Brazilian fare has come to Montclair! After months of preparation, Samba Montclair, hosted it’s soft opening last night. Since opening the space at 7 Park St., exactly one year ago, as Park St. Gourmet, owner, 30-year-old, Ilson Goncalves, who trained with the acclaimed Zod Arifai, has developed a loyal following, some of which came out last night as “followers” of Ilson.
Samba seamlessly blends the old with the new, resulting in a warm, intimate, amd elegantly simplistic atmosphere. Many of the windows and cabinets are reclaimed, the copper and silver antiques decorate the walls and counters, and most notably, the tables are set with cloth napkins topped with mixed-and-matched silver plated antique flatware. Charming!
The food reflects the same tradition of authenticity. According to Ilson, the food he serves at Samba is simple, “it’s my mother’s food,” he adds. The Samba menu is written in Portuguese with English subtitles and is composed primarily of traditional Brazilian cuisine. The menu offers seven Entradas (appetizers) like the light and crispy Salgadinhos Sortidos 1 coxinha, 1 bolinho de queijo, 1 risóles de carne, which are little patstries, one chicken, one cheese, and one beef ($5.95). And the delicious Mandioca frita com linguiça calabresa e cebola, fried yucca with Brazilian pork sausage and caramelized onions ($7.95). Another appetizer that’s not to be missed is the Camarão ao alho e oleo, shrimp sautéed with garlic and extra virgin olive oil ($8.95).
The salads at Samba offer fresh, brilliant, revelations of combinations, like Salada de espinafre com mamão, Baby spinach, papaya & shaved parmigiana cheese on lemon vinaigrette dressing ($7), and the Salada de rúcula com manga, Baby arugula , mango and caramelized pistachio on orange vinaigrette dressing ($7). The pistachio and the mango are unexpected, yet fantastic complimentary flavors.
There are eleven Pratos Principais (main courses). I sampled the beautifully fresh Salmão ao molho de maracujá, Atlantic grilled salmon with a wonderfully flavorful passion fruit reduction, sautéed vegetables and white rice ($18.95). I also tried the Bobó de camarão, Yucca purée with coconut milk, tomatoes and onion served with whole shrimp and white rice ($16.95), and the Bife a cavalo, thin pan-fried steak with two fried eggs on top, served with sautéed collard greens white rice and breaded fried banana($17.95).
And my favorite, sure to become a Samba staple, the oh-so-comforting Strogonoff de frango, little strips of chicken, fresh cream, mushrooms, tomatoes and match stick potatoes ($16.95).
Acompanhamentos (side orders) include Banana frita (breaded fried banana) ($3) are not to be missed, as well as the Batata frita (fries) ($3.95), Farofa de banana (toasted yucca flour with banana)($3.95), and richly flavorful Feijao (beans)($3).
Montclair local, Carol M. Zakor, who has been a fan of Ilson since he opened Park St. Gourmet, said, “[y]ou could taste the love in the food,” as she enjoyed her Bobó de camarão. According to Ilson, who buys his food fresh from the markets daily, and
his fish from Seabra’s daily, says, “It’s no secret. I just serve fresh food.” Indeed he does; I couldn’t help but be charmed by the honest simplicity of Ilson, his food, and Samba.
For those who love Park St. Gourmet for it’s breakfast and lunch, don’t fret! Ilson will continue to operate Samba with the same breakfast and lunch as he previously did as Park St. Gourmet.
Park St. Gourmet
7 Park Street
Montclair, NJ 07042