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Aug 28, 2009 10:20 AM

Jfood eats at Valencia (Norwalk) - Third Times a Charm

OK it finally happened. On Jfood's third trip to Valencia he ordered the right menu and he now is a true believer in their food. As he was driving up Main St around lunch time with no meeting until 330 he figured OK give it another try, everyone cannot be wrong on this place. Parking was a little difficult, but once a decision is made you need to go with it.

He knew he was not going to order the Arepas again since he thought maybe Jfood is just not an Arepas person, and decided to focus on the Empanadas. He ordered three for this adventure, Chicken Tamarillo, Chipotle Pork and the Chorizo & Pepper. He grabbed a bottle of water and took a seat.

The owner brought over the green and red sauce, and a few minutes later the Empanadas arrived. Each was a little different on the outside and they were very well made.

Jfood first bite was the pork. The dough was outstanding and the pork was very good but again Jfood thinks that it is a bit stringy. The flavor could have used a little more salt as well. Next he dipped the empanada into the green sauce. OK, now he understands why the pork filling was a bit under-seasoned, the flavor of the green sauce took it to another level. Fantastic. Jfood next tried the chicken. Now the chicken was seasoned so it could stand on its own, and when Jfood dipped it into the green sauce, it again was great. Now Jfood moved onto the Chorizo. This one had the most flavor and it should have with the Chorizo, and again the green sauce was a perfect complement. Jfood has to say that he thought the chorizo itself was a bit overcooked, though.

So he was in Pig Heaven (plus one cluck) and decided to experiment. He poured a good amount of green sauce on the plate and the added some of the red sauce. He took a piece of the pork and dipped it into the combination sauce. Not only did it grab all the great flavors of the green, but also the red added another level of flavor plus a little heat. Jfood sat and finished all three with the combination sauce.

So Jfood is now a convert over to the Empanada side of Valencia. Will he order the Arepas again? Probably not, they are just not his thing. But the Empanadas with the two sauces get a big old-fashioned “outstanding” from Jfood. Next time he’ll save some room for an Apple and Dulche Empanada.

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  1. Be sure you try their brunch. While the Eggs Benedito may not be up your alley, I think you will find some other stuff on there which will suit your taste.

    1. Nice report... I've actually never had their empanadas... now I'm going to have to try those out. I'm not surprised the chorizo is the best - my favorite arepa there is the simplest: arepa with cheese and chorizo. So simple and so good.

      If third time is the charm, maybe I need to try colony pizza yet again... :)

      10 Replies
      1. re: adamclyde

        pepperoni and hot oil, buddy. go for the full flavor.

        1. re: jfood

          i know, I know I've tried the pepperoni and hot oil.. Twice.... I need to go a third time, I think.

          1. re: adamclyde

            Try the Sausage, made right next door at De Yulio's.

          2. re: jfood

            One of my gripes (as you may well know), is about the infatuation of Chowhounds for pizza in this part of the country. Sheez, were talking Latin food and the oxygen gets sucked out of the thread by the 500 pound pizza monster. Then you poke at it... egging it on.

              1. re: Scargod

                Inhale deeply buddy. noone is taking the O out of the thread. Just the way these things work.

                If you have something to add on Latin food please do.

                1. re: Scargod

                  Wow, that's the first time I've ever been accused of taking attention AWAY from Latin food. :-)

                  I shall not make it happen again.

            1. Nice, jfood. Nice to see you discussing dining out locally.
              We had empanadas at Barcelona and were not thrilled by the watered-down "spicy" meat filling by itself. With the most excellent (freshly made?), tomato sauce it became enjoyable, much like your experience. I wished they did a chicken pot pie! To me an empanada, with a lot of pastry in relation to the amount of filling inside is not the perfect relationship for me. If it were all or mostly meat I might feel a little different.
              Wished you dined more in the "New England" area. Us southern/central CT people could stand some help, especially with danieljdwyer leaving the area.
              I know you've been to Barcelona in South Norwalk, Stamford. What about Greenwich? Are they as good (as Valencia)?

              13 Replies
              1. re: Scargod

                Not jfood, but a frequent Barcelona patron - used to split between SoNo and Greenwich locations, but now just the Stamford location since it's closest. I've found the food to be generally consistent at all 3 locations. The beef empanadas are one of our usual orders and I agree with your assessment. The filling itself is nothing extraordinary, but the accompanying sauce (I believe it's a romesco) makes it special. I just picked up the Barcelona cookbook this weekend, and I'm hoping the recipe for the romesco comes out as well for me at home!

