Samba: Montclair’s Savory Southern Brazilian on Park Street

Bobo de Camarão

For those of us who have had truly authentic deep-down-from-the-roots-made-with-love Brazilian food, we have also, most likely, had a disappointing “Brazilian” dining experience in the Iron-bound section of Newark. When I saw the sign for Samba go up this fall (located in the Park Street Cafe) I thought,”Please, please don’t be another Churrascaria!” Well good news, it is not. True Southern Brazilian “Home-style” as owner Ilson Goncalves describes his menu, has come to Baristaville. Ilson is from the area of  Santa Catarina and told me he is trying to recreate the meals his mother would make, “She would make Feijoada* (a traditional black bean dish) on Thursday for Friday but it was even better on Saturday.”

Now summing “Brazilian food” as one type of cuisine is silly. Years ago I was fortunate enough to eat my way from Rio to Manaus and many, many places in between. The country is large and diverse in climate and culture.  Just because you fell in love with Acaraje in Bahia don’t expect to see them on the menu at Samba. “Many traditional Brazilian ingredients are very difficult to find here,” Ilson told me, but he is searching for the ingredients daily.

Frango a Passarinho

So what to try?  Barista Annette Batson and I (and all were big hits with my kids) loved the Salgadinhos Sortidos ( little pasteries: 1 chicken, 1 beef, 1 cheese) , Frango a Passarinho (Tiny chicken cutlets on the bone with parsley and garlic) and the Mandioca frita com linguguina calabresa (Fried yucca with Brazilian pork sausage) as appetizers.  Our number one favorite  main course was the Bobo de Camarão (Yucca Puree with coconut milk, tomatoes and onions served with whole shrimp and rice).  It was outstanding. Some dishes are served with farofa (toasted yucca flour) and traditional Brazilian collard greens and other with rice and breaded fried banana. The appetizers ranged in price from $5.95- $8.95 and the main course ranged from $14.95-$18.95. I would say very reasonable for the portion size and quality. The other big plus is for those who have a gluten free diet, ask for your meal to be made only using yucca flour as it is gluten free. How great is that?

Now for dessert…I usually skip dessert at restaurants because I am often disappointed. This was hardly the case at Samba. Wowee-wow-wow, the desserts were all fantastic.  I’m not sure there were many discernible words heard from our table, more like grunts and “Yum, yum’s”. The flan caramel is the best I have ever had (I’m sorry Mrs. Hernandez), a passion fruit mousse and Brazilian chocolate mousse were also fantastic.

This is what my tasting partner Annette said about Samba,””I’d say Ilson (sweetest restaurateur in town) is dishing up Brazilian country cooking like he grew up on, not a glammed up menu you find in NYC.  With that said, he is open to requests for dishes in advance – and you can’t get a better yucca frita anywhere. Very kid friendly menu”

Other than the food being wonderful, Samba is probably one of the most romantic restaurants in Baristaville, illuminated by dozens of candles every night with beautiful silver flatware and pitchers Ilson has found from estate sales all around Baristaville. Everything from Bossa Nova to Samba music softly plays (he takes requests, please play Previsão for me) and plans on having live music in the near future. Even the area leading into the restrooms is showcased with the fronts of wooden wine cases recycled from neighbor Park Street Liquors. He assures me for now that Samba will remain Park Street Cafe  Monday-Saturday for breakfast and lunch as it has become a favorite meeting place for friends to meet up after going to the Park Street Y.

*On Fridays and Saturdays Ilson says they will be serving the very traditional black bean dish Feijoada and Brazil’s famous cheese rolls Pão de Queijo.

Beautiful, cozy, romantic with wonderful food owned by one of the hardest working restaurateurs I have ever met. A place where I can close my eyes, take in the smells and sounds and sing in my head,”Silver Jet take me, I’m all set, take me through the sky….fly me to Brazil.”

Mention Baristanet from now until Febuary 5th, 2012 and get 10% of your check at Samba.

Samba, 7 Park Street, Montclair, 973.744.6764

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  1. I have been to Samba several times for dinner and the food is exceptional! Ilson(Owner) is great,takes the time to make one feel special, as does the wait staff(Claudio). Samba has now become of my must go to rstaurants in town! Beautifully decorated with a rustic charm.

  2. Tempting. Unfortunately, the photos do nothing to promote the experience, especially the first one which looks like an oily mess.

  3. Went here for the first time earlier this week. It was honestly some of the best food I’ve had in Montclair ever. Just a down to earth, home made, grandma is in the kitchen cooking charm.

    This is going to be my new spot to take my New York City friends when they come to Montclair to visit!

  4. My husband and I have been to Samba quite a few times for lunch. The sandwiches are fantastic, and the owner is very friendly. We can’t wait to try dinner!

  5. We went to Samba this past Tuesday night. It was outstanding. The food was delicious. The service was impeccable. So friendly. I can’t wait to go back again!

  6. We were there for dinner on the first or second night Samba opened. Everything was excellent (and the price points for the portion sizes and quality of ingredients were very reasonable) and Ilson was very friendly and explained all of the dishes and his vision for the restaurant. We cannot wait to go back and will make it one of our go to restaurants in Montclair. Only downside is that the place is small, so I suspect it will be hard to get Saturday night reservations at 7 or 8pm. I hope Samba is around for a long time.

  7. Menu looks great. Looking forward to trying it. Montclair definitelyis definitley in need of more choices like this. Good Luck!!

  8. Tried Samba for dinner Friday night – very impressed with the ambience, food and service. Will definitely be back.

  9. I’ve been to lunch twice and have brought the two year old to dinner thrice to Samba. The review is spot on. Samba’s food is spectacular, the coffee shames every other cup on the west orange/Montclair/Bloomfield orbit, and do not miss that Bobó shrimp dish. My family and I love eating there.

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