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One of Brazil's Most Celebrated Chefs Is Opening First U.S. Restaurant

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Rodrigo Oliveira will bring Michelin-starred fare to Los Angeles

Rodrigo Oliviera
Matthew Kang is the Lead Editor of Eater LA. He has covered dining, restaurants, food culture, and nightlife in Los Angeles since 2008. He's the host of K-Town, a YouTube series covering Korean food in America, and has been featured in Netflix's Street Food show.

One of Brazil’s most celebrated and talented chefs, Rodrigo Oliveira, who runs Mocotó and Esquina Mocotó in São Paulo, Brazil, will open a Hollywood restaurant (location to be determined) with restaurateur Bill Chait some time in 2018. It will be the first Modern Brazilian restaurant to open in the United States from a notable Brazilian chef.

Both of Oliveira’s restaurants have spots on the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list, with Mocotó coming in at 27 this year and Esquina Mocotó landing at 41 as a new entrant. Mocoto is also part of the Eater Essential 38 in São Paulo, Brazil.

Both Mocotó and the more new-school and elevated Esquina Mocotó present a unique take on northeastern Brazilian cuisine. The Esquina received a Michelin star this year while the more traditionally grounded Mocotó earned a Bib Gourmand, a designation for high-quality but affordable restaurants in the Michelin Guide.

Here’s a brief description of some of Oliveira’s most well-known dishes. The dish below is the cuzcuz paulista, a traditional dish made with yellow corn flour filled with sardines, vegetables, hard boiled egg, and hearts of palm. It gets the name cuzcuz from the pan it’s cooked in. The dish with cubes are called dadinhos de tapioca, a signature dish at Mocotó that fries cubes of quiejo coalho cheese with tapioca.

Cuzcuz paulista from Esquina Mocotó
Mocotó official
Dadinhos de tapioca from Mocotó
Mocotó official

The move is a big endorsement for Los Angeles as an international restaurant destination, especially for Latin American chefs like Enrique Olvera (Cosme) and Diego Hernandez (Verlaine). Says Oliveira, “We fell in love with LA in the last few years...we see this as an opportunity to present a modern Brazilian restaurant to the world from our humble neighborhood of Vila Medeiros on the edge of São Paulo, Brazil. We are thrilled with the possibility of working with California’s incredible producers.” To help bolster the kitchen and maintain quality, Oliveira is helping his current chef de cuisine Victor Vasconcellos relocate to Los Angeles to open the restaurant.

Oliveira will also partner with Carl Schuster’s Cast Iron Company (he was a longtime events partner with Wolfgang Puck), and James Beard award-winning food writer Bill Esparza*, along with Richard Heyman’s Relevant Group.

*Note: Bill Esparza is a contributor to Eater LA, and will recuse himself of any coverage of Rodrigo Oliveira’s project in LA.