Chef Tamara Murphy's Portuguese flavored menu remains as delicious as always. The wine list is adventuresome, if somewhat pricey for my taste, but the glass pours are excellent and reasonably priced. As always, wine first! Bernie loved the 2005 Allegrini Soave, but I found the Spanish wines to be the most interesting. The 2005 Salneval Albarino was classically dry, but balanced with enough fruit and body to make it quite drinkable on it's own. A perfect Albarino. The 2004 Mantel Bianco Rueda was dry, fruity, medium bodied and, again, a pleasure on it's own or with food. Isabel's 2005 Stephen Vincent Cabernet Sauvignon was an excellent medium bodied California Cab with good fruit and perfect balance. I decided to skip the 2004 Monpertuis Counoise as I have found Counoise to be thin and uninteresting in the past. Counoise is a Rhone blending grape and, IMO, should remain so. I chose to avoid the 2004 Vale de Clara Douro, after my recent experience with the Vale de Bomfim Douro from Dow. Instead I went with the waiter's recommendation of 2004 Saumur Champigny from Cave de Saumur. Saumur remains one of the few obscure appellations left in the world. Loire Valley reds are relatively unknown in the states and thus are one of the few remaining bargains. Bourgueil, Chinon, and Saumur made from Cab Franc tend to be soft fruity delicious wines. Like Dolcetto, wines from these areas are usually pretty reliable, making them great values whenever you see them on a wine list. This one was big, full and fruity, but not candied or jammy and in-your-face. Truly a delightful wine. Finally, a real Spanish wine with real Spanish flavor - 2004 Vinos Sin-Ley Garnacha. This Garnacha (Spanish for Grenache) brought me back to pre-globalization days when wines didn't all taste the same and actually had unique flavors associated with their terroirs. Although this one had good fruit and was balanced, the standout flavor for me that classic Spanish smokey twist that makes me think of Roast Suckling Pig at Botin in Madrid.
Which reminds me, the food! What's on the coals? According to Murphy, Brasa means "live coals" in Portuguese. This month Brasa has an excellent three course prix fixe menu for only $25. Three at our table had the prix fixe menu, but Diane and I stuck with our a la carte favorites, since we don't eat dessert. Diane had our number one favorite - Squid Ink Risotto. Pearly ink black risotto, with a touch of sauteed calamari, melts in your mouth. Contrary to what you might think, there are no sharp or jarring flavors here, but this is a classic illustration of the role of color and appearance in wine and food. Would you eat a black peach? Probably not, but you can expect squid's ink to be black. This may be an acquired taste, but if you are at all adventuresome, I recommend acquiring it. I started with the grilled Octopus which was big, black, dirty and mean? Nah, just roasted to perfection and delicious. The Beet Carpaccio was exquisite, but I miss the Beef Carpaccio, which was some of the best beef I have ever eaten. The Beef Tartare was unusual in that it had fairly large chunks of beef that appeared to have been ever so briefly cook. Robust, but with the drizzle of white truffle oil it was exquisite, too. Alas, we did not have room for the Portuguese Stew or the Roasted Pig which is actually somewhat similar to the Portuguese Stew with the addition of succulent roasted pig. You really can't go wrong with with the Paella, Duck Breast, or Sea Scallops either. In fact, you usually can't go wrong with a visit to Brasa.