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This contemporary Peruvian takeout restaurant founded by Peruvian-Canadian restaurateur Michel Falcon, inspired by his father's dream of popularizing Peruvian food in Canada, first landed in Toronto's food scene this summer in the Junction Triangle. With big plans from the beginning to expand across the GTA, they now have three locations -- 297 Campbell Avenue, 234 Parliament Street and their newest spot, their flagship store inside First Canadian Place. Though initially set to open in October of this year, the pandemic delayed their launch until now.
Brasa Peruvian Kitchen provides fast-casual meals with a menu designed to feature options everyone is familiar with, but with their own twist through incorporating Peruvian ingredients. Aside from serving quick, fresh meals, the bigger picture here is to introduce more people to depths of Peru's rich culture beyond just food, while also establishing a larger name for the cuisine in the city.
You won't find traditional Peruvian fare here. What you will find is a collection of salads and warm bowls comprised of Peruvian ingredients like maca, hot rocoto peppers, organic Peruvian quinoa and Inka greens. The menu is created in collaboration with local Toronto-based nutritionists and dieticians, Dr. Courtney Ranieri (ND) and Dr. Emma Ford (CNP) and Peruvian chefs Guillermo Russo from Toronto and Jose Luis Chavez, a New York City-based Michelin star chef. The goal with the menu is to put flavour first but also support that with nutrition -- meals you could have daily, both because they taste great, but they're also beneficial. Their focus on nourishment extends to their website, where you'll be able to find a complete list of ingredients, macronutrients and calories for each item.
The two most popular items on the menu are the Hot Brasa Chicken Bowl, which is made with mixed greens, Brasa roasted chicken, mint cucumber, panca garlic roasted potatoes, raw shredded carrots, Peruvian salsa, golden beets and hot rocoto and lime sauce, and the Andean Roasted Potato Bowl which is made with mixed greens, panca garlic roasted potatoes, Peruvian mixed corn, queso fresco, sweety drop peppers, Peruvian black olives, toasted Peruvian corn and double avocado and maca yogurt dressing.
The menu at Brasa Peruvian Kitchen is small, but tasty and accommodating for all.
"Our menu serves meat and vegetable protein eaters equally," says Falcon. "When designing our menu, we wanted to ensure that we weren't serving plant protein eaters similar to decaf coffee drinkers, in that they often only get one option to choose from."
Speaking of coffee, they also sell bags of fair trade, organic Peruvian coffee beans that are locally roasted by Hale Coffee Roasters. From Northern Peru, tasting notes include praline and green grapes. Beverages to get alongside your meal include peach, mango and blueberry Tonica Kombucha, as well as Flow alkaline spring water.
Find their recently launched smoothies and avocado toast on the menu here. The sweet and vibrant Camu Camu smoothie is made with almond milk, banana, a blend of tropical fruit, camu camu berries, lucuma and golden berries; meanwhile, the Chicha smoothie is made with almond milk, peanut butter, banana, spinach, maca, cinnamon, cacao and Peruvian purple corn powder.
Not your typical avocado toast, their Kiwicha Avo Toast is made on sourdough topped with a whole avocado, lime juice, Peruvian salsa, kiwicha, cacao nibs, dried pomegranate, cilantro and mint.
Aside from great food, another focus at Brasa Peruvian Kitchen is providing an exceptional work environment for employees and an equally exceptional experience for guests. Besides being a successful Toronto restaurateur, Falcon has decades of knowledge in customer experience, employee engagement and company culture, which he not only shares as a keynote speaker and author of his novel People-First Culture but enforces within his own business.
"Customer experience in restaurants is everything you taste, see, smell, and hear," says Falcon. "The taste and smell come from our one-of-a-kind menu. You are greeted and see our friendly employees in action and you hear the curated music."
Always going above and beyond for his business and his culture, Falcon hired a New York-based consultancy to curate a Spotify playlist comprised of music composed by Peruvian-born indie artists from around the world to play at the store.
Already attracting a mass of attention before their official opening, the space's warm and welcoming design helps them pop out amongst rows of other vendors. Vibrant signage, colourful decor, woodsy details and walls of plants transform their corner and practically call you in to visit.
Falcon worked alongside Lisa Ho Studio to bring his design for the space to life.
"My vision was to make the store bright and have a mountainous feel, similar to the country of Peru," says Falcon. "When you enter the store, you'll immediately notice that we have tremendous lighting fixtures to illuminate the store and bring visibility to the colours of our produce. The millwork and plant decor was created to replicate the Andes mountains."
Even the lights were designed to hold cultural significance.
"In ancient Peru, quipu was a method used by the Incas to keep records and communication information using string and knots," says Falcon. "Quipu also could record dates, statistics and accounts. When you enter our store you'll notice that our main lighting fixtures are suspended by yellow rope. This is to pay homage to ancient Peruvian civilization and their way of doing things."
Showcasing Peru is always top of mind, as is giving back. Supporting Brasa Peruvian Kitchen leads to donations made to support urban farming in Peru. One of their initiatives displayed in the shop is that with every new store opened, $10,000 is donated to local farmers. Their ultimate goal is to donate $1,000,000 by 2027 -- this means they anticipate to open 100 stores. It may sound like they're dreaming big here, but Falcon's immense passion for Brasa Peruvian Kitchen is undeniable. With devotion and drive like that, anything is achievable.
Upon opening their first location over the summer, Falcon stated then that his goal was to open ten locations in the next two years in the GTA. In less than a year, with three locations currently open and three more already planned for 2022, don't be surprised to see Brasa Peruvian Kitchen take over the rest of the city.
Making sure everything stays fresh, Falcon installed a red light connected to the kitchen, not immediately visible to customers, in view of staff that flashes to remind them to check on food quality.
"Every 60 minutes, the light illuminates and that's our team's cue to go to the line and taste test our products and dressings. After trying our products, they must quietly ask themselves, 'hell yes' or 'hell no,'" says Falcon. "Hell yes is that they believe our guests will love the products. Hell no is that it's not to their satisfaction and they have the autonomy and empowerment to fix the product taste profile."
Be sure to follow Brasa Peruvian Kitchen on Instagram to keep up with their frequent blog posts and to stay up to date on when they'll add new items to their menu. Hint: expect to see a Chifa Short Rib Bowl influenced by the popular Peruvian dish lomo saltado, Peruvian-inspired soup and yogurt parfaits in the near future.
Brasa Peruvian Kitchen is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at their new location. Their other two locations at 297 Campbell Avenue and 234 Parliament Street are open seven days a week from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m.