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Opening today on Peruvian Independence Day is Toronto's newest restaurant popping up in the Junction Triangle––Brasa Peruvian Kitchen.
On a journey to popularize Peruvian cuisine with a fast-casual focus that still encompasses nutrition, a significant priority for the business also centres around employee well-being. Despite aspirations to grow tremendously in the city within the next couple of years, it has strong family components tying it all together.
Steering away from classic Peruvian fare, you'll find Brasa Peruvian Kitchen is taking a less traditional approach to the menu, serving salads and warm bowls that incorporate real Peruvian flavours, crafted with the help of local nutritionists and iconic Peruvian chefs.
Owner Michel Falcon is a successful restaurateur in the city, as a partner in Toronto's popular King Street spots Baro and Petty Cash. Before dipping his toes in the restaurant scene, Falcon was a management consultant, keynote speaker and author of People-First Culture. As a result, he's been hired by numerous big-named companies like Subway, McDonald's Canada and Electronic Arts to share his knowledge in customer experience, employee engagement and company culture, which he ultimately brings to the forefront in his latest and quite possibly last culinary endeavour.
"This will very likely be my last business that I start because I see myself operating it for decades," says Falcon, "I created Brasa Peruvian Kitchen to build a business that I felt customers would love, employees would revere working with [and] could scale and make Peruvian cuisine more mainstream."
Falcon says that this new restaurant, which he hopes to spread across the city via opening ten locations in the next two years, is very much influenced by his father and is very excited to share his newest venture with his parents.
"My father always wanted to popularize Peruvian food in Canada and I'm very much building this business in his honour," says the restaurateur, "When I was in the tenth grade he had to file for bankruptcy because someone he trusted betrayed him and he lost the restaurant he owned in Vancouver. He's still in great health and will be travelling with my mom from Vancouver to join me for the opening."
Brasa Peruvian Kitchen is also a concept conceived by Falcon's relatives Zara Vasquez-Evens and Jaime Vasquez.
They say the identity for the brand is inspired by 'chicha,' which they describe as "A Peruvian aesthetic tradition with a rich cultural history that was born from the musical expression, lifestyles and colour palettes of indigenous communities in the Andes."
In trying their best to capture this energy, you'll find another nod to Falcon's Peruvian Canadian culture through the patio designed to replicate Barranco, Lima, Peru's Art District, as it features a custom mural by local artist Camila Wong.
You'll recognize the outdoor space seating 16 at 297 Campbell Avenue by its vibrant fabrics, picnic tables under string lights and fading white bricks covered with new paintwork.
They've managed to beautify part of the strip connected to Hale Coffee's production space and are available for both takeout and delivery via Ambassador on their website, or you can pick up a bowl yourself and enjoy it on their lively outdoor dining space.
Stating how he recognizes his strengths and weaknesses, owner Michel Falcon says to complement his strengths as an entrepreneur; he had to find great chefs to make his dreams a reality.
As a result, you'll discover the menu has been built through a collaboration between chef Guillermo Russo who Falcon credits as being one of the best Peruvian chefs in Toronto and chef Jose Luis Chavez, a Michelin star chef from New York City.
To ensure the food you're eating is most beneficial for you on top of just showcasing Peruvian flavours, Flacon hired Toronto-based nutritionists and dieticians Dr. Courtney Ranieri (ND) and Dr. Emma Ford (CNP) to ensure that the menu at Brasa Peruvian Kitchen will contribute to a balanced diet.
"I wanted to great a menu that was flavour-first but supported by health and nutrition," says Falcon, "I wanted to create what I call a 'water menu' as in you can consume it every day if you wanted."
You can easily find a breakdown of each item's calories and macronutrients online for customers to gain insight into, amongst other information about the dish. The group feels it's important for you to know what you're eating.
At the moment, find four carefully crafted items on the menu: the Hot Brasa Chicken, which is their signature offering and the Andean Roasted Potato bowl, as well as two salad options, the Spiced Shroomama and the Yellow Chili Pepper Shrimp salad.
The Yellow Chili Pepper Shrimp salad features Inka greens, juicy yellow chili pepper shrimp marinated in aji amarillo peppers, mint cucumber, rare sweety drop peppers grown in the Amazon, Peruvian mixed corn, canchitas which are toasted Peruvian corn, sweet golden beets instead of red beets to pay homage to the sun gate viewpoint of Machu Picchu and a mango turmeric dressing to bring it all together. Lots of thought goes into every dish, from where ingredients are sourced to the ingredients themselves and what they represent beyond the plate.
Being sure to utilize his expertise in his field and showcase his admiration for Harley Finklestein, President of Shopify's reference to his own business as "The Entrepreneurship Company," Falcon coins his own term "The Employee Company" after his decision to offer the best work environment possible for those employed with his brand.
"Restaurants are experiencing a labour crisis. But, I actually see it differently. The labour market in North America in restaurants is very difficult right now because I believe employees have finally revolted against their compensation and how they're being treated," Falcon says, "This is within my expertise and I look forward to applying a decade of lessons into an industry that desperately needs it right now."
What Falcon is doing within his company is very different; this includes no probationary period for workers with benefits he provides being activated right away upon hiring, a minimum wage starting at 16 dollars an hour and a budget of $300 for employees to spend on additional benefits and personal coaches. That's right; Falcon has even assembled a group of his friends who are each knowledgable in their own fields to create his own "Brasa MasterClass" that will help employees learn and grow in aspects of their lives outside of work, with the aid of coaching from experts.
Overall, Falcon hopes to use Brasa Peruvian Kitchen to not only serve great food that combines Peruvian flavours within, but he hopes to continue to spread more knowledge about Peru's rich culture and global achievements, as well as build more of a name for Peruvian eats in the city.
Brasa Peruvian Kitchen is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. at 297 Campbell Avenue. Don't forget that you can also order on their website for pick-up or delivery via Ambassador. Follow them on Instagram to stay tuned to new additions to the menu and also look out for their second location arriving in the fall at First Canadian Place.