Simple and Delicious
By Bill Gerdes
Remember the Brazilian restaurant craze of about 10 years back? Every city had a Brazilian joint opening up. Spit-fired proteins were all the rage and “Have you tried Brazilian?” was a legitimate conversational starting point . . . and then an ass-load of Brazilian restaurants shortly thereafter closed, leaving Vietnamese food to become the new it cuisine, and most of us moved on. Except the Brazilians, of course.
But hey, Brazil is back in a big way. With the World Cup is this year and Olympics in a few more, Brazil is poised for a renaissance—and so hopefully is Brazilian cuisine as well. Because we got it wrong the first time, this stuff is about more than grilled meats (although churrasco, the spit-grilled barbeque, is still as awesome as it was in 2002). Brazilian food is also unique with its torta fria, a lovely cold little chicken and bread layered pies, fried plantains and yucca and deceptively simple salads that combine Portuguese, Caribbean and South American elements. In short, taking a vegetarian out for Brazilian need not be considered an offense.
There’s a little deal in Riverside that opened about a year ago called Gol Brazilian Restaurant that I’d recommend taking anyone to, meat-lovers and vegetarians alike. Hell, bring along a Freegan and let them eat off your plate when you’re done, but get yourself over to this Brazilian buffet spot asap (located yards away from the chain-purgatory of the Tyler Galleria). Start off with a Guarana soda, an amazing little concoction that tastes like a cherry ginger ale. Then grab a plate and head to the buffet.
This is where Gol gets a bit tricky because plate size and “all you can eat” options vary. I piled on a plate full of food and paid about $10 (the price is $7.95 a pound). And I ate over a pound of Brazilian at Gol. I ate the likes of a beautiful a Cucumber Mint Salad that was refreshing, subtle, and too damn tasty to have been sitting in a buffet tray. I ate a Pickled Onion and Tomato number that reminded me once again how simple can also be delicious. I was full after the salads alone.
But there’s always room to savor the amazing cheese breads. These biscuit-sized morsels are almost creamy, strangely tasting raw, but in a good way. This may be the first bread I’ve considered drinking. Next to my bread sat a mound-shaped coxinha, a chicken croquette that I eyed suspiciously throughout the night. Croquettes are on my all-overrated team—they play point guard and pass the overrated rock to kale in the post. But I will say these are among the better crouquettes I’ve tried.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite part of the buffet menu, the Black Beans, Chicken Casserole, Rice and Fried Plantain number I put together. This of course is the epitome of simple food, but my God everything is done perfectly with these simple dishes, the rice especially. It reminds of the Arroz Cubano place I’d eat at two times a week when I lived semi-broke in Barcelona in the ’90s. Except all this stuff is done a lot better at Gol.
Oh yes meat-freaks: I tried the Lombaho de Porco, pork with bacon, which is lovely, juicy and sort of an uber-Brazilian meat—meat wrapped on meat, so-to-speak. With the addition of a tasty chimichurri sauce, I was suddenly back to the heyday of Brazilian food. If that sounds like a rave, it certainly is. I hate buffets, and I love this place. I’ll dub this year the “Year of Brazil,” so make sure to watch the World Cup, and definitely make sure to try Gol.
Gol Brazilian Restaurant, 10436 Magnolia Ave., Riverside, (951) 687-8000; www.golbrazilian.com.