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MASAS: Norwalk's New Arepera

I’m told “Masas” means dough in Spanish.  For very little “dough” you can consume A LOT of dough at Masas Arepera, a new, family-run spot in a tiny strip mall on Westport Ave in Norwalk.  

(Bring some dough, though, because it’s cash only.) 

Place your order at the counter.  Menu items are listed on the wall and for those of us who don’t speak Spanish there is a yellow take-out menu with helpful English descriptions.  (The Venezuelan family and staff are friendly but not much English is spoken.)  Note also that all items may not be available at all times.  (One member of our group had been told on an earlier visit that chicken wasn’t available that day.) So be prepared to go with the flow.  We’re very glad we did. 

Thanks to Tania, our intrepid Spanish-speaking arepa expert, we sampled TONS of hot, tasty, authentic Latin fare. The food was somewhat slow to arrive, but it arrived steaming hot, extremely fresh and nicely presented on disposable (and environmentally friendly) bamboo plates. Clearly, everything was made to order. It tasted, as Tania said, like the home-cooked arepas her friend’s Colombian aunt used to make.

You must bring the kids for the Cachapas, sweet corn pancakes, stuffed with two different kinds of cheese. These sweet corn pancakes had a hearty corn texture, grilled to buttery perfection. Cachapas with Queso de Mano (a sweet, hand-made cheese with the consistency of melted mozzarella) was sweet and grilled-cheesy good. Our group was captivated. And then we tried the Cachapas with Guayanes Cheese . . . and liked it even better! The guayanes cheese was saltier, providing a nice contrast with the sweet corn pancake.

Arepas came next.  There are more than twenty-five different kinds of arepas listed.  These unleavened cornmeal patties are home made daily and grilled to order. They are the ultimate Venezuelan comfort food, wonderfully crisp on the outside, soft and steamy inside. Stuff virtually anything inside and you have a delicious, filling meal!

Our favorite was the Arepa Pabellon, with black beans, shredded seasoned beef and sweet plantains.  I personally would have been happy – and completely sated -- with just the well-seasoned black beans and sweet plantains. But the group also liked the addition of shredded beef for contrast, taste and texture. Alone, it was a dense, filling meal for at least one or two people!

Similarly, the Pollo (chicken) arepa arrived steaming hot and laden with succulent soft filling. The shredded chicken had a mild flavor, made better by the addition of the garlic cilantro sauce served on the side. Finally, the Queso arepa was literally stuffed full of a white cheese that had the texture and flavor of a cross between fresh mozzarella and mild feta. Though this single ingredient arepa was not our favorite on the menu, we agreed that the cheese was memorable.

Though thoroughly stuffed at this point, we felt compelled to try a few of the many other items on the menu.  The Empanadas were deep fried corn dough folded around similar fillings. They all arrived hot, crispy on the outside, soft and steamy on the inside. Our favorite was the Domino, stuffed with those savory black beans and crumbled white cheese.  The Carne Mechada (shredded beef) and Pollo (shredded chicken) fillings were also fresh . . . but decidedly more flavorful when dipped in the cilantro garlic sauce. The Carne Molida, made with ground beef was richly savory and a definite re-order. 

We tried the Yuca Salcochada/Frita (cooked or fried cassava), an acompanantes (side order) we thought would be a hit with our younger eaters.  It certainly should be!  Served like huge French fries, deep fried but not greasy, with crunch and firm texture, the planks of yucca were drizzled with the garlic cilantro sauce . . . and very addictive. 

Don’t leave Masas without trying one of their fresh fruit drinks. We particularly liked the Lechosa, a frozen drink blended with Lechosa melon and ice. It was very fresh, not overly sweet, and (we are almost certain) dairy-free. The kids should also like the Guayaba, a fresh frozen guava drink, for its sweet, fruity flavor (and pretty pink color!). When asked to whip up something healthy, I received a wonderful freshly juiced blend of beets, carrots, and orange juice. 

Masas is a wonderful addition to Norwalk, and a real bargain. With Arepas served for under $4.00, and the costliest of empanadas priced at $3.49, how can you go wrong? Plus, they offer smaller versions of most of the menu items for children. For casual, authentic arepas and acompanantes, DOUGHn't miss Masas. 

Masas 330 Westport Ave, Norwalk. 203.939.1113

Masas Arepera Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Reader Comments (20)

How does it compare to Valencia Luncheria?

September 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHungryinCT

I haven't consumed a Valencia arepa in some time as I'm stuck in a rut with a few other items on their menu, but my memory is as follows: Masas tastes like simple home cooking...something your grandma would make (if you were from Venezuela). They are mildly spiced and comforting. Valencia's arepas have a more refined flavor profile, and display more depth, but there is something to be said for both.

September 19, 2010 | Registered CommenterStephanie Webster

Do you think it is safe to assume these are gluten free?

September 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

I can't wait to try it with the kids.

September 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeh

Arepas are traditionally gluten free as they are made with pre-cooked corn meal. I would double check, but I've read gluten-free blogs that extoll the benefits of the arepa for this very reason.

