I know some of you are already familiar with Brasitas delectable fare, but for those of you who have yet to find this Latin American gem, read the following carefully. Sure, I was dubious when recently dragged to their somewhat off the beaten path shack in Stamford, but I have since been back several times to enjoy their addictively delicious Latin fusion menu.
Brasitas has its roots in Argentine, Peruvian, Columbian, and Cuban cuisine, and chef Norberto Lucero (of Habana in Sono and Grand in Stamford) has combined these countries' ingredients to create an inventive menu with elegantly prepared dishes. Somebody on Yelp used the phrase "You can't judge a book by its cover" when describing Brasitas, and it fits. Walk in and prepare yourself for an artful layering of ethnic spices and flavors. It will have you going back for more.
If you weren't surprised to find valet parking next to this modest exterior, you will surely be pleasantly surprised by the colorfully elegant candlelit dining room full of Caribbean flair. After ordering one of their excellent Mojitos or Sangria, a big bowl of wonderful salty fried plantain chips and pico de gallo will be deposited table-side..a little hint of what's to come. This starter may not sound exciting, but when you taste the combination of the sweet crispy chip with the lightly spicy salsa you too will be a believer. Brasitas repeat customers rave about this salsa. "I could drink it" said a woman sitting next to us…I agree. We really had to control ourselves to avoid filling up before the rest of our meal had arrived.
Just as Brasitas has mastered the blending of many Latin American ingredients, the menu is written in Spanish with detailed English descriptions for those of you who weren't paying attention in High School. We were most excited by the appetizers, which sounded incredible and included everything from Arepas and Empanadas to Ceviche and Chorizo Columbiano. I could have ordered everything on the first page of the menu..and so we did.
We started with the Arepas de mazorca con Pollo y crema. Translated, these are grilled corn cakes topped with sauteed chicken, caramelized onions, chipotle and Mexican cream. The corn cakes are slightly crunchy on the outside and have a great rich flavor, while the sauce on the tender shredded chicken is just delicious. In fact, the sauces throughout the Brasitas menu are exceptional, and there is a layering of ingredients and spices that makes every dish rich and unique. The trio of Empenaditas Brasitas are also a must-order. These rolled Empanadas are made of chicken, beef and pork, and are served with a guajillo-roasted garlic cream sauce (Guajillo chilies are mild reddish brown chilies from Mexico). Granted the dining room is very dimly lit so we could just barely see what we were eating, but these went down so easily, we had to order a second round.
Next up was the Chorizo Colombiano con Habas Blancas en sofrito, or Columbian Chorizo with lima beans sauteed in a zesty sofrito sauce with tomato, green peppers, onions, and cilantro. The grilled chorizo was excellent in this dish and is nicely balanced by the above vegetables and some great seasoning. I could eat ceviche every day if it were up to me so I had to try the Ceviche Brasitas (pictured above). I should note that while the presentation of all of these appetizers was surprising beautiful given the casual surroundings, the ceviche plating was just plain "cute." This house specialty is made with shrimp and calamari marinated in citrus juice, fresh cilantro, tomatoes, avocado, and jalapeno pepper, and is served up in a fish shaped plate with a colorful umbrella. Who doesn't like a paper umbrella in their dinner? The marinade had a fabulous lightly spicy flavor, and tasted summery and fresh. So far, so good.
One might think we had finished the appetizer course at this point, but truly this is the kind of restaurant where they starters are so good, it is hard to move beyond the first page of the menu. We felt compelled to sample the Tamal de Mazorca con Camarones which features a very sweet corn tamal (wrapped in the traditional corn husk) with shrimp that has been sauteed in tomato, basil, and roasted ancho chili. I felt like the tamale was a little dry but the sauteed shrimp was tasty and the dish was nicely seasoned.
We had at this point completed our appetizer course, and we paused for a moment to marvel at the ingenious and beautiful presentation of everything we had seen thus far. Equally impressive was the excellent service despite a packed restaurant, and we asked A LOT of questions. Our server was helpful and knowledgeable and guided us through a perfectly executed first course.
The first entree to arrive from the kitchen is the one I routinely crave at night as I'm making my comparably dull family dinner. It was the Caribbean influenced Pollo Caribeno al Curry with infused coconut curry sauce, rice, black beans, and sweet grilled plantains. This slightly textured curry is both sweet and spicy and coats the bite sized chicken morsels in a blanket of yellow heaven. Eating this dish was like being transported to South America. It is simply out of this world.
We also enjoyed an entree off their "From The Sea" menu, the Salmon Sobro Arroz Moro y Salsa Poblano, or for those of you who slept through Spanish class, pan seared salmon fillet with roasted corn-poblano cream sauce, black beans and rice, and fresh guacamole. The salmon was very fresh and the guacamole which also appeared on the Arepas above was smooth and mild. The sauce beneath this lovely fillet was positively drinkable, and although not listed on the menu, it seemed to include avocado which would account for its wonderful green color and creamy consitency.
Since we felt like we were leaving those poor cows out of our meal selection, we threw in the Entrana con Jalapeno Chimichurri y Pure de Platano con Coco. This Grilled skirt steak has Romano cheese, coconut plantain puree, sauteed vegetables, and an amazing jalapeno-cilantro chimichurri. Somehow I couldn't imagine all of these ingredients working together, but once again, the combination of slightly charred beef with the sweet plantains and spicy chimichurri was delicious, and the cheese added nice richness to the dish.
When the plates were cleared, it was no surprise that we couldn't imagine ordering dessert. It was all we could do to move..much less eat more. We hear from other Brasitas regulars that the coconut flan is excellent as well as the sorbet and crepes. We'll save some room the next time. The portions for both appetizers and entrees at Brasitas are nicely sized, and priced reasonably for the quality and quantity of food you are enjoying. Appetizers range from $7-$14, and entrees are in the $19-$24 range.
I should note that although Brasitas' dinner and lunch menus are very similar, there are a few Ensaladas you will only find during daylight that are worth mentioning. The Ensalada con Camarones has wonderful large grilled South American shrimp laid over mixed greens with Plum tomatoes in a mustard orange honey vinaigrette. The combination of the already delicious honey-mustard base with the sweet citrus addition make this dressing a real stand-out, and the shrimp are grilled to perfection. The citrus vinaigrette on the Pollo a la parilla con naranja, manzana, and mango is also tangy and delicious and makes for a very solid mid-day meal….especially when you have those plantain chips and salsa on the table (seen below).
Brasitas' bar is a perfect spot to meet a friend for a drink after work, or for a festive party with a large group. They also have great outdoor seating in warm weather. If you don't live near Stamford, there is a Norwalk location as well but we prefer Brasitas' Stamford location, possibly because it has more of an authentic Latin American feel.
Brasitas is open daily for lunch and dinner, and they offer a brunch on Sundays. We suggest you make a reservation for dinner as this Latin American hot spot is a favorite for many in Fairfield County.
954 East Main Street, Stamford. 203.323.3176
450 Main Avenue, Norwalk. 203. 354.7329