The foyer is quite elegant, a soaring space surrounded by windows, as bright and airy as an atrium. At the entrance to the restaurant itself lies a colourful little mat adorned by a loony-looking rooster. Both the foyer and that little mat are a little misleading, the foyer because the dining room, although spacious, turns out to be devoid of anything one might call decor -- just forest green walls, bare apart from two television sets, each showing a different program (but mercifully, without the sound). That welcome mat and the restaurant's name mislead on two counts: Galo Louco is Portuguese for "crazy rooster," but there's no rooster on the menu; and it isn't a Portuguese restaurant.
At least not exactly. The owners are Portuguese, and they do offer a single Portuguese dish, so good one wishes there were more Portuguese choices on the menu. That one choice is the bifana, a sandwich filled with marinated grilled escalope of pork and sautéed onions, delicious in themselves, but raised to the heights by the magnificently crusty, house-made grilled water bread ($9.99, including two sides). And if I had a nit to pick it's that I wish that bread came with some of the other dishes as well.
But basically flame-grilled chicken rules the roost, and it's a hard act to follow. The only exception to the general excellence was the wings, which were neither meaty nor flavourful. Ours were heavily breaded, deep-fried and coated in a bland honey garlic sauce; possibly if I'd noticed that the wings were also available grilled I might have been happier with them ($8.99 and $9.99 respectively).
But all the other forms sampled were succulent, marvellously flavourful and oozing lovely juices -- even the breast, which can so often be overcooked to dry, and the faintly smoky kebab, which sometimes suffers a similar fate. The style isn't specifically Portuguese, since the sauce they are coated with isn't piri-piri, but a slightly sweet, house-made concoction, which comes in three degrees of spicy -- mild, hot or extra hot. Speaking as one who rarely goes above medium in Asian restaurants, I'd opt for the hot in this case -- the mild is nice enough, but it barely raises a tingle.
The birds are served in quarters, halves or whole. You can have a single kebab, a leg and thigh or a breast for $3.99. Or half a chicken, quarter or double leg for $9.99 to $10.99, including a single side. Or combination platters with your choice of cut plus one kebab, four wings and one side ($13.99). Or, if you're curious enough to want to try everything, and greedy enough to want lots of it, one of the variety packs, which range from half a chicken, two kebabs, eight wings and two sides at $24.99, to the Galos Grande of two chickens, four kebabs, 12 wings and three large sides for $49.99.
They're all good buys, but the most fabulous buy of all is for takeout -- a whole chicken with a heap of fries for $14.99 -- and tasting every bit as good as they do in the restaurant itself.
There are some excellent choices among the included sides as well. The regular fries are skinny and crisp, but if I had to pick one only it would be the Galo chips -- ultra-crunchy and wafer-thin, looking exactly like the chips that come in packages, but freshly fried and absolutely irresistible. The basmati rice is superior too, seasoned with rosemary and other herbs, and the steamed veggies (the usual broccoli-cauliflower mix) are acceptable. The salad and baked potato are both passable, but not a patch on the other options.
There are a few starters, the best of which was hummus, which was served hot with toasted pita strips ($6.99). After the initial shock of hot hummus (a first in my experience), it turned out to be delicious. Calamari with tzatziki was also pretty good -- not tiny rings, but nicely chewy big ones and flavourful ($9.99).
The menu also lists three non-chicken entrees, at $16.99 each, including two sides. The barbecued baby back ribs have a nice firm texture and a tasty, non-gloppy glaze, and a grilled salmon fillet is acceptable. There is an unsampled top sirloin steak.
So far, only bakery-made desserts are available. There doesn't seem to be a printed wine list, but the restaurant is licensed, and if you ask about Portuguese wines, they will be recited for you. We ended up with a fresh, fruity Aveleda Fonte vinho verde, a mind-blowing bargain at $19.99.
The servers are still feeling their way but they are charming, friendly and endlessly accommodating. Galo Louco has only been open about two months; it too is still feeling its way, and has just recently started offering the occasional daily special -- Wednesday's $17.99 special was all-you-can-eat mussels, which I missed, alas.
To see the location of this restaurant as well as others reviewed in the Winnipeg Free Press, please see the map below.