Update 1/8/2012-Unfortunately, this restaurant is closed. We had really high hopes for El Flamboyan and are saddened by the news.
Update: 7/17/2012-Please note that the Groupon deal is no longer available. Check the menu. The prices still match the portion size!
Back in February, we found a little Italian place on Groupon called Bella Anthony’s. The description promised “old world recipes” and “traditional” values. We found slow service, food that tasted like it came from the microwave and an interior the owner never bothered to decorate. El Flamboyan Restaurant intrigued us to try Groupon again because of its high ratings on the website and its unique back story. Bridgeport native Edwin Rivera founded El Flamboyan after his visit to Puerto Rico in 2009. He wanted to bring Puerto Rican cuisine to his hometown that would go above beyond other expectations. Rivera and his business partner, Santos R. Torres, went on to run another El Flamboyan in Wallingford. We decided to review the expansion restaurant first because expansion restaurants are often telling of how good the original is. For example, Mystic Pizza II, Mystic Pizza’s North Stonington sister, holds down equally good reviews year after year. Here’s how our night played out-
El Flamboyan in Wallingford
Overall Grade: A-
628 South Colony Road, Wallingford, CT
Atmosphere: 9/10-We knew El Flamboyan fell into the “hall in the wall” category as soon as we entered the restaurant. It has a small interior with only a handful of tables. We also noticed a striking difference between El Flamboyan’s interior and Bella Anthony’s. The staff took the time to decorate the walls with unique paintings of Puerto Rico. If you look at the picture above, you’ll notice that the artist contrasted color and black/white to convey a deeper meaning. We also liked the table decorations, the Latino music, the rounded rectangular plates you’d find at upscale restaurants and the artistic composition of our food. We could tell that El Flamboyan cared about the ambiance. If possible, we’d love to see another table or two inside. This might attract more customers.
Service: 9/10- We were a little confused when we first walked into El Flamboyan. We didn’t know whether it was a “seat yourself” restaurant or if a staff member would seat us. Otherwise, we thoroughly enjoyed friendly and fast service. We waited no more than 10 minutes for our food and our waitress frequently checked up on us. She also showed an ability to improvise. When I ordered Mofongo with octopus, the waitress immediately told me that the kitchen lacked octopus and suggested shrimp instead. I appreciated the fact that she suggested an alternative. When we attended Bella Anthony’s, we saw a waitress waiting over half an hour to tell a table the kitchen ran out of a certain item and did not offer an alternative. Our waitress’s quick thinking showed the makings of a good employee and the notion that El Flamboyan has a well-trained staff!
Price/selection: 8/10-We applaud El Flamboyan for taking advantage of Groupon. You can still buy a Groupon for El Flamboyan (the link will redirect you to the actual Groupon). You can spend $15 for $30 worth of cuisine or $25 for $60 dollars worth of cuisine. This is a damn good deal considering the already decent price range! El Flamboyan’s menu displays a wide selection of appetizers, sandwiches, snacks, side dishes and entrees. We would love to see a future menu display Puerto Rican desserts. This would definitely add to their authentic selection!
Taste: 9.5/10 This was the best part of our experience! We found the food to be flavorful and pleasing to our pallets. Christina commented on how the rice and beans reminded her of her grandmother’s cooking. I never tried Puerto Rican cuisine before so I was pleasantly surprised by the immense flavor, the portion size and the many ways one could incorporate plantains into a dish. Below you’ll find pictures of some of our favorite dishes.
Extra Credit +1: We were ready to ask for the check but we encountered one final surprise. The waitress asked us if we wanted flan. In just minutes, she brought out a plate of flan covered in caramel! El Flamboyan earns an extra credit point for both taste and composition.
In a nutshell: 36.5/40-El Flamboyan in Wallingford is a Groupon gem and a gem for the state of Connecticut. We encourage you to stop by for the quality service, authentic taste and unique ambiance. We also urge you to take advantage of the great Groupon deal while you can. El Flamboyan in Wallingford inspires us to check out the original one in Bridgeport. Stay tuned for that and much more in our upcoming entries!