September 20, 2010 | Registered CommenterStephanie Webster

They are not as good as Valencia. Cheaper, but, definitely not better.

September 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJT

We had takeout from there this past weekend. I was so hopeful of this place since it's close to us... While the meat in my empanada was tasty, it was dripping in oil and left me feeling like I just didn't want to eat it. And the burritos were mediocre at best. I definitely like Valencia better.

September 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjj

I agree that Valencia is better, but I liked my arepa, and the Cachapas (sweet corn pancakes) were really worth going back for. Good call on those.

September 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTim

Valencia is different. This place is more authentic in terms of the choices on the menu, meaning you are not going to find a goat cheese or brie arepa here. They gave me some garlic sauce for the arepas which was actually quite nice. It didn't seem like they advertised it but definitely ask for it.

I like the bamboo plates and forks.

I plan to try that corn pancake the next time I go. That looks yummy.

For me, it's a lovely alternative for Valencia.

Also agree with the review above on the juices. I would definitely run in for a juice only instead of going to somewhere like Robek's.

My only dis is that is was slow. So perhaps go 15 minutes ahead of when you want to eat. Otherwise, if you go starving, you will be bitching and moaning for the food to arrive.

September 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMasterofLightChick

I don't agree that Valencia is better, because you can't compare oranges whith apples. Masas is a real venezuelan food place. If you know something about venezuelan food, you 'd agreed whith me.

If you wait between 15 and 20 minutes for a comun pizza, why can't you wait 15 minutes for a specticular amazing real AREPA without go to venezuela.!

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPaul W.

I went yesterday. NOTHING was greasy (had an empenada and an arepa) ... both were good but neither had much to offer in the way of flavor. The roast pork in the arepa awas cooked perfectly but w/o any spice to it, it was almost bland. The same goes for the beef in the emapandad

I like ethnic foods to be more flavorful than what I had here.

On the upside, the fellow behind the counter was very nice and I will give this place another chance.

October 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

I went yesterday. NOTHING was greasy (had an empenada and an arepa) ... both were good but neither had much to offer in the way of flavor. The roast pork in the arepa was cooked perfectly but w/o any spice to it, it was almost bland. The same goes for the beef in the emapanada.

I like ethnic foods to be more flavorful than what I had here.

On the upside, the fellow behind the counter was very nice and I will give this place another chance.

October 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

This place is WAY better than Valencia!... I am from Venezuela and believe me, this is the real thing. I walked in there and i felt like i was back home. So, if you want to have real Venezuelan food this is the place to go... if you want something more americanized go to Valencia.

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterA native from Venezuela

"Better" is in the eye of the beholder. In terms of arepas, I would give the edge to Valencia, the fillings at Masas could use a little more flavor (the cilantro sauce was addictive....more of that please!). One of my favorites at Valencia is the chorizo/mozzeralla (Americanized? Perhaps, after all I am an American...), but alas, no chorizo at Masas.

But the cachapas alone are worth going back to Masas for...kinda like the pernil banh mei at Valencia. Both have really good food...There's definitely room for 2 arepa places in Norwalk...probably BECAUSE they are different.

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermike d

Venezuelan Food For the WIN!!
I Love this place. I also love Valencias. Masas is the more authentic of the two, and also somewhat pricier. I think these two restaurants compliment themselves quite nicely.

August 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZach

I need to give Masas a second chance as my visit today did not deliver the flavorful food that I anticipated. I ordered 2 Empanadas, one chicken and one beef. When they arrived they delivered Arepas but they looked delicious so I went with the flow as Margie advised in the article. The beef filling had minimal flavor and there was so little I could only taste it in two bites. The chicken contained slightly more filling, but I would estimate that my Arepas contained about 10% of the filling in the photos above. Unfortunately the flavor of the chicken filling was incredibly bland. If it were not for the two delicious sauces (which were also thimble sized) it would have been a very quick meal. Likewise the can of soda from the refrigerator was warm and the table was not the picture of cleanliness. I will plan to go, but not rush, back to give Masas another try, but I would recommend Velencia at this point, especially the green sauce. The staff is incredibly friendly, probably the only reason I would return.

September 1, 2011 | Registered CommenterJeff "jfood" Schlesinger

Esto es lo mejor de comida tipica Venezolana por esta parte de los EEUU, vengo de Florida donde se puede comer sabroso y barato comida de mi Patria pero Masas me impacto por los platos que sirven, la limpieza del lugar y el trato como solo los Venezolanos saben hacer. Exitos.

June 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVenezolano

Arepas, empanadas, tequenos, cachapas "FAST & TASTE"

June 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTim "Homemade food"

Over priced and long wait for food also If u ask for Chicha wich is a very traditional drink they would say "we dont have it" been there several times but a little disappointed with that and again 10$ for a cachapa?? Give me a break.

August 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaria

Went there for the first time recently on a Friday at dinnertime. I was ther for a half hour and no-one else came. Got takeout. After a ten minute drive, food was barely warm. Ordered items from the review above but quality was mediocre. Not bad, but I had higher expectations.

March 23, 2013 | Unregistered Commentera local

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