Two years after its Allston debut, the Brazilian restaurant Café Belo has managed to put together enough capital to open a second branch in Kenmore Square. No mean feat, considering that Belo serves food at a mere $4.50 per pound.
Per pound? That’s right. At the center of the room is a gleaming, steaming salad-bar-like expanse filled with all manner of South American food. Your mission: select which delectables you want to eat, and put them on a plate. When you’re fully loaded up, pay the nice man at the counter and smile warmly at the green left in your pocket.
The décor is spartan, but it’s far from inhospitable, thanks to huge windows that offer commanding views of the neighborhood. And any aesthetic shortcomings are eclipsed by the food. Offerings vary slightly from day to day, but mainstays include black beans and rice, spicy collard greens, and fried plantains. Then there’s the " yucca flour mixed with eggs, pork, carrots, onions, green olives, and raisins. " The latter two elements create a nice counterbalance of tart and sweet, but the dish on the whole is quite dry. Eat it as a base under marinated meats.
Ah, the meat. We had beef, straight off the spit, accompanied by carrots and sausage. Amazing. Mild sausages, tender cuts of beef with onions and red peppers, swimming in a delicious marinade. That night also featured chicken and fried whiting, both of which tasted, well, like chicken and fish.
Wash it all down with Guaraná Brazilia, a lightly carbonated, high-caffeine beverage that tastes a little like Red Bull. It’s made from the fruit of the guaraná vine, whose seeds the people of the Amazon region chew as an aphrodisiac and to increase energy, relieve headaches, and reduce hunger (though Café Belo already does plenty to address that). Finally, there’s dessert. We tried the chocolate pudding and the condensed-milk pudding, both of which were obscenely rich and firm enough to be sliced like cake.
After dinner, we had so much money left that we went out and bought a few Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 records.
Café Belo, located at 636 Beacon Street, in Boston, is open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Call (617) 236-8666.