For starters, let’s call it Valencia Breakfast-eria. With food this good, breakfast deserves star billing. And it’s served at Valencia Luncheria seven days a week.
Personally, breakfast is my favorite restaurant meal. For me, the pleasure of a breakfast out -- aside from not having to cook it -- is the feeling of being on vacation. Stepping out into a new, exotic locale, sampling local favorites, getting the feel of a place and its people. So it was this morning at Valencia, stepping out of the blazing Venezuelan-like sun, through the blue and while striped tent flaps, into the tiny mango-hued storefront.
We know from CTBites’ earlier review of Valencia Luncheria much about this tiny 16-seat restaurant and it’s excellent arepas, plantains, and lunch and dinner specialties. Breakfast is similar in quality, quantity, value (and frequent long waits for a table), but with its long and interesting menu of breakfast/brunch specials, the AM meal deserves its own review.
Our table sampled several of the brunch specials. One of our favorites was El Lado Sur, an open-face corn arepa topped with wilted spinach, shreds of Manchego cheese, poached eggs and mango hollandaise. The hollandaise (a sauce typically too rich for my taste) was light, sweet and delicious, with chunks of fresh mango drizzled over perfectly poached eggs. The arepas provided a strong foundation (and wonderful alternative to the standard English muffin), holding up well under the sauce and yolk, with a crisp/soft, polenta-like consistency. It was served with mounds of white rice topped with delicious, smoky/salty black beans with adobo, and squares of breakfast potatoes. This dish alone could have fed a good-sized family.
After trying one of the five, yes five, different stuffed French toast specials on the menu, we sheepishly ordered a second one. We originally had our sights set on one called “Mateo’s Monkey Boy French toast stuffed with Nutella and banana” (who could resist?), but were told they were out of bananas. So we ordered the “Mango mango French toast stuffed with cream cheese and mango.” It did not disappoint. Rich cream cheese and ripe slices of mango were sandwiched between two thick slabs of delicious bread dusted with powdered sugar. (When we asked about the bread, we were told it was “French toast bread” from a local Norwalk bakery.) Like all the French toast specials on the menu, it was served with “eggs your way.” We had scrambled, which were best doused with the excellent green cilantro, avocado and garlic saucein the tabletop squeeze-bottles. This was more than filling enough to keep three of us going all day. Yet when we learned that the server had slipped out to buy more bananas, we felt compelled to order Mateo’s Monkey Boy French toast as well. More on that later.
The Breakfast Typico was a heaping plate o’ food (and a bargain at $6.95). We had two perfectly cooked soft scrambled eggs, more of the well-seasoned black beans over rice, a pristine wedge of ripe avocado and three heavenly fried plantains, sticky, caramelized and delicious. The combination of the sweet plantains, smoky beans and well-cooked eggs was wonderful, and made even better when smothered in one or both of those addictively tasty squeeze-bottle sauces on the table. We couldn’t decide which we liked better, the red chipotle sauce or the green cilantro, avocado and garlic.We were practically drinking them straight from the bottle.
In a truly futile attempt to make this meal lighter, we also ordered the well-named “Heartbreak Salad,” a generous bowl of mixed greens topped with strawberries, grilled peaches, avocado, fresh mozzarella and candied pecans. The tangy balsamic dressing contrasted beautifully with the sweet fruit, fresh cheese and perfectly ripe avocado.
With another nod to healthy eating -- and intrigued by the name -- we ordered the “Sexy mango and cucumber gazpacho” from the brunch specials menu. Though not typically a breakfast food (at least in Connecticut anyway), it was one of our favorites. It was a bowl of sultry Latin summertime, filled with crunchy green peppers, onions and cucumbers combined with soft, sweet chunks of mango. Though we could find none of the sweet potato or corn described on the menu, the gazpacho was fresh and delicious.
Equally refreshing was the smoothie-like Batido, fresh fruit blended with milk and ice. With choices like mango, papaya, melon, pineapple, avocado and a “daily special,” the cool drink paired well with the heat from the food.
It seems unthinkable, but to wrap things up, we sampled the “Red Smitty” breakfast tortilla. It featured yet more eggs, cheese, chipotle and chorizo wrapped in a warm flour tortilla. Though we don’t know who (or what) “Red Smitty” is, we enjoyed the rich combination of flavorful, lightly spicy chorizo, smoky chipotle and mild, cheesy egg.
Last, but certainly not least, we finally received our “Monkey Boy” French toast. Boy oh boy, it was stuffed (and by then so were we!) with molten Nutella chocolate and slices of ripe banana and dusted with powdered sugar. As thoroughly and completely full as we were, we couldn’t stop dipping our forks into the rich, choco-licious treat. It worked beautifully as a dessert, evoking a well-made chocolate-banana bread pudding. With that, we finally pushed ourselves away from the tiny table and waddled, fully sated, back out into the Venezuelan sun.
Valencia Luncheria 164 Main Street, Norwalk. 203.846.8009