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Gustazo Belmont - One of the Finest Latino Meals I've Had...

Have already posted on the excellent Cubano's at this place. Was a smidge underwhelmed with the ropa vieja and other entrees that I had had when they first opened.

Was there for a work dinner last week with two other people and we had:

- Tamal

- Roast Pork Plate with and black beans and ripe plantains

- Roasted Eggplant, crispy capers and honey drizzled queso frito served with butternut squash bisque

So as someone who grew up in a Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican neighborhood in NYC I know from latino food. Honestly, this was haute latino of the highest order. Maybe they were just getting their stride, maybe their ropa vieja is not their forte...

The portions were generous, the roast pork meltingly delicious, slathered with caramelized onions that had some nice herbal something going on. Flawless execution.

The Tamal was the best Cuban style tamal (tend to be more complex and strongly flavored then Mexican) I have ever eaten, period. Savory and delicious.

The eggplant was a delicate wonder, a smattering of micro greens as garnish was so tasteful. The squash puree soothing and smooth.

My only quibble, the side of tostones was on the thinnner crunchier side and I tend to like them a littler thicker so the starchy chew is present. This is really just a questions of taste, and honestly for the thin crunchy style these were flawless as well.

Quite honestly one of the most refined latino meals I have ever eaten. Amazing chow.

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  1. I was thoroughly unimpressed when I tried it for lunch, but you've convinced me to give it another try for dinner.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Pia

      Please report back, because my original ropa vieja meal underwhelmed as well. This dinner last week honestly blew me away...

      1. re: StriperGuy

        Finally got back and tried the eggplant dish everyone raved about in this thread. I thought it would be right up my alley because I love vegetable-based dishes and Latino food, and all the components of the dish sounded like they would be delicious together. I guess it's just me, but I really disliked this. I thought the eggplant was overly salty, greasy, and mushy. The honey on the queso frito with toast didn't work for me. The butternut squash bisque had a noticeable tang to it and a strong garlicky flavor that I found off-putting. I probably won't be back. (But others reading this should take into account that everybody else seems to love this dish.)

      2. re: Pia

        well, striper gave us 3 things to try, and I will definitely give it a shot; i really like good Latino food and have found Boston lacking; this place sounds promising.

      3. Thanks for the report. I have been searching for a Cuban meal that matches what I was used to in my Florida days. Need to check this place out, but will skip over the Ropa Vieja.

        1. I dined here earlier this week! When we first arrived (a group of 3) we were the only ones in the restaurant for a good half hour, but because it's so cozy it felt like we were sitting comfortably in someone's dining room. By the time we left it had filled up considerably, but still felt very intimate, and not loud at all for having several small groups in it.

          I too had the roasted pork plate, and thought it was phenomenal (tender, tender, tender). We shared the guacamole, which came with banana chips, and the polenta with goat cheese and chervil, which everyone agreed was very good. A friend ordered the eggplant dish, which was as beautifully plated as any dish I've seen in Boston (butternut squash soup in separate mini pitcher on the plate, eggplant in a flan-like shape).

          I also loved the BYO part. We brought a few bottles of wine, and it was so unhurried, casual, and comfortable that I would happily go back. There was only one server but she was delightful, attentive but never hovering. My only quibble was that there were a bunch of those teeny tiny gnats that seem to be everywhere right now - would love to NOT see those next time I go.

          1 Reply
          1. re: gourmetnachos

            Just FYI, I think the server is the owner... so glad you liked it.

          2. My parents had the Bistec de Palomilla recently and gave it the thumbs up.

            The tortilla was very good.

            I had the Masas de Puerco Fritas (pork tips) which were perfectly seasoned, though perhaps slightly overcooked. However, this was take-out, so maybe that affected the cooking. I guess I should have gotten the roast pork!

            2 Replies
            1. re: Alcachofa

              I had the puerco asado on Sunday... so delicious. "Flawless execution" indeed. But now I need to get to Cafe Latino downtown soon to compare the two porks.

              1. re: Alcachofa

                Will be very interested in your report!!

            2. Thanks again, StriperGuy, for putting a culinary gem on my radar. A friend and I went Friday night and had an outstanding meal, all of which we shared:
              Croquetas de Pollo (Chicken Croquettes)
              Ensalada de Frijoles Negros (Black Bean Salad)
              Puerco Asado (Slow Roasted Pork)
              Picadillo a la Habanera (Picadillo)

