I mentioned recently that Sunset Cafe in Cambridge was offering a fixed-price buffet and finally made it there today. This is the Portugese restaurant I would love to recommend (most selection, good food and prices, live fado on weekends, and able to handle large parties). However, their service is very variable (the kitchen is always slow) and occasionally other things bother me.
What bothered me today, was their AC was having problems and omitting a mouldy smell in the restaurant. Additionally they had decorated the tables with small bamboos, which look nice, but almost always bring small flys. I only saw one fly, but the dining room got a -.
The buffet was certainly a decent value -- it included salad, sopa/acorda de alho (a garlicky broth with green pep, tomato, often bread, etc), mashed potatoes and rice, basic spaghetti, and 3 main plates. I think you also get a drink and not certain about dessert (I thought the menu didn't show it). The buffet had some interesting plates -- squid with potatoes in a creamy sauce. We got there around noon and it was pretty fresh, although it wasn't refreshed while we were there and none of the hot plates were covered.
I decided to order off the menu and it turned out they had a full lunch menu (a long time ago they had one, but on other visits you had to order off the dinner menu). Carne alentejana (pork and clams), "small" sunset special steak (bife a cavalo), braised rabbit. There were at least 15 items off the regular menu (well over 70 plates), all around or under $7.95. (I think the rabbit that someone was looking for was $6.95) I didn't see much in the way of salt cod and they didn't offer their excellent african shrimp (head-on, with a demi-glaze based african sauce) or any of the paellas they have at dinner.
I like their sauces and the carne alentejana was no exception and the potatoes were done perfectly. Not many littlenecks, but they were good. I expected it to be half the dinner plate, but it was almost as large. The sunset steak was seemed thinner than the dinner portion and the sauce I thought was lighter, but it was good and the egg perfectly done. I ordered the sopa de alho a la carte (it didn't have enough bread to be an acorda) and it was excellent like before, steaming with a poached egg. The bread and starters were good too, although I didn't request cheese which I sometimes do at dinner (recommended). Service was attentive, but the kitchen was slow overall.
As far as the food this place is the whole package and the fado is excellent. For better service, a nicer (but also loud) dining room, and excellent seafood Portugalia is good. J&J's for a casual dinner and Casa Portual for a more intimate location and excellent wine list. The "snack bar" is also good if you want to grab something to run (although their carne a alentejana is the same price and doesn't compare). There also is cafe casal and O'Cantinho which is well covered here. I wish I could say the AC is going to be fixed tomorrow, but expect that is unlikely.
I was pleased with the lunch options and you have the chance of looking at the buffet before deciding what to order. You need to budget a whole hour, whereas Portugalia is much faster at lunch.