Housed in a modest building in the parking lot across from the Huntridge Theater, Doña Norma is easy to overlook. But don’t miss this one; Las Vegas’ only Nicaraguan restaurant is rife with tropical flavors worth hunting down.
Any meal at Doña Norma must include tostones con queso ($7.50). Caramelized plantains accompany lightly fried cheese with a saltiness and texture reminiscent of cheese curds, gracefully combining sweet and salty without overwhelming. It’s one of the best dishes I’ve eaten all year.
Entrée-wise, lomo de cerdo asado ($12.50) is a skewer of crisp, well-seasoned pork accompanied by tostones and gallo pinto, a garlicky rice and bean mixture considered a staple of Nicaraguan cuisine. Pollo asado al carbon ($12.50) substitutes almost an entire crispy grilled chicken for the pork skewer and is equally successful. Neither will leave you wanting for more.
Doña Norma doesn’t disappoint on the obscure ethnic drink front, either. Chia con tamarindo ($2) is a variant on a drink commonly encountered in local Mexican restaurants, but this one has chia seeds for a heartier, less cloying take. Equally interesting is cacao ($2), essentially Nicaraguan Ovaltine.
English is at a premium at Doña Norma, so be ready. While the menu provides succinct translations, it’s Central American immersion at its finest. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Doña Norma 1122 S. Maryland Parkway, 385-7309. Daily, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.