              The croquettes are 3 smallish ones, about 2" long, deeply brown and with a lot of flavors I couldn't identify but which we both loved. It came with a nice small salad of mixed baby greens, oranges and avocado with a very tasty dressing.
              The black bean salad also had a very good dressing and came with wonderful long, curly chips made of green plaintain. This was really a good salad.
              The roast pork absolutely knocked our socks off, meltingly tender and heaped with caramelized onions, it also had a huge mound of white rice, a bowl of black beans and 3 maduros (ripe plaintains). All of these were fantastic.
              I also adored the picadillo, which was rich with seasonings and wonderful with the excellent rice; my friend liked it a lot but was not as crazy about it as I was.
              You will know how much we loved it when I tell you that we were back for dinner the following night and have reservations with a larger group this Friday. The second night we repeated the croquettes and the roasted pork and loved them just as much, the pork maybe even more. We also had the Ensalada de Garbanzos (Chickpea Salad with Feta), which we liked but not as much as the black bean salad) and the Churrasco, a wonderful steak, cooked exactly to medium rare as specified, and loaded with flavor. It was supposed to come with chimichurri sauce which it did not -- we didn't even realize the lack until we heard another table asking for it -- the steak needed no help, we both thought it was one of the best we had had in recent memory. It came with congri rice, roasted potoates and maduros, all excellent. Leftover pork reheated beautifully the next day for lunch.
              We sat next to some people who were gradually working their way through the menu, which sounds like an excellent plan, although I do not know how you go there and not order the slow roasted pork.
              Service was very, very sweet both nights. The first night our leftovers got tossed by mistake. They were full of apologies and offered to make us something, which we did not think they should. The second night our very nice waiter told us he would guard our leftovers with his life, and we were sure glad to get them! Can't wait till Friday night...

              2 Replies
              1. re: GretchenS

                Thanks for the great report Gretchen -- I'm kicking myself that I never thought to stop in when we used to live over there. We've still got friends and family in the area, so if we can't do Strip T's, this is #2 on my list.

                1. Has anyone been to their Sunday brunch? I've been to their lunch and dinner, but not their brunch.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Crazy Egg

                    I really want to try their brunch ... the menu looks amazing! With a four-month-old, though, it's hard for us to wait for the 11 am start. Hope someone will report!

                    1. re: Crazy Egg

                      We went to brunch at Gustazo today around 11:15 (Deluxe Town Diner had a ridiculous line by 8, I think because of the time change). It was somewhat busy but not crowded. We started with fresh juices--guava, mango, & passionfruit. Very nice. I had the eggs with bacon-wrapped plaintains, multigrain toast, dressed greens--all very delicious--and the two saddest tomato slices I've ever seen. My friend's potatoes, chorizo,& eggs were greasy but good, but the other friend's crepe was served cold, which struck her as odd. Spouse's Eggplant sandwich was great (same eggplant/cheese combo that we tried for lunch on previous visit) with nice house made chips. We shared an order of churros with hot chocolate for dessert, which was great, especially the hot chocolate. I also had a perfectly good cafe con leche. We split the bill, which came to $22 each (not incl. tip) which I thought was pretty good. We easily spend more at the Diner. The portions were filling but not enormous, just right I thought.

                    2. Thanks, Striper. This is another gem in the neighborhood. We went for lunch and I had the AMAZING eggplant dish with butternut soup. It was inventive, flavorful, and everything you could hope for in a vegetarian. I also appreciate that they have delicious fresh juices. I had guava, and my spouse had passionfruit. As a recently pregnant and now nursing mother, I appreciate quality non-alcoholic drink options. My only quibble is that we were the only ones in the restaurant and had to wait 30+ minutes for our meals, which seemed excessive.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: lovejoyeater

                        Mr. Swank and I visited this spot with the Cousins Swank a couple of weeks ago. I kept meaning to post about it. Loved my black bean soup, loved my ceviche (swordfish, scallops, and shrimp in a spicy lime-juice broth, with lots of sliced avocado). Mr. Swank hated his polenta tamale with pork tips -- it looked like a ragged open pillow. They also forgot the chimichurri sauce for his churrascaria. Service was painfully slow. High point for everyone were luscious, rich chocolate-mousse stuffed crepes for dessert. Cozy atmosphere, too. We will be back, but Mr. Swank might order more strategically next time.

                      2. Back last night with a group of four. The DC I had previously been with and I shared again, and had to repeat the chicken croquettes (man are those good), the roast pork and the steak, all of which were every bit as good as last weekend -- consistency is a wonderful thing! We also tried the ensalada de mimosa: shredded romaine, avocado, fresh dill, amazingly thinly-julienned gruyere and a wonderful tangy dressing -- really, really good. Our vegetarian DC had the goat cheese polenta, which she liked, and the eggplant/butternut squash entree, which she LOVED. I tried the eggplant and it was amazing. Our non-sharing DC had the tamal that StriperGuy described in his original post and the roast pork and adored both. This guy grew up in Miami and knows his Cuban food so his praise is really worth having. A plate of tostones for the table was gone in a heartbeat. Gotta love the BYOB too.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: GretchenS

                          Did you say chicken CROQUETTES??!! :-} Plse tell me (i have my fingers crossed)- were they creamy, as in beschamel mixed with ground/ pureed chicken? or more solid ground chicken and bread crumbs mixture? The former is the trad Spanish type and a major love of mine.thx for great report.

                          1. re: opinionatedchef

                            I think they are the traditional sort. They have gone down so fast each time that I have not examined them closely but I don't think there were crumbs, they are very rich and wonderful and appropriately (due to richness) small, three per order, maybe 2 inch or a bit longer cylinders, deeply browned. Absolutely wonderful!

