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Sep 1, 2009 04:30 PM

Cozinha da Nalva:A Baiana takes over the kitchen at Zabumba

formatted with pics at

I'd been to Zabumba in the past, a few of my musician friends had played there, but usually to have some beers and support my gigging brethren. I always thought it to have a great vibe, but the food was never much to talk about.

A recent evening I drove by and had been thinking checking it out again when I spotted the banner out front that read, Cozinha da Nalva(Nalva's cooking). That warranted a stop to have a look see.

Nalva had just taken over the kitchen at Zabumba, a Brazilian chef from Bahia trained at one of most prestigious academies in traditional Brazilian's kitchen. Many of the great Brazilian chefs around town are just people that grew up cooking with their moms and grandmothers.And, Nalva had placed some real Baiana dishes on the menu at Zabumba, along with other Brazilian bar and luncheonette items.

Zabumba, owned by carioca(person from Rio) Monica Burgos, has been known around LA for many years featuring Brazilian styles of music, reggae, hip-hop, and salsa.This club has championed live music, even now, when live music clubs are closing every few months.

The night I first popped in happened to be hip hop night. I suffered dearly through a local hip-hop act as I delved into some of Nalva's cuisine. After talking with her for a minute I realized the passion and love she has for cooking.

Zabumba has a couple of Brazilian beers like Cintra which I like more than Brahma, Xingu, or Palma Louca.I have a feeling that Palma Louca might be the Brazilian equivalent of Foster's, a beer that seems to be everywhere but its native soil. WIth only a beer and wine license, Zabumba uses a low alcohol vodka like spirit that makes for a passable caipirinha, sort of a caipiroska light. Whatever your fancy, Zabumba is a groovy place to hear some music and have some drinks.

They have reggae and salsa nights regularly, and even a bossa nova night. Thursday through Sunday. Zabumba is first and foremost a live music venue, and has been so for years. The food wasn't that great, but the club has always been a place to enjoy a variety of music, more resembling of an eclectic club you would find in Berkeley than Culver City, but funky and chill.When Nalva started cooking sometime in late July all that changed, and Zabumba is now a landing-place for traditional baiana and national Brazilian cuisines.

Salgadinhos(savories)are everywhere in Brazil but so often in LA are lackluster.Nalva's coxinha de frango(little chicken leg), mandioca frita(fried yuca), and kibe(brought to Brazil by lebanese immigrants) and superb. The fillings are delicious in all her savories, the deep frying is expert, and the desired texture is all there. Her pao de queijo(cheese bread) is the best in town that I've had.

Brazil has its own style of pizza, influenced by the huge Italian presence in Brazil. Zabumba features the kinds of savory pizza you find in every neighborhood in Brazil, a flavorful crust with pizzas modeled traditionally Italian, and original Brazilian toppings.The calabresa pizza at Zabumba is beautiful. They also have the caipira(country girl), the portuguesa, and a dessert pizza with banana, cinnamon, and condensed milk.

Nalva's moqueca de peixe(bahian fish stew),the most known dish of her state in Brazil exemplifies her special skills.Simple home cooking seasoned with love and care. This is the cooking you would find in a boteco(brazilian pub), from that cook that has been in the kitchen for the last 15 years.

When friends Exilekiss, Joanna, and Mynor met up for our feijoada throwdown, we knew we were in for something special. The greens were rough cut and had that extra something. The farofa(manioc meal) and rice were also so satisfying. Nalva just smiled and said, "it's love". Her feijoada tied for first with Luciene Peck's at Rio Brasil Cafe.

The feijoada itself, perhaps Nalva's best dish, was velvety smooth, deeply flavored of pork and traditional notes of bay leaf and salted meats. We were treated to pork leg, top sirloin(beef), portuguese sausage, pig trotter,and homemade carne seca.

There are also Brazilian salads, sanwiches like the misto quente(ham and cheese), strogonafe de carne, and Brazil's answer to the buffalo wing, frango em passarinho(deep fried chicken pieces), an item you'll find at almost every bar in Brazil. Tempting Brazilian desserts like pudim de leite(flan) and mousse de maracuja(passionfruit mousse)are not to be missed.

You may wish to take in traditional bossa nova to accompany your feijoada, or some moqueca and reggae. There is also outdoor seating to escape the rythyms of the night. But, after a feijoada completa or a pizza de calabresa, a little salsa dancing might do you some good.

Thursdays through Sundays, 7PM-2AM
Live music nightly
10717 Venice Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90034
(310) 841-6525

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  1. just gotta add my two cents:
    the moqueca de peixe, for me, was so wonderful it bordered on an out of body experience. . . .
    also, they serve a fritter served with a okra sauce and a shrimp condiment that is out of this world. . .

    3 Replies
    1. re: westsidegal

      Hey WestSiiiidegal.You need to have the full on moqueca de peixe at Zabumba. I enjoyed it even more the night I tried it as a full dish, more sauce!!

      I don't know if they will keep the acaraje(black eyed pea fritter) on the menu. you can get it from Sabor da Bahia on weekends. If Nalva does keep it on the menu, the sauce you had is called caruru(okra sauce). I agree that was even better than the vatapa(shrimp paste).

      1. re: streetgourmetla

        Enjoyed the carura (thought she said callilou, like the carribean spinach version) the most in our tasting. Wish I had tasted the feijoada. That sounds great.

        1. re: SouthernFoodie08

          The caruru(kah-roo-roo) was a delicious surprise. It's a variation of the shrimp paste with okra. Do yourself a favor and get that feijoada.

    2. Too bad, Nalva has left Zabumba. I don't know who is currently in the kitchen but the management does not have a commitment to great cuisine, so I can't recommend Zabumba anymore.Boo-hoo.

      10717 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90034

      3 Replies
      1. re: streetgourmetla

        gotta find another source for the acaraje(black eyed pea fritter). . .

        1. re: westsidegal

          Sabor da Bahia! Give them a call and come pick up your order. They're in Culver City, not too far from Zabumba.