As both a freshman and a foodie, one of the first things I set out to do upon my arrival at Cal was to survey Berkeley’s local food scene, which I discovered is not only thriving but also growing. After scouring the likes of Yelp and Open Table, Brasa caught my eye: a self-proclaimed Peruvian “joint” located on University Avenue near Martin Luther King Jr Way. Having visited Peru a little more than a year ago and fallen in love with both its breathtaking sights and delicious food, I could not have been more excited to find a spot to satisfy my Peruvian craving right in Berkeley, and I was even more disappointed to find out it has recently closed.
What I found at Brasa wasn’t exactly authentic Peruvian, but that’s one of things about it I loved best. Brasa’s menu took your standard pork or chicken sandwich and livened it up with the fundamentals flavors in the base of Peruvian cooking. They also offered a few undeniably traditional favorites, such as the maracuya juice (passion fruit) and house made alfajores for $4. The $2 passion fruit juice was light, refreshing and the perfect complement to my chicharron (pork) sandwich; the alfajores were composed of soft, gooey caramel sandwiched between two large, buttery shortbread cookies. The chicharron sandwich — though, at $8.50, was priced a bit higher than a similar sandwich you’d find in Peru — was packed with flavor. The tender, perfectly seasoned pork paired nicely with the crunchy red onion and cabbage — all of which was sandwiched between two hot, buttery sandwich buns. The saltiness of the pulled pork was well complemented by the sweetness of the red onion and tied together by the spicy, creamy dressing.
Although the prices may have been a little higher than most are willing to spend, the owners behind Brasa were right to blend Peruvian flavors with simple dishes, like the sandwich and rice bowl. I’ll miss the taste of other Peruvian staples, such as their lucuma soft-serve ice cream (lucuma is a sweet fruit indigenous to the Andean region of South America), lomo saltado (steak) sandwich and, for when I was feeling adventurous, their anticuchos (beef heart and rocoto chili peppers).
Perhaps it was the steep prices, the location — tucked away on University Avenue near Trader Joe’s — or the lack of interest in Peruvian food (though I highly doubt that, as Berkeley seems to be a hub for ethnic food) that led to Brasa’s end. All I know is that I will now have to return to Yelp, Google and the like to fill the void created by this culinary tragedy.
Contact Erin Alexander at [email protected]