                            1. re: GretchenS

                              sold!! cylinders is the clincher. oh boy oh boy :-}

                        2. Had the Cubano recently. Holy hell, that's a great sandwich!


                          3 Replies
                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            It's reeeeally hard for me to go to Strip-T's on Saturday for lunch and not get a Cubano to-go at Gustazo on the way home.

                            1. re: rknrll

                              oooh, CH stories like that make me feel so much better :-}

                              1. re: rknrll

                                That's the awesome chowish double.

                            2. Want to echo the applause for Gustazo. Went for supper with a friend a couple of weeks ago. The grilled spiced shrimp appetizer was incredibly flavorful. Then, a sublime grilled goat cheese and polenta stack with four dots of pesto to accent. A stunner. The puerco adobado was tender and every bit as fine as my mother's brisket -- high praise. Service was warm and inviting, chefs and kitchen staff happy to share info on dishes we liked. The place feels homey and the kind of place one wants to linger. We wish it a long and happy future in Belmont.

                              1. We walked to Gustazo last Sat eve after taking in the grand tasting at the Sprited Gourmet (long walk was beneficial after tasting a bunch of wine). Dinner was great (I had the slow roasted pork) but we learned the hard way to not accept seating in the back "room", which appears to actually be tented space outside the restaurant walls. They did have a patio heater back there, but it was COLD. It's a good problem to have, I guess, having more customers than seats in the restaurant proper, but that space is just too cold this time of year. That said, the food was great, and most of our co-patio patrons were taking the situation is as good humor as we endeavored to. I'll definitely return but will wait for seating inside the next time!

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Dea

                                  We were there 6:30 tonight(Sat.) Full house. The patio was cool but the 2 heat lamps worked well and we were comfortable, though other tables were in colder spots. (There were 4 tables of patio diners when we left around 7:45.) Service was pleasant but flaky( a new server.)The patio 'room' has an abysmal brown 'decor' (not). But it's alot quieter than the front room. Ugly tan plastic tables and fairly comfy molded plastic chairs. Certainly one of the odder spaces I've dined in in Boston.

                                  We had apps of: beet salad; chicken croquettes; beef tamale; and eggplant timbale w/ side of butternut squash puree. For entrees, we had the pork asado and the ropas viejas.

                                  Now, I am not saying anything about authenticity here; I did not grow up around this food and I have never visited Cuba. I am only addressing deliciousness. The croquetas were very small (3 , thumbsize, with a small salad.) and tasted o.k., pretty much just like ground chicken. I was hoping for the nutmeg and lemon tinged creamy beschamel-bound Spanish croquetas but these were not they. The beet salad was fine but disappointing that the beets were boiled or canned (roasted are so superior.) The tamale, presented loose in a mini gratin dish, was very good, with bits of pork sausage and onion under a baked blanket of cornmeal/masa/grits/polenta . The eggplant was the most successful of them all. A mild creamy and chopped eggplant was molded into a timbale, warmed and plated, with a side of squash puree and a mound of microgreens. It was lovely, subtle and unusual. (fyi, listed under Entrees.)

                                  My tender long-roasted Pork tasted exactly like the roast pork at La Fe, the Dominican take-out shop in Lynn, except that here, my skin bits were the perfection of crispy chewiness. The ropas were as described, long simmered shreddy beef in a simple tomatoey binding sauce with peppers and onions. Spices and herbs are not a big part of this cuisine; salt, pepper and garlic being the predominant flavoring. Both meats had identical sides: white rice, rather boring brothy black beans, and some delightfully caramelized plantains with just enough sweetness to add a sparkle to the plate.

                                  When we left, My Love declared Gustazo "A Gentleman's B- ", and I guess I concur. Again, that's a deliciousness rating, very personal, not a judgment on authenticity, presentation, quality etc. In the end, I think it reflects that we are not lovers of cuban/ puerto rican/dominican cooking
                                  But it was interesting and satisfying and I wish them success. I am sure that , in addition to the neighborhood, the relevant ethnic populations in Boston are as pleased as can be to have their home cuisine available when they go out.

                                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                                    Good point--they need to work on their beans. Definitely feel like an afterthought. My aunt would definitely accuse them of making them out of a can. (I say that with confidence, because she actually did that once at a place in W Palm Beach.)

                                    Re béchamel: I didn't say anything, because I'm not generally good at picking out specific ingredients, but when béchamel was mentioned earlier, I thought that did not sound right at all. The croquetas (assuming you received the same version I got months ago) are the traditional Cuban style (and size). Béchamel croquetas sound like they would be great. If they appear more on Spanish menus, would Estragon or Toro have them?

                                    I still haven't made it back to Cafe Latino yet.

                                2. A friend and I had lunch here today. We shared the eggplant dip with plantain chips which were both wonderful and then split the cubano and the pan con lechon (roasted pork) sandwiches and could not decide which was our favorite. One came with more plantain chips and the other with a nice salad with avocado and pineapple. It was a very tasty meal!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: GretchenS

                                    This is good to know cuz it is very hard to find a good latino or Cuban meal in the burbs. Has anyone tried Raices in Peabody yet? Internet says great things but haven't seen it here...