First impression: The vibe of this four-year-old restaurant isn’t felt until you walk through the covered front patio into the main dining room. It has all the Brazilian steakhouse elements — salad bar as the centerpiece of the main dining room and waiters serving churrasco style from skewers — but the overall feel is more intimate. What makes Gol! noteworthy is the wine list. Owner Frank Reider, author of “Wines of Passion: The Best of South America,” has produced an enticing list at reasonable prices that received “Wine Spectator’s” Award of Excellence.
Ambience: The former Arcade and Tap Room was remodeled to bring back the beauty of the exposed cypress wood ceiling. Mirrors and large color photographs of tropical plants help to brighten the space.
Salad bar: The fixed price menu ($39.95 per person for adults; $19.95 for ages 6-12 and free for ages younger than 6) includes salad bar and main course. The salad bar, which isn’t as upscale in its offerings as some other Brazilian steakhouses, appeals to the health conscious with vegetarian and low-carb offerings. Among the 40 items on the salad bar are calamari, tuna salad, mussels, black bean soup, vegetable soup, hearts of palm, grilled eggplant, plantains, mashed potatoes and fresh asparagus.
Entree excellence: Each diner is given a circle. If the green side is up, it signals the waiter you want more food; red means you don’t. Although the website says the restaurant serves salmon and shrimp as well as meat, our waiters brought only beef, sausage and chicken. The chicken was flavorful, but we found some of the beef lacked the tenderness many diners are used to at American steakhouses.
Sweet!: The highlight of the meal was passion fruit mousse ($8.50), a Brazilian classic, beautifully smooth with a pleasant but not overwhelming passion fruit flavor. We were disappointed that they did not have Crème de Papaya ($8.50), another Brazilian favorite. The flan ($8.50) was a miss — lacking the smooth texture one expects.
Liquid assets: This is the place to try new wines from South Americas, Spain and Portugal and Italy. Be sure to stop by the 73-year-old bar, where Winston Churchill once drank.
Service: Casual. We had to ask to have our water glasses filled and there was a long wait for dessert, only to learn that one of our choices was unavailable.
Insider tip: A good way to try the restaurant is to make a reservation for the Wednesday wine tastings ($20) from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Four wines are paired with foods. Enjoy live music Wednesday thru Sunday from 6:30 to 10 p.m.