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Moqueca Capixaba-the traditional dish of Espiritu Santo, Brasil- "Moqueca" raises the bar for LA regional cuisine


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Moqueca Capixaba-the traditional dish of Espiritu Santo, Brasil- "Moqueca" raises the bar for LA regional cuisine

streetgourmetla | Jan 11, 2009 10:31 PM

While talking with Natalia, the magnificent chef at Woodspoon the other night, she informed me that a friend of mine was there the night before and had missed our Minas Gerais tasting but came down to check it out anyways.I called this friend up and he said that an acquintance, a local carioca(person from Rio) had mentioned a new place in Oxnard had opened up called Moqueca."Moqueca!", I cried.The famous Brazilian dish from Bahia and Espiritu Santo in the northeast of Brazil.I first encountered this dish walking on a beach in Ilheus, Bahia, and I've been a devotee ever since.Moqueca is a seafood stew with onions, garlic, cilantro(coentro),and tomatoes,the Capixaba(Espiritu Santo) version uses olive and soy oil, the Bahiana(Bahia) moqueca has dende(palm oil) and coconut.Each claims the origin of moqueca as their own, but for now, only Capixaba is in the house.The other places serving moqueca in LA to date are Ciudad,not even close, and Malagueta, not resembling moqueca in any way, shape, or form and awful. The traditional moqueca capixaba is served with white rice and pirao(moqueca broth and yucca) and served in the same clay pot(made from black clay and local ES mangrove tree sap) in which it was cooked.

The chef at Moqueca hails from Vitoria, the state capitol of Espiritu Santo, and her menu is a celebration of comida capixaba.It's the most extensive Brazilian menu in the LA area, perhaps the US.And, only one of two places in the US specializing in comida capixaba, the other being a distant second in Boston.This restaurant would fit in just fine in the upscale Sao Paulo neighborhood Jardins district, a modern, elegant presentation and space showcasing a unique regionality.The menu boasts eight capixaba moquecas, athentic Brazilian appetizers and sides(porcoes), salads and desserts,Brazilian cocktails from caipirinhas to batidas.Another excellent family run restaurant.The chef, a real down to earth Brasileira overheard my wife and I speaking Portuguese and talked with us a bit on our way out.She says it's only been a little more than a month since opening.

Tonight I ordered the moqueca de peixe(fish moqueca), which came with the pirao and white rice.My wife felt like seing if the stroganafe de carne had her region's flavor, she's paulista, and she left no trace of the popular Brazilian plate, it even came with batata palha(stick fries).My moqueca was extraordinary, a beautiful presentation and true capixaba flavor.The risoles(savory) de camarao were excellent, just a little less on the inside than what we're used to, but the flavor was right on.

Other regional specialties on the menu are arroz com banana da terra and bobo de camarao(shrimp cooked in a clay pot with coconut milk, and thickened with yucca cream).The moquecas and bobo de camarao are for two.Moquequinhas(little moquecas) are on the appetizers menu in case you are flying solo and don't want to dust off a moqueca for two.But don't find yourself in that position, bring a friend or date and get a moqueca here, or save the rest for lunch the next day.

There is prato feito(complete meal)for lunch and other traditional Brazilian dishes for those not interested in one of the best original dishes from Brazil,moqueca!Two Brazilian beers are on the menu, Brahma and Xingu, the batidinha(brazilian cachaca cocktail) of cachaca condensed milk and maracuja(passionfruit)I ordered was 100% Brasileiro.Paves(milk flan layered with wihipped cream), pudim(brazilian pudding), and brigadeiros(mousse) are on the dessert menu.Our Paves de amendoim(peanut butter and cookies) and bombom(crumbled chocolate bar) were sinfully good.

Intimate, romantic dining at one of the most unique regional restaurants in the US by a seasoned Brazilian chef, pulling off simple every day dishes with flair, and effortlessly crafting legendary Brazilian cuisine fit for the arbiters of fine dining in Sao Paulo.For the uninitiated at Moqueca,there's really nothing to it.Order a moqueca, put some rice on your plate, top it with moqueca, have some pirao with the rice, and toss a few malaguetas(brazilian chile)in the mix.Repeat.You are now an expert in capixaba cuisine.This may be the most exciting restaurant I've come across in years.I've vainly tried to get this dish in LA suffering the ignoble versions I've encountered 'til now.I just have to get Natalia to make me her moqueca bahiana.MOQUECA Gente!!

Moqueca capixaba-the spirit of Espiritu Santo, Brasil

Moqueca, pirao, arroz(rice), and malagueta pepper grace our table

OXNARD, CA 93035

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