Saturday, January 23, 2010

Muqueca Brazilian Restaurant @ Cambridge, MA


Muqueca is another of my favorite seafood place serving Brazilian Seafood Stew. Whenever Brazilian food is brought up, those glorious Brazilian BBQ buffet meat spread is the first thing most of our friends would think of. This is not your typical Brazilian food filled with endless skewers of BBQ meat; this is heaven without being overwhelming! =) Muqueca offers an authentic range of dishes from the region of Espirito Santo which is near the coastline, hence the abundant seafood. =)

If a friend had not introduced us to this restaurant, we would probably never thought about dining in there. We pass by the restaurant quite often; especially when we’re in the Cambridge area. The exterior of the restaurant looked colorful and a tad eccentric…whimsical in a way that would kept us away if we have not known about the various delicious Brazilian seafood stews the kitchen serves up.

The last time we dined there, I think we waited for more than 1 hour. It might have been closer to 2 hours. You see, getting a table for 8 without a reservation and having some friends who arrived late was a mighty task. This time around, it was a dinner date with just the husband. It’s been probably a year since we last ate there and we were determined to get our hunger pangs satisfied by hook or by crook..and no matter how long it took us to indulge ourselves in some yummy stew.

We arrived there and was lucky to find parking about a block away. Street parking is tough especially during weekend nights. The wait staff told us it would be about a 15 minutes wait for a table which was fine by us (since we’re really craving for their food) and there were 2-3 parties waiting for tables outside the premise too. The restaurant is tiny and sits maybe 30 at the max, I think. We were finally seated after a 30 minutes wait outside the cold New England winter…thank goodness that night was mild! I don’t blame the wait staff for her slight underestimation of the wait time…the patrons just dwelled a little too long! =)

We sort of knew what we wanted right away. Since both of us were quite starving, we decided to order an appetizer to share. We ordered the Brazilian Crab Cake (Bottom) @ $6.95 to share. That came out in about 10 minutes right after we placed the order. Unlike the regular American (Maryland Crabcake), it came stuffed in a crab shell resin, which for one second I mistook for the real crab shell. It had some baked cheese on the top and was mushy in the inside. Mushy but still good. The first thing that hit us was the taste of crab (of course), onion and then cilantro. Lots of onion actually, which we didn’t mind. The crab meat was quite finely shredded and although I would really like lumps of crabmeat, it was still good. Definitely different from the ones I’m more familiar with… We enjoyed it to the very last bit nevertheless.

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Our entree came about 5-10 minutes after we were done with our appetizer dish. Hubby ordered Mariscada (Shrimp, crabmeat, mussels & squid with cilantro, tomato, onion & coconut milk. Served with rice, farofa & plantain moqueca) @ $18.95 (Bottom Left).  The stew was light, slightly coconuty, slight sweet and had a slight shrimpy taste. Seafood were surely fresh, though the calamri rings and the mussels would be a tad bigger. =) The dish came with a seasoned rice which I really enjoyed. The toaste Farofa accompanied well with the rice and the sauce. Plantian Moqueca was also a nice side dish.

I ordered their Signature Dish of Shrimp Moqueca ( Brazilian Stew with Shrimp, Tomatoes, Onions, Cilantro and other spices) @ $14.95 (Bottom Right). Moqueca according to Wikipedia, is a traditional Brazilian stew with fish, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, garlic and other ingredients, cooked without water. There were about 10 succulent shrimp in there in a delicious broth of tomato and onion. No coconut milk in dish dish, unlike the Mariscada. This too came with a very fragrant rice. Hubby and I wondered if it would be awkward if we asked for rice refills (like in Chinese restaurants)! Don’t worry, we refrained from embarrassing ourselves that night!

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Oh yeah, if you would have notice by now, the dishes came in a black claypot serving dish looking thing. According to Wikipedia, “These pots are made with black clay and mangrove tree sap. After being shaped and fired, sap is applied a few times. This blackens the clay and makes it water resistant. It must be seasoned with oil a couple of times before use.”

We decided to order a “pre-cursor” dessert before we head to our my favorite ice cream parlor in town. We skimmed thru the menu and decided to go with a Brazilian cake to share…only to be told that they have stopped selling that particular item for almost a year now…. It would have been nice to reprint that piece of dessert menu and take out whatever they no longer carry…rather than have a patron like me to be a little disappointed…Right? =P. We settled with choice #2; Passion Fruit Mousse @ $3. It was the best tasting mousse we’ve ever tasted. We were quite skeptical when we saw the word mousse, coz we never quite enjoyed it in the past. Passion Fruit just sounded to good to be passed on that we held our breaths, sucked it in and waited for the dessert to arrive. It was definitely a great choice. The mousse was nothing we’ve ever had. It was so exotic, so rich, so creamy, that it reminded me of crème brulee actually.

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We paid for our dinner soon after that as they were still patrons waiting patiently outside for a table and made our way to destination #2, for some yummy homemade ice cream.

service was overall pretty good and attentive. The staff were quite friendly and patient to those who are new to the restaurant/cuisine. Oh yeah, I did like how the waitress sort of nodded in agreement with our choices that night. We must have appeared we know their real deal!! We did not ask questions, just ordered right away when she appeared table side. Next time, I’m gonna gather my guts and order the plantain lasagna for a change!

Parking might be a little pain in the neck, but we’ve always been lucky to find something after a few rounds of driving around. =). Let me warn you again that the place is small and getting a table for more than 6 is a chore unless you arrive there early or very late I guess! Oh yeah, they do not have a liquor license, (and I’m not sure if you can BYOB) but feel free to indulge in their range of fresh fruit smoothie!

What are you waiting for? Head over for some delectable Brazilian Seafood Stew today! Check out their website HERE and their menu HERE. Here’s their location:

1093 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02139-1411
(617) 354-3296

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