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Jan 11, 2009 10:31 PM

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

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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  1. Wow! I am so jealous....
    what a menu!
    Can you explain more about arroz com bannada de terra?

    1 Reply
    1. re: kare_raisu

      This is a risotto of plantains, a nod to the Italian influence in Brazil.There is also a vegetarian moqueca on the menu, a moqueca de banana de terra(plantain moqueca).This place is of the charts good.

    2. i am jealous as well! i had bahian style moqueca in salvador many years ago & have yet to find one here in the states...i even e-mailed jonathan gold about it & he responded that noone in l.a. is making it, but that he makes an amazing version (needless to say, he didn't invite me over or share the recipe with me!). is the capixaba version as rich as the bahian one?

      9 Replies
      1. re: oilydal

        Moqueca capixaba is just as rich, and the chef cooks everything down adding no liquid as tradtion goes.I love both bahiana and capixaba moquecas.Since you've had it in Bahia and know the real deal, you will no doubt recognize this flavor and presentation.It'll make you grin ear to ear.This place-brilliant.

        1. re: streetgourmetla

          now if i could just come up with a good excuse to have dinner in oxnard!

          1. re: oilydal

            Well, "Moqueca" is the reason.Closer than flight to Brazil.

          2. re: streetgourmetla

            i also had it in salvador, bahia, or maybe it is was the island off salvador, morro de san paulo. anyways, i wasn't too crazy about it, but i'll give it a try in oxnard. maybe if it's down well it will taste pretty darn good, it migh also be served at that brazilian off shoot place Tropicalia in los feliz???

            1. re: kevin

              Oooh, I wouldn't order this at Tropicalia.The version you had in Bahia would be different than Espiritu Santo.This is done as well as can be done here, or in Brazil for that matter.The chef is from Vitoria, and she brought her special pots and chops. If you are just not a moqueca fan, there are other plates, the simple stroganafe de carne my wife ordered was excellent.There is also Bobo de Camarao.This place is the real deal, the other versions in LA blow.The only other place I would order moqueca from right now would be Woodspoon, which is currently not on their menu.

              1. re: streetgourmetla

                I'm curious why you wouldn't order it at Tropicalia. Have you had their Moqueca before? Its actually quite good and an authentic Bahian version. While it wasn't as good as the best Moquecas I've had in Salvador, that's to be expected. Its easily100X better that the Moqueca at Ciudad. In any case, this new restaurant opening is good news indeed.

                1. re: bg90027

                  Good morning bg90027.With a menu containing Brazipork, Braziburgers,Brazilian quesadillas and ceviche, I highly doubt the seriousness of their moqueca.Not to mention their moqueca comes with pao de queijo?No pirao?No clay pot, or do they?

                  Never had a pao de queijo in a moqueca in Salvador, Ilheus, or the Bahian restaurants in Sao Paulo.The menu at Tropicalia looks more like Bossa Nova, to me.That being said, I haven't had their moqueca, just Malagueta and Ciudad, prior to Moqueca in Oxnard.

                  I don't know, traditional moqueca capixaba from a brilliant chef from Vitoria, Espiritu Santo, who makes moqueca as good as any I've had in Brazil.Hard to top that.If it's better than the one at Ciudad, I could buy that, but it's not very interesting at first glance, among other reasons I have for not recommending Tropicalia .

                  But, do tell.Besides no pirao, and the odd choice of cheesebread, what makes this a good non-traditional moqueca?Better yet, irmao, get over to Moqueca soon.As an experienced Brazil traveler and moqueca lover, you'll flip.And yes, it's great news for all.

                  1. re: streetgourmetla

                    The pao de queijo is not in the moqueca., They give you a couple of pieces of it on the side. Moqueca is the only thing worth ordering on the tropicalia menu but its very good. No, they don't bring you a big clay pot boiling over with enough moqueca to serve a small army and you can't get a caipirinha there as they only serve beer and wine. The place itself isn't fancy and I'm not going to oversell it and say its as good as any moqueca you can get in Brazil. However, their moqueca is an authentic bahian version - a thick seafood stew made with dende oil and coconut milk. Its nothing what they serve at Ciudad.

                    I look forward to trying this place you mentioned. I'm not doubting its better. It is a lot further away though and I think you are too quickly dismissing Tropicalia's moqueca even if I'm not about to defend their braziribs!

                    1. re: bg90027

                      Ha ha! Hilarious bg90027.Taste of Brazil does fish covered in a stewed sauce with dende and coconut, but they call it peixe baiana.Some Brazilian restaurants make beans and put pork meat in it and call it feijoada when it's just feijao(beans).

                      But, I hear you, it's better than Ciudad which is better than Malagueta, so it's great to have another option.I just detest shortcuts when it's not necessary.It's a personal thing.I will check this place out sometime, I'm sure.

        2. Is this the same place as snackish's review or are there two of these places specializing now?

          2 Replies
          1. re: Jase

            This is the only place,Jase.Give it a try, you'll be in for a treat.

            1. re: streetgourmetla

              Cool, thanks, this is the kind of stuff that's usually right up my alley.

          2. Hi streetgourmetla,

            Excellent review! :) Thanks for more interesting insight. I can't wait to try this place out.

            1. Going tonight and can't wait.

              BTW...the phone number above is incorrect. Their number is: (805) 204.0970


              1 Reply