Note: Bueno had to close its beloved Liberdade location in December 2012, but the new branch on Alameda Santos 835 (2389 8035) is now open for lunch and dinner.
Hidden behind a sliding black door is one of Liberdade’s best-kept secrets. Don’t expect any signs or clues to suggest you’ve arrived – just slide back the door and boldly go forth. Expect to find a predominantly Asian clientele inside, sat along a long counter behind which the chef, owner and friendly former sumo wrestler, Fernando Kuroda, presides.
Before you settle at a stool, suss out the selection of appetisers on the counter top, but for heaven’s sake 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. Our final tip? Solos and couples have a better chance of a seat at the counter.