A newcomer to LA’s growing Brazilian restaurant community, Sexy Beans, opened last month in the Culver City Cuisine ghost kitchen space on Selmaraine Drive, offering Brazilian rotisserie chicken, picanha plates, and feijoada for pick-up, delivery, or takeout orders. For first-time restaurateur and chef Simoni Siqueira, the stall that she runs along with her husband, Greg Johnson, in the narrow hallways lined with other cloud kitchens has provided an opportunity for the animated, enthusiastic Afro-Brazilian chef to learn the ropes of the restaurant business before she takes on a permanent, standalone location. “I think that if I can be successful, and reach customers with just the flavor of my food, adding the customer service element will be a lot easier,” says Siqueira, who hopes to wow LA diners with her feijoada, or black bean stew.
Growing up in the tranquil, verdant municipality of Magé, on the northern border of Guanabara Bay in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Siqueira always had flavorful beans, arroz é feijão, or rice and beans, a typical dish eaten daily by families throughout Brazil served with manioc flour or farofa (toasted manioc flour), and sauteed collard greens. The Rio de Janeiro native follows prominent fellow Afro-Brazilian chef Natalia Pereira of Woodspoon, and baianas Reni Flores and Ilma Wright of Sabor da Bahia. In addition to Luciene Peck of the previously shuttered Rio Brazil Cafe, and Itana Dorea of Itana Bahia (closed in 2003) these chefs comprised an influential group of Black women that have raised the profile of Brazilian cuisine in Los Angeles.
Siqueira’s menu is centered around medium-rare picanha (top sirloin cap) and marinated galeto na brasa (roasted chicken), which are both cooked in a rotisserie tucked into a corner in the crowded kitchen. The meats are best enjoyed in a combo with the beans and rice plate, which come with vinagrete (salad dressing) and farofa. The “sexy beans” are feijoada, filled with salt-cured cuts of pork, sausage, and carne seca (beef jerky), but there’s a vegetarian version as well. Siqueira sources meat for her feijoada from a local company to give her feijoada a traditional flavor, since the nearest specialty Brazilian butcher shop preparing smoked and salt-cured pork cuts is thousands of miles away. Siqueira’s rotisserie chicken, her recipe for the popular late-night boteco dish found all over Rio de Janeiro, is a preparation only found at Sexy Beans in the LA area.
Prior to opening Sexy Beans, Siqueira worked at the French Embassy in Rio de Janeiro, and has worked in restaurants around Los Angeles in various positions, but got back into cooking Brazilian food for her husband, first trying out family recipes from her mother and grandmother. Siqueira would like to have a restaurant someday, and the cloud kitchen is a safe place to figure out her menu.
Sexy Beans has salads, a picanha sandwich, and more fusion plates like Brazil Loves Texas, a fifty-fifty blend of feijoada and Texas-style chili, which is the same chili used in her Slop Joey, her take on the Sloppy Joe. Siqueira, who has an infectious smile and energy when she talks about food, was able to turn a passion into a reality without having to raise the capital and risk losing it all. Plus, as an added value, the facility provides online ordering for pickup without the exorbitant fees taken by delivery apps. “The cloud kitchen is part of my learning process right now, where I can work out my ideas,” says Siqueira.
5660 Selmaraine Dr., Culver City, (310) 400-0240, sexybeans.la