Rich Report Recommends: Caboco transforms Brazilian cuisine in LA
The churrascaria concept is being expanded by Rodrigo Oliveira.
A celebrated Brazilian chef, Rodrigo Oliveira of Mocotó and Balaio IMS, has been approached with many “tempting invitations” to expand throughout the world. New York, London, and Asia have been approached. For Oliveira and his fellow chef-partner Victor Vasconcellos' first restaurant outside Brazil, they chose Los Angeles, which reminds them of S*o Paulo's beautifully frenetic energy.
As a result, they decided Los Angeles was an ideal place to showcase their Brazilian cuisine because of its free-spirited cooking and boundary-breaking food scene. Caboco, Oliveira's new restaurant in LA's Arts District, opened in September, serving modern Brazilian cuisine.
There is no doubt that churrascarias are responsible for introducing Americans to Brazilian food. Oliveira and Vasconcellos respect those beef-centric restaurants, but they aim to do something different and they don't shy away from expressing their lofty ambition.
Caboco’s vegan dish may be the most striking example of how it isn’t a churrascaria, as it features a version of moqueca (a rich stew that usually contains seafood) made with cashew fruit instead of meat. Caboco prepares it with cashew fruit instead of meat. Despite the fact that most Los Angeles residents are unlikely to have encountered this tropical fruit, it is sweet, acidic, and a little sour. The cashew fruit is also meaty, and Caboco cooks it to a texture that resembles dried mushrooms when he prepares the cashew fruit. This stew is also filled with other nutritious produce, such as heart of palms and plantains, and the yellow broth of the moqueca, made of yuca and coconut, adds brightness, depth and umami to it. It can be eaten over rice for a particularly comforting supper.
The restaurant Caboco is a place that focuses on the versatility of Brazilian ingredients. The root vegetable yuca appears in many of the dishes prepared there, and Oliveira and Vasconcellos use it both as a base and as an accent. It comes with toasted yuca flour, which adds a lovely crunch and earthiness to the moqueca.
Besides frying yuca, fermenting yuca, extracting the starch from yuca, mixing various yuca flours, and adding them to various sauces, Caboco is also frying yuca, fermenting yuca, extracting the starch from yuca, and extruding yuca. Oliveira wants guests to understand that Brazilians use yucca as much as Mexicans use corn.
A steak dish, which comes with yuca fries, involves curing picanha for five to six days before it is served, and he points out that a lot of it is steeped in tradition. He states that a steak dish, which comes with yuca fries, involves curing picanha for five to six days before it is served.
Despite what seems like an easy one-ingredient dish at Caboco, it takes a lot of time and effort to prepare. On the menu, torresmo is described accurately as “pork belly, crispy outside, juicy inside.” You may find it hard to handle the contrast between the crispiness and the juiciness, even if you have eaten a lot of porchetta, lechon, Cantonese barbecue, or pork cracklings in your lifetime.
The dish is still in the process of being perfected in LA, where Oliveri is using pork that is different from what he gets in Brazil, but it is already delicious. Getting the right ratio between meat, fat and skin is not easy. In order to prepare torresmo at Caboco, pork belly must be carefully sliced, brined for at least 10 hours, and then cooked three different ways inside an oven over two to three days. A second stage of the preparation involves refrigerating the meat, slicing it again, frying it twice at different temperatures, then reheating it before it is served.
Besides showing LA a wide selection of Brazilian cuisine, Olivieira and Vasconcellos are also eager to discover new things when they come to LA. It should not be surprising that they are enamored with California ingredients such as tomatoes, squash, mushrooms, beans, uni, fish, and cheese. For Caboco's caipirinha and cachaça bar, Marcus Ragas took his lead bartender Marcus Ragas to the farmers market to search for citrus, including Eureka lemons, to be used in making the bartender.
Oliveira is delighted with Caboco's success thus far and is looking forward to seeing how it evolves as the season changes for its moqueca over the coming months. So far, oliveira has used edamame, fava beans, spinach, among other ingredients, as part of their LA adventure.