Sunday, October 21, 2012

Return to Brasitas in Norwalk, CT

Just over a year ago, I had a great dinner at a little Latin Fusion spot in Norwalk Connecticut. I returned to the area on a business trip recently, so it was almost a foregone conclusion that I'd be paying another visit. It was everything I remembered, so I took the opportunity to try a few dishes that I missed the first time around.

Brasitas is located in a shopping center on a main road in a busy business district. Their brightly colored, carribean styled dining room is a stark contrast to the concrete and glass office buildings across the street- this contrast probably means that Brasitas brings in businessmen of all types who are tired of staring at the bland, institutional walls of their offices, and go somewhere fun. The bar area has been buzzing with activity both times I've been there, so I suspect that I am right. The festive, casual atmosphere seems to qualify as "something different" for this area.

Instead of something familiar, such as a basket of crusty bread or tortilla chips, every meal starts with a bowl of fried plantain chips, and a dish of super fresh pico de gallo. The chips are potato-like enough to be familiar, but are still exoitc enough to be interesting.

We sampled a few different appetizers, but the one that stood out way in front was the ceviche. This dish was a mound of raw shrimp and squid, with chopped onions, tomato, cilantro, jalapeno, and a blend of citrus juices, served with a few slices of fresh avocado on the side. The acid from the juices "cooks" the fish without heat- the pieces appear cooked, but have a different texture than normal cooking processes would produce. The dish is tangy, with a small zing from the jalapenos, but the fresh flavor of the seafood cuts right through it all. The avocado provides a little contrast- something rich, and creamy to offset the intense brightness of the fish. The marinade pooling under the fish has an intense citrus taste, but is alced with juices from the fish itself, so carries the flavor of the whole dish with the equalizer tuned differently- same flavors, different balance. The whole dish is bright, refreshing, and fun- I could certainly snack on it sitting on the porch while sipping a mojito on a hot day.  To quote a certain food network personality- this appetizer was off the hook.

My main course ws the Churasco Gaucho - an argentinian style skirt steak, grilled to a perfect medium rare, served with a handful of roasted fingerling potatoes, and grilled asparagus. The steak is topped off with a tangy chimichurri sauce and served with two flavored oils on the plate. This is a fairly tough cut of meat, so don't expect it to melt in your mouth- it has a coarser, more rustic texture, but is packed with great flavor. When done right, it's an entirely different experience than what you'd get with a luxury cut like a porterhouse or ribeye, but absolutely great on it's own terms. This steak was full of flavor on it's own- and matched well with the sauces and especially the asparagus.

All the dishes I saw pass by looked wonderful- including a spectacular looking whole fried red snapper that made me think I made a mistake by ordering the steak! The place is lively, fun, and has great food. What more can you ask for in a restaurant.

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