Re-visiting Brasitas Latin American Cuisine in Norwalk

ellen bowen

Just as the crisp Fall air reminds us that winter is around the corner, Brasitas in Norwalk (and the original location in Stamford) transports us to the warm Caribbean or to sunny South America.

Colorful in tropical hues of marine blue, coral and yellow, the decor of Brasitas feels very much like a Caribbean beach front café…as authentic native art from Colombia, hand picked by owner Jaime Guerrero and his wife, Nubia, adorn the walls, and brightly colored embroidered pillows line the banquettes. Two to three times a year the husband and wife travel to their native Colombia in search of new recipes and native art.

The Norwalk location, opened in 2008, is managed by Jaime’s nephew, Fabio Rojas, and has a loyal following among lovers of authentically prepared and beautifully presented Pan-Latin cuisine. 

At the helm since its opening is Chef Juan Parra, (who previously worked with Bill Taibe at Napa & Co). He prepares each dish using recipes from his native Colombia combined with the culinary influences of Costa Rica, Cuba and other Latin American countries. 

When the rain and cold temperatures inspire dreams of the tropics, a visit to Brasitas can qualify as a mini “staycation.” On my recent trip to Brasitas I stared at its creative and extensive menu...wanting just a little bit of everything. 

Having spent a great deal of time in Miami, I consider myself a pretty discerning ceviche eater, so I started with the Ceviche Brasitas (one of more than ten appetizers on the menu). This delightful dish is a flavorful mixture of tender, tangy marinated shrimp and calamari marinated in just the right amount of fresh lime and cilantro and served with thin slices of tomato, red onion, jalapeno peppers and a fan of avocado, and for the light eater, can truly serve as a meal unto itself. 

Camarones Con Torta offered garlicky shrimp in a decadent Chile de Arbol infused crema, with a side of sweet corn spoon bread, and was quickly deemed the ultimate comfort food. 

The special appetizer of the day, Arepa Especial, featured the thin, pancake-like Columbian version of the arepa, made with white corn and filled with Mahon cheese and caramelized onions. Topped with roasted skirt steak, avocado and piquillo pepper puree, this had nice contrasting textures and was quite tasty. 

Main courses at Brasitas are beautifully plated, often on ceramic ware or glass bowls imported from Columbia. A few to check out are...Brasitas' signature Carne Asada, hangar steak with smoky chili emulsion, and a side of papas criollas (mini potatoes imported from Colombia) mingled with crispy chorizo a la brava. This dish had nice nuanced flavors, a little heat, and the steak was perfectly cooked. Pollo Criollo, always a good order here, features juicy creole seasoned chicken breast with truffle oil mashed potatoes and foie gras infused huancaina sauce. The Pargo Rojo Frito, citrus mojo marinated whole red snapper is a great choice if you are staying away from red meat for the night, and we also enjoyed the Pork Tenderloin Chimichurri.  Last but not least, we managed to consume the personal pan sized Paella Valenciana, chock full of shellfish, shrimp, calamari, chorizo and chicken over perfectly cooked Bomba rice. 

The colors of the dishes seemed to mirror the colors of the décor…and you can’t help feeling like you’ve come to a beach side party every time you walk in the door.

In addition, side dishes are a very important part of any good Latin cuisine, and Chef Parra's were plentiful…sweet plantains, rice and black beans, yucca cake and fresh avocado to name a few.

Try to save room for dessert, as the selections are authentic and should not be missed.  Flan de Cajeta, is a light creamy Dulce de Leche custard plated with frozen citrus bites, hazelnut and sea salt toffee.  The Tres Leches (or Three Milks) was a tall spongy cake sweetened by soaking it in the three milks. Topped with whipped cream and a candied top, it is worth the trip alone!

Brasitas is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, offers seasonal outdoor seating, and hosts a separate bar area where signature drinks including Mojitos, Caipirinhas, and cold beer can be ordered.  Cartagena Nights, one of the many special and beautiful cocktails offered combines Ciroc vodka with Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, a touch of  grenadine and a frozen and fresh Cape Gooseberry , which creates a drink that Fabio proudly points out are the colors of the Colombia flag; yellow, blue and red.  An extensive wine list, including top wines from Argentina and Chile, offers many options to accompany your meal. 

Chef Parra offers a rare taste of more upscale and creatively prepared Latin the final sentence on the menu says, “Buen Provecho”, Enjoy Your Meal.  

Brasitas Norwalk – 430 Main Avenue. Norwalk, CT 06851 203 354-7329

Brasitas Stamford- 954 East Main St. Stamford, CT 06902  203 323-3176

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