BY MARTHA JEONG
We are creatures of habit. Whether it be budgetary constraints, a packed schedule, general laziness or the fact it is too damn cold, my dining habits have dwindled down to a handful of restaurants within a half mile radius. This city has great food, and if after three years, my gastronomical accomplishment is to have tried every meal off of Penang’s menu, I will be disappointed with my lack of adventure. Hence, to preempt such a catastrophe, my friend and I have launched a little event that we call “Restaurant of the Week” in which we take turns every week picking a new restaurant to try in Boston. The first of our weekly trips landed us at an amazing little Brazilian joint in Inman Square called Muqueca, which serves and specializes in delicious and affordable seafood stew.
Moqueca Capixaba is a seafood dish from the Espirito Santo state of northeastern Brazil and it is a mix of Brazilian native Indian, African and Portuguese traditions. The stew is made with a combination of fish and shellfish and seasoned with tomatoes, cilantro, onions, and sweet peppers. Most importantly, the dish is cooked in a clay pot made of mud and mangrove tree sap. This pot making tradition is important to the livelihood of Espirito Santo and all the clay pots used at Muqueca have been ordered from Brazil. Five types of moqueca are offered, ranging from the simple fish stew ($9.95) to the fish with shrimp and mussels moqueca ($12.95). Be sure to ask them to prepare your stew with coconut milk, palm oil and a little hot sauce for an added kick.
The seafood rice casserole ($10.95), which also comes cooked in a clay pot, is another recommendation to balance out all the stews with a hearty rice dish. Cod capixaba ($14.95) is another favorite recommended by our waitress; salt cold stew comes prepared in a clay pot with hard boiled eggs, plantains and coconut milk. The sirloin steak with fries ($8.95) is nothing to write home about and your best bet at Muqueca is to stick with what they do best: clay pot seafood cooking. But on the other hand, if you’re more inclined towards the non-seafood variety, Feijoada Completa ($9.95) will not disappoint. It’s a Brazilian national dish of black bean stew with fresh and dried meat, pork, sausage and bacon served with collard greens and fried plantains.
The restaurant was opened in 2000 by owners Fatima and Antonio Gomez, has generated a loyal following of customers, and was awarded Best of Boston 2005 in Boston Magazine for a Brazilian Restaurant. Despite its accolades, the Inman Square restaurant remains humble, cozy and casual. And although it serves no beer or wine, it has a long list of fresh fruit juices that are made to order, including sure bets such as strawberry pina coladas to curious conconctions made from exotic fruits of the Amazon rain forest. I can vouch for a fruit juice titled “Energy of the Amazon.” When I asked the waitress what fruit it most resembled in taste, she said there was nothing like it in the world. Don’t be startled when the drink comes out looking more like blended black beans than Jamba Juice. Trust me and drink generously. As for those cold Boston nights, Muqueca delivers clay pot goodness right to your door.
Muqueca is located in Inman Square at 1093 Cambridge St. (617-354-3296). It is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11am-9pm, and on Sundays, it is open for lunch from 12pm-5pm.