Brasabana is more than just one of Lexington’s latest restaurants, it also reflects the city itself. As the dining scene in Lexington grows, there also continues to be an ever-increasing Hispanic population willing to share its culture with the Bluegrass. So, as far as Brasabana is concerned, what better way to bring people to the table than, well, making something that brings just about EVERYONE to the table.
“We wanted to blend the cultures together,” said Brasabana’s executive chef Miguel Rivas. “What better way to do that than food.”
Brasabana was opened by AZUR Restaurant Group just over a month ago. If you’re familiar with AZUR’s location and décor, you’ll find a few similarities.
Located at 841 Lane Allen Road at the former home of Friends and Co., it is a bright spot in the relatively non-descript shopping area of Commonwealth Plaza, kind of like how AZUR is over at the Beaumont Centre. Its décor is more on the casual side compared to AZUR, with walls painted in warm colors and a full, oval-shaped bar with flat-screen TVs. But the walls are adorned with the vibrant artwork of local artist Enrique Gonzalez, and the restaurant plans to curate other Latino artists.
The restaurant offers wine and plenty of import beers from Latin and island countries, but you’re better off getting something either sweet or tangy with plenty of kick to it.
First of all, Brasabana wouldn’t be a Cuban restaurant if it didn’t serve up mojitos, and you can get them served up either the classic way or one flavored with either mango, passion fruit, pineapple or raspberry. They also have both traditional and flavored margaritas, but their specialty drinks are sweet, often fruity and all over the map. Tell me where else in town can you get a cocktail flavored with guava juice?
Rivas, born in the Dominican Republic with experience in both French and Latin cooking, described Cuban food as emphasizing freshness and bold flavor, and that certainly rings true here. Appetizers include Brasabana’s take on Latino street food staples like empanadas and croquettas and more refined starters. Meanwhile, the restaurant may make you rethink getting something green with its tropical salad, with the sweetness of pineapple, mango, papaya and a guava vinaigrette balanced out with savory elememts from cilantro, roasted red pepper and queso fresco.
Whether you’re going for chicken, pork, beef or seafood entrees, you’re going to get a very tender piece of protein. Cuban’s love to braise their meat while going heavy on the spice without being spicy, so the flavors are anything but pedestrian.
What I Like
First of all, I like that a restaurant like Brasabana exists in the first place because it offers yet another layer of diversity to Lexington’s dining scene, which I especially appreciate since many of our city’s Latin cuisine options are Mexican or…well, more Mexican.
As far as the food goes, there’s a lot I like. This writer loves some plantains, and this restaurant will serve up to you every which way, whether it’s fried plantains, using it to crust their whitefish, plantain mash in the delicious and delightfully plated chicken chicarron or plantain chips on the side of a classic Cuban sandwich with roasted pork, ham, pickles, mustard and Swiss cheese.
The meats served at Brasabana are definitely tender but certainly not timid. You’ll get a lot of richness in the shredded pork on the Puerco brasabana, served with peppers and onions and beans and rice that are I would rank right up there with some of the best black beans I’ve ever tasted. But if you don’t go in and order the Arroz con Pollo, a literal small mountain of pan-roasted adobo chicken confit over softrito chicken rice topped with peppers and an avocado salad, you would be doing your stomach a great disservice.
Brasabana is giving Lexington diners a taste of something different while offering some of the Hispanic population a small taste of home, which Rivas said is a win-win for himself and everyone who walks through his doors.
“It’s just so important that people here have an experience that takes them to another land,” he said.
Photographs by Ron Morrow