                1. re: gillyweed

                  Thanks, I've been really tempted to buy the cookbook since I am light on this style of food. I like tapas for their overall simplicity and how individual flavors of ingredients seem to come through. Not so much at Barcelona, but at Ibiza Tapas I felt I could taste and identify every ingredient in the dish. I also see it as a perfect party food.

                  1. re: Scargod

                    I haven't had a chance to make anything from it yet, but after my first initial skim, I think it was a worthwhile pickup. I felt like they had recipes for almost every dish on their menu in there, and it was interesting to read how each dish was inspired and created. They recognize that many people look to tapas for parties, and they include several suggested party themes and menus. Most of the recipes seem straight-forward, but they emphasize throughout that the quality of ingredients matter. They get their blood sausage from this one place in New Haven, they have a close relationship with Pagano's to ensure they get the freshest seafood (who knew that the sardines are flown in fresh on Thursdays from Portugal?), all of their bread is from Spinelli Brothers in Norwalk.

                    I picked it up at Barnes & Noble, but I checked Amazon afterwards and discovered that it's $10 cheaper on Amazon (only $19.79). You can also browse the Table of Contents and Index on Amazon if you want to check out what's included.

                    1. re: gillyweed

                      Jfood made three dishes from the cookbook this weekend. The steak paillard, the swordfish with tomato panzanella and the wild mushroom with goat cheese. If you make anything from the cookbook, make sure you read the recipe carefully, because need time to marinade and there is a lot of preps for all the steps.

                      1. re: jfood

                        Thanks for the heads up jfood. I haven't read the recipes closely yet - just did the initial skim through. How'd the wild mushrooms turn out? That's another usual Barcelona order for me and I was thinking it'd be one of my first recipes to test out.

                        1. re: gillyweed

                          outstanding. but the recipe calls for veal stock, not a household item. so jfood used beef stock. the cheese needs the MV to soften as well at the end. he used oysters, shitakes, creminis and whites. gets a bit pricey but everyone loved them. taste regularly because the salt content at Barcelona is pretty significant.. Ciao

                    2. re: Scargod

                      If you are looking for a good tapas cookbook, Jose Andres has 2 really good ones, Tapas A Taste of Spain in America and Made in Spain, which is related to his cooking show. I have both, but like the first one better...although they both have great recipes. I haven't looked at the Barcelona cookbook yet.

                  2. re: Scargod

                    jfood has been to B three timws in the last week, 2 in SONO and 1 in Stamford. The food is very different. The mussels are totally different even with the same menu listing. In Stamford, it had a mildish fennel flavored broth and in SONO it was over the top spicey. The gambas are also very different in the texture, Stamford they are more crispy while SONO less so. All in al jfood likes the STM location better.

                    1. re: jfood

                      Thanks jfood. Can you compare Valencia to Barcelona? Similar food or more "south of the border"?
                      Would those crisp gambas be good on pizza? Does anyone do that (shrimp on pizza)? :)

                      1. re: Scargod

                        Valencia and Barcelona are completely different. Valencia is Venezuelan arepas for the most part. Barcelona is primarily a Spanish Tapas restaurant. Valencia is a small, inxpensive (though very attractive inside) latin restaurant. Barcelona is a nice full-service dining establishment. That they both sell empanadas (albeit a very different sort of empanada) is about the only correlation I would imagine.

                        1. re: Scargod

                          no idea if anyone around here does shrimp on pizza, but somewhere in my files i have a recipe for shrimp, leek, and fontina cheese pizza.... haven't made it in YEARS but it was delicious.

                          i can try to dig it up if you think you want to give it a try...

                          1. re: Scargod

                            match in sono has great shrimp pizza

                          2. re: jfood

                            Wow - I wonder if it is the Stamford location. We used to mostly switch off between SoNo and Greenwich, and never saw much difference. Since Stamford opened, we only go to Stamford so don't have the close comparison like you have (3 times in the last week is a lot! we only go about once a month). That being said, on ordering our usual dishes the first time at Stamford (cauliflower & fennel, beef empanadas, ham and cheese croquettes, wild mushrooms, chorizo & figs, flatiron steak) we didn't think they were substantially different.

                        2. Took two South African visitors to Valencia for lunch today - first time I've been back in several months.

                          Happy to report that it was as delicious and satisfying as I remembered...and the two guests agreed it was awesome.

                          Especially wonderful was the nutella/cream cheese empanada...but no one was complaining about the other items, either (mango/brie arepa, spinach/cheese arepa, and mozzarella/basil/tomato arepa). The green sauce continues to be terrific on everything (except, of course, we didn't try it with the nutella...).

                          Lucky for us we arrived just before the noon crush and were able to squeeze at a table...VL continues to be busy, which I hope means continued success for this terrific little slice of Venezuela in Norwalk!

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