We had an amazing dinner at SAMBA Montclair owned by
Chef Ilson Gonçalves and located in Montclair,
New Jersey where he took our palates on a fabulous "journey to Brazil"
without the need for a passport! Chef Ilson Gonçalves deftly captures the
flavors of his native Brazil at his gorgeous gluten-free restaurant,
SAMBA Montclair, so If a trip to Brazil is not on the immediate
horizon, you can still take your palate there by having lunch, dinner, or
weekend brunch at the restaurant.
Brazil is a country close to our
hearts and before COVID-19 restrictions, we would visit annually as we have
many friends that have become "family" there. With travel restrictions still in
place, we have had severe "saudades" (which means "longing" in
Portuguese) for Brazil. When we heard about Chef Ilson Gonçalves'
Brazilian restaurant in Montclair, New Jersey, we knew that we had to experience
it. We had a fantastic dinner at the restaurant on Saturday, April 10, 2021.
SAMBA Montclair opened in
December 2010 and expanded to its stunning new space in 2020. The décor at SAMBA Montclair is stylishly
chic, sleek, and sexy with a whimsical touch with a large-scale mural of Carmen
Miranda, a Brazilian icon, gracing one wall. The restaurant has two dining
spaces, a smaller room where vintage copper molds add interest to a wall, and a
larger dining room with a soaring 14-foot ceiling accented with a wood
leaf-shaped ceiling fan. Two large fig trees positioned on butcher block tables
at the entrance provide a touch of the Mata Atlántico
(tropical forest) of Brazil. Vintage photographs in rustic wood frames and
framed mirrors positioned over a long wood table take the patrons on a visually
exciting tour of Brazil.
Cheers from Samba Montclair
Woven chandeliers accented with
dried baby's breath and pink roses, and a canopy of baby's breath accented with
pink roses intertwined with a string of lights along one side of the dining
room add romantic charm. Dark wood tables were dressed in round woven placemats
and woven pillows placed along the long wood banquette added comfort and brought
a touch of Brazil to Montclair. Passionate about every aspect of the restaurant
from the food to the décor, Chef Ilson Gonçalves, has created a welcoming
and gorgeous space.
Pão de Queijo
SAMBA Montclair is a certified 100%
gluten-free restaurant (the only one in New Jersey) and has many vegan and
vegetarian items on the menu to appeal to diverse palates. We began our
gastronomic "taste-buds journey to Brazil" with pão
de queijo, a typical Brazilian cheese roll, presented as 3 cheese rolls
served warm from the oven in a small black cast iron skillet lined with a
napkin and served with butter. Light, airy, and delectable, they were the
perfect "first taste" of Brazil.
Fresh made juices
Brazil is renowned for their
fresh juices (sucos), and the restaurant had a fabulous selection of
freshly made juices including Coconut Lemonade, Strawberry and
Mint, and Pineapple and Mint, all garnished with fresh mint and
served in mason jars with paper straws. We tried one of each to pair with our entradas
(appetizers) of Bolinho de Vegetais (vegan pastries made with
yuca (mandioca) filled with corn, squash, and spinach, and Salgadinhos
Sortidos (assorted appetizers) consisting of 3 hot pastries, chicken (coxinha),
cheese (bolinho de queijo), and beef, (rísoles
de carne) served with vegan cilantro mayo and presented on banana
leaf-lined small black cast iron skillets. With each bite, we had delicious
memories of being in Brazil.
We continued with a Salada
(salad) with halved avocados, mozzarella balls, red, yellow, and Kumata cherry
tomatoes, garnished with thinly sliced winter radish, pea shoots, drizzled with
olive oil, and beautifully presented on a round plate encircled with a balsamic
Our next taste was polvo
(octopus) which had a perfect crispy exterior that was melt-in-your-mouth
wonderful, presented on a bed of butter beans, sliced Peruvian purple potatoes,
spinach, and garnished with pea shoots and edible pansies. This dish showcased
Chef Ilson Gonçalves culinary artistry that fully delivered on the palate what
it promised visually.
We continued with a selection from the
Peixe (Fish) section of the menu with Camarão
Na Moranga (Shrimp in a cream sauce presented in an acorn squash),
which is one of our favorite Brazilian dishes that has very fond memories for
us, as our friends always make it for us whenever we visit Brazil. The
presentation always "wows" as an acorn squash is hollowed out, with the shrimp
presented in a rich creamy sauce with squash, herbs, and topped with parmesan
Camarão Na Moranga
(Shrimp in a cream sauce)
Next there was a selection from the Vegano
(Vegan) section of the menu consisting of Gnocchi Á Primavera,
which was housemade yuca gnocchi with halved Brussels sprouts, sliced carrots,
green beans, served in a rich sauce, and garnished with pea shoots and edible
pansies. We especially loved the taste and texture of the yuca gnocchi, which
was different from traditional gnocchi made with flour and mashed potatoes.
Gnocchi Á Primavera
We also had a selection from the Carne
(Beef) section of the menu, with Picanho Ao Alho E Oleo, which
was also delicious and consisted of Brazilian cut top sirloin steak served with
creamy mashed potatoes and accompanied with halved Brussels sprouts, sliced
carrots, and green beans.
Picanho Ao Alho E Oleo
(Brazilian cut top sirloin steak)
We ended the evening on a delightfully
sweet note by sampling several of the homemade and delicious desserts including
Mousse de Maracujá (passionfruit mousse), Manjar
de Coco com Calda de Ameixa (coconut pudding with prune sauce), Pudim
de Leite (flan caramel), Bolo de Mandioca (flourless yuca
cake served with dulce de leche and passion fruit sauce). and Torta
Vegana, a vegan cheesecake with pecans, dates, and blueberries. Paired
with steaming cups of black coffee, it was the perfect finale to a memorable evening
of Brazilian cuisine in Montclair, New Jersey.
Mouse de Maracuja (passionfruit mousse),
Pudim de Leite (flan caramel)
Manjar de Coco com Calda de Ameixa
(coconut pudding with prune sauce)
Bolo de Mandioca
(flourless yuca cake)
SAMBA Montclair is open for Lunch
from Monday through Friday from 12:00 pm until 3:00 pm, for Dinner Monday
through Thursday from 5:00 pm until 9:30 pm, Friday and Saturday from 5:00 pm
until 10:00 pm, and Sunday from 12:00 pm until 8:00 pm, and for Brunch on
Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 pm until 3:00 pm. The restaurant is BYOB for
wine and champagne only.
Read more about SAMBA
Montclair in the Chefs' Recipes section for the interview with Chef
Ilson Gonçalves, and who graciously provides his recipe for Camarão Na
Debra C. Argen and Chef Ilson Gonçalves
Read more about Chef Ilson
Gonçalves' cookbook, The Samba Montclair cookbook in the Luxury
Products - Gifts section.
Until next time, Bon Appetit!
7 Park Street
Montclair, New Jersey 07042
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