Montclair, NJ 07042
- Alcohol: BYO
April 17, 2015
Like the music for which it’s named, Montclair’s Samba is an upbeat restaurant serving smooth Brazilian dishes to happy diners.
Ilson Gonçalves, a native of the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, opened Samba in 2011. His small restaurant on Park Street serving homestyle Brazilian dishes has received rave reviews since. Enthusiastic servers, especially Ilson, are happy to help customers navigate the bilingual menu of traditional Brazilian fare. Each menu is attached to a small wooden cutting board, part of the rustic feel of the place.
The bread basket on the table includes pão de queijo, the popular Brazilian cheese bread snacks found at every Brazilian bakery. Golden, fried cod croquettes (bolinhos de bacalao) and meat-filled yuca pastries (bolinhos de manioca) are nice starters. Another traditional appetizer, mandioca frita com linguiça calabrea a cebola, is an addicting Brazilian picadinho of yucca cubes with salty chopped sausage and onions. It’s a large portion that you can’t stop eating as long as it’s on the table. Or go lighter (and healthier) with a simple shrimp dish like camera ao alho e oleo (shrimp with garlic and oil).
The main dishes at Samba highlight Brazilian classics. Available only on Fridays and Saturdays, Samba’s feijoada is excellent – a rich black bean stew of pork sausage, pork ribs and bacon (pork-lovers triple threat!), with dried beef cubes to add yet another meat dimension to Brazil’s national dish. Meat, of course, plays a starring role in Brazilian cuisine, like at any rodizio style Brazilian churrascaria. Bife a cavalo (Beef “on horseback”), a hearty plate of grilled steak with two fried eggs, collards and a chunk of fried banana, would make any Brazilian cowboy proud.
I highly recommend the moqueca de bacalhao com pirao, a seafood stew like those served in Northeastern Brazil, made with tomatoes, coconut milk and palm oil. Samba’s version comes with a delicious yuca flour puree that reminds me of a bowl of creamy, savory grits. It makes for a hearty and satisfying meal. Main courses also include grilled chicken and fish, and a vegetarian plate of okra, collard greens, fried yuca and banana. A variety of grilled sandwiches, burgers and salads are on the lunch menu.
Samba’s intimate room, decorated with mirrors in distressed frames and metal molds, exudes laid back charm in a small space. On the Saturday evening we visited, customers included families and couples.
Like nearby Costañera (Peruvian), Villalobos (Mexican) and Mesob (Ethiopian), Samba is an ethnic cross-over bringing traditional Brazilian dishes to the suburban dining scene. Brazilian food in New Jersey is not just in the Ironbound anymore. For its range of regional Brazilian food, strong cooking and comfortable atmosphere, Samba is EthnicNJ’s current favorite Brazilian spot.