer. "It’s unique, but not weird," says Licuanan of their dishes.
One such dish is a bestseller-and Colombian Chef Nathaly Montoya’s personal favorite-the Pastel de Choclo (P210). This Chilean dish, which is part of Brasas’ lineup of regional specialties, looks like a miniature shepherd’s pie with a mashed corn crust instead of potatoes. It’s slightly more dulcet than what we’re used to with our shepherd’s pie, but each bite is an explosion of sweetness, zestiness, and heat. A perfect meal for cold afternoons, this comfort dish, like most of the menu, is based on a recipe by Chef Montoya’s grandmother.
If you’re looking for maximum flavors, sample some of the Puerco Asado (P240). The simple pork belly is elevated with its perfect roast, making it easy to pull apart and melt-in-your-mouth. There’s just enough fat to make it delectably juicy. The browned, roasted skin boasts of a crackly crisp that echoes to your ears. It would be addicting if it weren’t so sinful.
For just a little taste of the South (American, that is), Brasas appetizers are a must try. The Patacones (P140), more commonly known as tostones, are crunchy plantain chips topped with smoked pulled pork, tomato salsa, and melted Monterey Jack. Like every good hors d’oeuvre, you can fit it in one bite, letting the sweet, rich, smokey flavors, and crisp and soft textures collide in your mouth. A fierier version is the Arepas (P120). It’s light with a subtle smokey heat from the chipotle sauce. American corn cakes work as a soft but firm base and layered with char-grilled beef, onions, and tomato salsa.
Wash everything down with some Brasacolada (P90). This mango, pineapple, strawberry, and coconut milk mixture comes to you in layers: first, tart, then sweet, then a nice coconuty goodness. Guarapo (P80), sugarcane juice with mint and lime, is a strong, acquired taste for some, but drink it paired with the dishes to fully appreciate its robust, sweet flavor.
As you enjoy your meal, your eyes will occasionally linger to the "street art" styled walls by Wewilldoodle. There, they painted words like qubo, bienvenido, agradable, but there’s nothing on the wall to express how you’ll really feel: happy-a promise Brasas intends to fulfill. "It’s casual dining but it’s not fast food," says Licuanan. While she admits that not all dishes will be served at lightning speed, she does promise one thing: "You’ll leave here ’happy-full’ and not gross-full."