When first entering Samba, a Brazilian restaurant just a short walk from Montclair’s Bloomfield Avenue, I was greeted by the calm hum of the outdoor tables filled with customers engaged peacefully in conversation as they dined. Moving inside, a livelier environment was contained within the walls of the restaurant. The space was filled by customers who were also enjoying their time with friends and family.
When visiting this restaurant, I noted the varying age range of the customers. From multigenerational families to high school students, the restaurant was not limited to just one demographic that enjoyed the food.
The inside of the restaurant was warm and inviting. The walls, a dark shade of orange and brown, made the space feel smaller and more personal but by no means was the seating small or cramped. There was enough seating for all customers, and it never felt like your space was compromised by someone else. The decor was another notable feature that contributed to the rustic style of the inside, with pots and other copper cooking tools placed on the walls of the restaurant. With sunflower arrangements and small mirrors on the wall, these unconventional pieces added to the experience that made the ambiance feel distinctive.
From the two hours I spent at the restaurant, I could tell that the staff always made their customers feel like a priority. They would consistently come back to check if there was anything I needed and never appeared inconvenienced when I made an additional request. After ordering each course, the food was delivered quickly. This attentiveness significantly added to my positive experience.
Appetizers on the menu ranged from little pastries with different meat and vegetables to fresh salads that used ingredients like arugula, candied nuts, papaya and mango. I started my meal with a pretty standard salad from the menu, the Salada Mista. Presented simply in a cast iron pan, the salad was on the smaller side and featured mesclun greens, cherry tomatoes and hearts of palm.
However, it was the homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing that really made the salad memorable. It was thicker than most balsamic dressings and wasn’t overpowering. I also noted that every ingredient in the salad was well portioned.
You can almost guarantee that anyone dining at Samba will find something they will love from the dinner menu.
The dinner menu was broken into different sections: beef, fish or vegetables. From the beef section, I chose the Bife A Cavalo. The dish came with two sides – sauteed collard greens and fried plantains. Simply put, these two sides were exceptional and full of flavor. The collard greens were cooked well and had great flavor, lacking the bitter taste greens like these typically have. The plantains were cooked to perfection, with just enough crisp on the outside while fresh and sweet on the inside. The steak was thin and similar to other sirloin steaks in that it was not overly tender. It wasn’t boldly flavored on its own, which was pleasant when coupled with the fried eggs served on top. It proved to be a fantastic match. The eggs were saturated with flavor and weren’t runny, which was a perfect combination with the drier flavor of the steak.
The dessert menu also contained some bold pairings as well. The Tres Leches consisted of butternut squash bread pudding with coconut ice cream. It had special combined items that you might never suspect to be appetizing together, and it was beautifully presented at the center of the plate. The light and buttery texture of the bread pudding was flavored in perfect moderation with the rich and sweetened taste of the butternut squash. It was a warm and comforting way to end dinner.
Whether it is the ambiance that is a change from the predictable interiors of other restaurants or the menu that is distinct and varied in its options, Samba is a restaurant that leaves you feeling satisfied. With prices that are affordable and an environment of a friendly staff and a unique atmosphere, it was a positive experience that I’d recommend to anyone.