Moqueca: Celebrating with Regional Brazilian at Oxnard Marina

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Moqueca typically fills their traditional Brazilian cooking vessels with seafood.

For hardcore food fiends, it’s no longer enough to just serve Mexican, Chinese or Japanese food. The meals have to be tied to a particular region or state, with a laser-like focus and indigenous ingredients. That’s what makes a restaurant like Moqueca so exciting. A Brazilian samba singer tipped off Street Gourmet LA blogger Bill Esparza in late 2008, right as the restaurant was opening. A little over a year (and several meals) later, Esparza brought several bloggers to the Oxnard harborfront to delve into the regional Brazilian cooking of Espiritu Santo, including me, Esther (e*starLA), Fiona (Gourmet Pigs) and guest of honor Javier (The Glutster), who was celebrating his 21st birthday.

Chef Tatiana Favoretto hails from Vitoria, the capital of Espiritu Santo. She was cooking in Italy when mother-in-law Maria Gloria Sarcinelli, who has ties to Gauchos Village in Glendale, convinced her to move to Southern California to open a traditional Brazilian restaurant. Moqueca resides on the second floor of a marina-front building and is named for a traditional Brazilian cooking vessel, which features prominently on the menu.

The most exciting aspect of the restaurant (that’s not in a moqueca) involves 180-degree marina views. The space itself is fairly simple, with burgundy walls, and a small bar.


Brazilian Restaurant Ventura County

On the back wall, clear plastic shelves showcase Brazilian figurines.

Brazilian Food Ventura County

Moqueca doesn’t settle for bread and butter. Instead, diners receive a crostini basket, a dish of spicy malagueta peppers luxuriating in olive oil, and another dish of rich, pepper-flecked eggplant dip.

Brazilian Food Ventura County

The Glutster is a salt cod addict, so he pinpointed Bolinho de Bacalao ($12) cod, parsley and potato cakes. The fried, crisp-crusted fish sticks were served with a cooling dish of tangy yogurt sauce. They were dry for my taste. That’s my only quibble for the night.

Of course, we weren’t at the restaurant to eat bacalao. We were there to work our way through the moqueca selection. Black clay pots are rubbed with sap from the red mangrove tree to make it blacker and water resistant. Then moquecas are used to cook enticing seafood stews, which are known as moquecas.

Two Brazilian states lay claim to the moqueca. Bahia developed a sweeter, richer moqueca with coconut milk and dende oil. Espiritu Santo is responsible for a spicier version, where the core ingredient is marinated with garlic and lime juice, then cooked in the moqueca with tomatoes, cilantro, onions, and olive oil.

Brazilian Food Ventura County

Our first moqueca ($38) was loaded with somewhat meaty angel shark cubes and mahi mahi fillets that came apart in juicy sheets. The sauce was completely addictive, with hints of Italian arrabbiata. We spooned the sauce over steamed white rice.

Brazilian Food Ventura County

We had some leftover money to play with from Fiona’s Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 award and splurged on a moqueca with lobster tail and shrimp ($72). Split shells made for easy tail plucking. Shrimp were cooked to a nearly ideal consistency, firm but not rubbery. The sweet crustaceans imparted a slightly sweeter flavor to the stew.

Pirao (fish stock thickened with yucca flour) didn’t materialize. Apparently customers are wary of the traditional moqueca accompaniment, so it typically goes to waste. After we mentioned the gaffe, the pirao arrived after dessert, but there’s no going back to fish after eating something so sweet. For me, at least.

Brazilian Food Ventura County

Bobo de Camarao ($32) was a sauce with a different flavor profile. Yes, the shrimp were also marinated in lime juice and garlic and cooked in a moqueca with tomatoes, cilantro and onions, but coconut milk added sweetness, and yucca generated thicker, creamy consistency. At lesser Brazilian restaurants in Culver City, bobo has been known to congeal, but not at Moqueca.

Brazilian Food Ventura County

We got a side of Banana Frita ($5), fairly straightforward fried plantains caramelized at the edges.

After visiting six wineries and gorging on seafood, I was ready to sleep, but the indomitable Glutster insisted on splitting three desserts. This decision turned out to be a good one.

Pudim de Caramelo ($7) was a Brazilian caramel flan with dense, curd-like consistency.

Mousse de Maracuja ($7) was an ethereal passion fruit mousse that practically floated out of the glass.

Brazilian Dessert Ventura County

Mousse de Maracuja ($7) was an ethereal passion fruit mousse that practically floated out of the glass.

Brazilian Dessert Ventura County

We finished with Quindim ($7), twin domes of coconut-studded egg yolk custard. Moqueca’s least compelling dessert was kind of like what you’d find in the middle of a dim sum custard cup, only firmer and coconut flavored.

Before our dinner, Oxnard was an afterthought on the drive from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara. Moqueca made us realize that the harbor town is now a culinary destination.

Moqueca: Celebrating with Regional Brazilian at Oxnard Marina

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Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

Latitude 34 Deli is way better and also a fair price, go eat there its so good.

On New Year’s Eve we were asked to leave our table and go to the bar after two hours because “people were waiting for our table.” This totally ruined our evening. In fact, I was in the middle of the entree and had not even been served desert. Their service was very slow. There was nothing in print or verbally said to us when making reservations, so we would know their expectations or so that they would know ours. It was the most mismanaged restaurant experience my wife and I have ever had. I will say this, however, after they learned that we would not leave until we wanted to, they offered us a 45% discount to get us out of the restaurant without a scene. It seems like there were a lot of young inexperienced people involved in the management.

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[…] Food GPS » Moqueca – Oxnard, CA – January 23, 2010 […]

Thank you for the review. In my line of work it’s rewarding to know the customer appreciated the food.
I’m looking forward to have your visit again soon.

[…] Moqueca, Oxnard – Food GPS […]

that’s awesome. i need to stop by this place with my folks next time we’re in oxnard.

This was pretty much epic.

What a great meal! I’m so sad I had to miss it for work, but hopefully next time around I can join you guys. Salted cod cakes are right up my alley!

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