I’m a big fan of eating at restaurants off the beaten path. I’m a big fan of the places that have a regular clientele that have a “usual”, a “favorite”, and a “sometimes” dish. I like places that are small, possibly family run, and clean. I dig the joints that are off the beaten path, sometimes in the bad neighborhood, but are popular with the locals. I like places where nobody is speaking English.
La Sorpresa meets many of these requirements. They are not located on the main drag in Norwalk. The television has soccer, not baseball, and the broadcasters are not speaking English. The clientele are not speaking English. The staff barely speaks English. The menu is not in English. The parking lot is filled with vans that are from some form of manual labor business, be it landscaping, plumbing, or carpentry. Most of the customers are having drinks to wind down from the week and when they dig into their plates, it’s with gusto. All signs are pointing to success.
The interior is divided into two sections, bar and dining. The décor is… well… I don’t really know much about interior design terms, so I guess I would describe it as IKEA’s version of an adobe hut. Not sure if that does it for you, but it was clean, not too garish, and not too tight in terms of spacing between tables.
The cuisine is listed as Colombian. I don’t know how authentic it is, but take a look at what follows.
MG & I started with some appetizers. First off was MG’s favorite, ordered anytime it is available, plantains, maduros ($2.00) specifically. These were soft and fried well, not as crisp on the edges as MG really likes, but well cooked with just enough firmness to hold it together.
The fried Casava/Yucca ($2.00) was really impressive. This was one of the first times I’ve ever had Yucca that was fried to this dark a shade, and though I use the description often, this really did taste like a french fry on steroids. I don’t know if they poached, boiled, or blanched the Casava before frying, but this offering had a crisp outside and a soft, almost mashed inside. They were really wonderful. I could go for a basket of these during a football game. Excellent.
There were many different options for Arepas, but I opted for plain ($1.00). I should have gotten something else. These were room temperature and very dull. They were starchy and filled with corny goodness, but were not something I would order again.
I’m not sure which cut of meat the Churrasco ($17.00) is made from, but I believe it is skirt steak (taken from the inside of the rib). It is tender with enough fat to make for a succulent flavor, but lean enough to have a very meaty texture. The accompanying sauce is a mixture that tastes like mint, garlic, and olive oil. I won’t say that those are definitely the ingredients, but that is what came to mind. The steak itself would have been nice, but the accompanying sauce put it over the top. Excellent. This is a MUST order.
Adjoining my steak were tostones, beans and rice. The tostones were awesome. They had a crispy exterior, but yielded to a soft inside. Wonderful. The beans and rice were beans and rice. Nothing to go crazy over, but well prepared and a good compliment to the protein.
MG got a dish that was basically a steak stew served over french fries ($14.00). Sorry, I forgot to write down the real name, but don’t worry, you’ll find it on the menu. It was pretty good. The meat was very lean and well seasoned. The fries could have used a minute or two more in the hot oil to give it a little more crisp, but they were still tasty.
The bar section gets going after 5pm and plenty of people are there watching soccer. Drop in a for a bite and a drink.
La Sorpresa Restaurant
61 Cedar Street
Norwalk, CT 06854