This used to be one of Liberdade’s best-kept secrets – a tiny bar hidden behind a discreet, sliding black door, with a predominantly Asian clientele, sat along the long counter behind which the chef, owner and friendly former sumo wrestler, Fernando Kuroda, presided.
After the building was sold in 2012, Kuroda and his team relocated to a larger, more upscale setting in Jardins, just one block from busy Avenida Paulista. The space has ample seating, with stools at the bar to watch Kuroda at work, or rooms upstairs for a little more privacy.
The menu is thankfully pretty much unchanged, though there’s now also teishoku at lunchtime – a Japanese set meal with miso soup, rice, vegetables and grilled fish or meat. In the evenings, don’t miss the slow-roast pork belly, which melts in the mouth in an ecstasy of sweet fatty goodness. The trademark dish is the high-calorie sumo favourite chanko nabe, a meat-and-veg stew.
Our hands-down favourites, however, are the okonomiyaki – a fried cabbage and pumpkin pancake topped with mayonnaise, tom ka sauce and katsuobushi – dancing fish flakes. And the isiyaki bibimpap (R$32) – a Korean dish served in a piping hot stone bowl, filled with rice, vegetables, beef and topped with a raw egg, which Kuroda mixes up at the table. All but total chilli wimps should choose the hottest sauce – not too hot to handle.
And for afters? How about green tea ice cream or a shot of schochu, while Kuroda enjoys a drink with his customers as he’s closing up.
To relive the spirit of the original Bueno head to the equally-anonymous Mini Bueno (Rua Fagundes 220, Liberdade) where you'll be buzzed into a small room, with seating at the bar, and a large-screen TV for the evening's main entertainment – karaoke.