Things like Michelin Guide recognition and Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants might be the main tie-ins for Rodrigo Oliveira and partner Victor Vasconcellos, but ultimately the two chefs will have their work cut out for them when their restaurant Caboco enters the consciousness of LA diners. Opened this week, the modern Brazilian restaurant comes after years of anticipation for Oliveira, whose celebrated restaurants Mocotó and Balaio IMS in Sao Paulo’s working-class suburb of Vila Medeiros have drawn international acclaim, finally lands in Los Angeles.
The tall, humble chef comes to LA after forming a mostly self-financed charity that distributed tens of thousands of meals in his local Sao Paulo neighborhood during the pandemic. After declining offers to open in other cities, Oliveira and LA-based Vasconcellos hope to introduce Angelenos to a new kind of Brazilian cuisine, one that feels familiar with the ingredients and cooking techniques of homestyle restaurants already established in Los Angeles but with the creativity and unexpected flavors of Mocotó.
Occupying a familiar space for many in LA, Caboco, which refers to the often multicultural heritage of many Brazilians, goes into the former Church & State space in Arts District. With strong colors and a clean aesthetic by Alexis Readinger of Preen, Inc, wood particle tables and suspended transparencies give the sense of a modern industrial space. Brazilian street artist Speto painted murals toward the back of the room while the overall warehouse-style with its open kitchen will look familiar to anyone who had visited the restaurant in the past 10 years.
Foodwise, a set of cocktail-friendly bites the Oliveira’s famed cheesy tapioca fries or crispy pork belly torresmo are fantastic starters. Drinks come from former Chestnut Club barman Marcus Rigas, who fuses local tropical fruits and more with cachaça, like the Mandacaru which uses lime, caju syrup, cachaça branca, and salt. Other smaller fare includes braised gizzards with bacon, sweet corn, and pequi focaccia, or a terrific steak tartare with black tucupi mayo, cured egg yolks, and tapioca biju.
Larger dishes might be a vegetable moqueca of cashew fruit, heart of aplm, plaintain, ora-pro-nobis, tucupi, and coconut broth; or a steak-like carne de sol, a salt-cured aged coulotte cut of beef with biquinho chiles, chard, roasted garlic, and yucca fries. A beans-and-rice baiāo-de-dois also works as a fantastic side to the carne de sol, sliced beautifully and cooked to a medium-rare. So far, the menu is pretty tight, keeping to the restaurant’s drink-friendly vibe. After nearly four years of waiting for Oliveira, he and Vasconcellos seem confident they can execute Brazilian food worthy of recognition in Los Angeles, one that tells a story beyond churrasco and feijoada, as delicious as those things are.
Caboco opened on September 8 and serves from 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, until 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and from 4 to 10 p.m. on Sunday.