A cozy wine bar and restaurant in downtown Lenox, Brava reminds one of a small tapas bar in Spain, a trattoria in Italy or an authentic Belgian beer bar.
Open every evening, and serving food until midnight, Brava attracts a diverse crowd of all ages and kinds. Out-of-town visitors and summer music lovers come in for a drink before dinner or a meal before a show.
After Tanglewood performances, the place gets packed with symphony musicians and concert-goers. In the late-night hours year-round, the place is a regular haunt for hospitality industry veterans unwinding after other kitchens and bars have closed for the night.
The wine list won a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 2014 and includes over 100 wines, of which approximately 40 are available by the glass. Brava offers almost 85 craft beers from all over the world, and has a rotating selection of eight beers on tap. The food menu includes hot and cold tapas-style dishes, handmade pizzas and cheese and charcuterie plates. Whitney Asher opened Brava (his first restaurant or bar) in 2012, but the road that got him there started long before.
While working in commercial real estate finance—first in Chicago and then in San Francisco and Los Angeles— Whitney was always looking for chances to try new wines and eventually open a bar. In 2010, Whitney jumped into the food and wine business, scouting for locations and working in various places to gain experience. Whitney worked in the wine department at Whole Foods Market in Venice, California, where he ran the tasting bar showcasing their extensive wine and beer selection.
Through family in Lenox, Whitney learned that the space on Housatonic Street might be available. In early 2012, Whitney took over the space and began renovation. Whitney developed the wine list and basic menu concept and hired two full-time chefs. Stephen Wentzel, one of the chefs, developed the pizza recipes, creates the music play-lists and does an outstanding job managing the extensive beer list.
The other chef, Ashlin Ploss (known by his friends as Ash), was hired at the opening of the restaurant, and helped develop many of the hot and cold tapas-style dishes. Some dishes on the menu are fairly traditional, while others offer unique twists on classic French, Italian or Asian-inspired foods that go well with beer or wine. For example, Ash’s recipe for Boom Boom Shrimp (pictured, recipe follows) uses sweet Thai chili sauce for a little kick that pairs beautifully with more lush white wines, or crisp Belgian-style beers.
Chef Ploss grew up in Richmond, Massachusetts. While attending Monument Mountain Regional High School, Ash was introduced to a commercial kitchen by his uncle Geoff Cousineau, who cooked for a variety of Berkshire establishments. During his junior year, 2001–02, Ash attended courses in the Southern Berkshire Culinary Collaborative, a hands-on training program in a commercial kitchen. During his senior year, Ash assisted the chef instructor as a teacher to a group of special-needs students in the same program.
Following high school, Ash attended a 16-month associate’s degree program at the Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts in Pittsburgh. While in school, Ash completed a fourmonth internship in the kitchen at PGA National in Palm Beach, Florida; upon completion he was offered a permanent position. He returned to the Berkshires in 2008, accepting a new opportunity and a chance to come home.
27 Housatonic St., Lenox, MA. No reservations.
Open daily 5pm–1am, kitchen serves until midnight.
Edible Berkshires is a local, independently owned publication dedicated to covering the unique culinary culture of Western Massachusetts.