Monday, May 29, 2017

A Year of Nando's

The next post in our London recaps was supposed to be about our visit to Nando's Peri-Peri, our fourth visit to a Nando's in 2015 while on vacation. Unfortunately we haven't gotten around to recapping any of the other Nando's visits, so any comparisons we would make between the restaurants in London and the States would have no context whatsoever. Considering that, and also the fact that the next post in our Savannah recaps was also supposed to be about Nando's, we thought it was best to just put them all together in one post and take you through our year of Nando's.

Visit #1: Woodbridge, Virginia (Savannah road trip)

We had known about Nando's Peri-Peri for a long time before we ever tried it. Founded in South Africa, Nando's is a fast casual restaurant serving grilled chicken (and other stuff, but the draw for most people is the chicken) with peri-peri sauces, flavors that originated from Portugal and Mozambique. Nando's only recently expanded to the US, with locations in Virginia, DC, Maryland, and Chicago. Unfortunately they don't yet have one in New York, but that was why we definitely wanted to try some on our way to Savannah.

A got the half chicken, medium spiciness, with macho peas ("rugged pea mash with whole peas, parsley, mint and chilli" according to the menu). The chicken was very moist except for a few sections of the white meat which was a bit on the drier side. The sauce had a good amount of heat that didn't overpower his senses, and the peri peri seasoning added a nice floral hint. The macho peas were very tasty. They had a good bit of heat to them, and our guess was that they included the same chilli as their peri peri seasoning in them. The mint and parsley added a nice herbal freshness to the dish as well.

M got the sandwich called "Nandocas choice" which made her top 10 list that year. The sandwich was a chicken breast topped with cole slaw on buttery garlic bread. It was really, really good. She thought that the flavor of the chicken itself might have been a little bit better on A's regular flame grilled chicken, but all together, this combination was great. Can't really go wrong with a sandwich built on garlic bread.

Visit #2: Hanover, Maryland (Savannah road trip)

We liked Nando's so much on our first visit, just like we thought we would, that we also got lunch at one of the Maryland locations on our drive back home. The Hanover location was in the Arundel Mills mall not too far from our hotel, so it was our last real meal on the trip (if you don't count rest stop fries). We thought the Virginia location was a little better as far as organization and layout, but we really didn't care because we were eating delicious Nando's chicken.

The first time we got the chicken, we didn't add much seasoning or extra sauce to it, because we wanted to taste it right out of the kitchen with the flavors it was supposed to have. This visit, we experimented more with the sauces, especially the wild herb and garlic, which we liked even more mixed together. The garlic herb peri-peri sauce was our favorite on its own. We love garlic, and this had a really good garlicky flavor to it. The wild herb peri-peri sauce had a good flavor to it, but it just wasn't as good as the garlic herb. Together they formed a great, balanced sauce.

A wanted to kick things up a bit so he got the half chicken, hot spiciness, with corn. The chicken was similar, moist but with a few dry spots in the white meat, and the hot sauce was good and hot, but it was, for the most part, the same chicken he had on the way down. The corn was nice. He had seen a bunch of people ordering it on our first visit so he wanted to give it a try. It was really just a grilled ear of corn, but it was sweet, and the char on the corn gave it a nice smokiness. M isn't as big a fan of corn on the cob, but she thought it tasted good from the little bit she tried.

For her meal, M got a chicken breast (medium) sandwich with arugula, tomato, pickled onion, and peri-peri mayo, with sides of macho peas and fries. These were the same two sides that we had gotten in Virginia, and they were both good. As for the sandwich, it was fine, not as exciting as the Nandocas choice, but the chicken was really good. That said, M still thought A's chicken was better so she decided she would ditch the sandwiches and get regular chicken whenever we were lucky enough to go to Nando's again.

Visit #3: West Loop, Chicago (Great Lakes road trip)

The first Nando's in Chicago opened in spring of 2015 in the West Loop, and once we learned that, we knew where we absolutely had to go during our time in Chicago over the summer. This location was a little different from the other two we had been to, in that it wasn't located in a mall or shopping development, but just a regular neighborhood restaurant. We were really excited to see if anything was different about the Chicago locations, but they were mostly the same. The Chicago one did have better decor though.

A got a half chicken, hot spiciness, with peas and Portuguese rice. The flavor of this Nando's was just as good as before, but the chicken size was much smaller. The peas were tasty like last time, and the rice had really good flavor. We also used the garlic and herb sauce like last time and it was just as delicious.

M got a quarter chicken, medium spiciness, white meat, with coleslaw and garlic bread as sides. The garlic bread was delicious, even if garlic bread is the type of thing we could probably make it at home. The coleslaw was really, really good and better than M remembered from before. With the sides she picked, it was like she could make the Nandocas choice sandwich all over again if she really wanted to, selections which weren't intentional but perhaps subconscious.

Visit #4: Shepherd's Bush, London (2015 vacation)

Our stomachs weren't feeling particularly great after our pie and mash and jellied eels lunch, so we thought the best thing to do was to grab some Nando's for dinner. Grilled chicken sounded like it would be nice and calming. There were two Nando's locations not too far from our hotel, including one a little more conveniently located at the Westfield mall. (You might remember the mall from our first day visits to Square Pie and Pho.) The Nando's at the mall wasn't in the takeaway food court, but in a section with other restaurants. When we got there and saw the line, we were alarmed to see it stretching out of the restaurant and around a corner. The mall was packed, but it was a Tuesday night so we really weren't expecting it to be so crowded. (We kept forgetting it was half term.)

Since that wasn't going to work, we left the mall and walked over to the other Shepherd's Bush location, which had free tables and very little line. It was nice being in a place where there was more than one Nando's within walking distance.

M got a half chicken, medium spiciness, with garlic bread and coleslaw, pretty much the same thing she got in Chicago. She got a half so that A could eat some of the dark meat, since she was planning to eat mostly white meat. The chicken seemed to be very similar to the ones we got in the States, and it was nice to see that the quality was consistent. Both sides were good, but the garlic bread wasn't seasoned as much and didn't have the garlic spread to the edges, so it wasn't quite as good as the ones we had had previously. It was probably healthier that way, but M likes garlic bread with lots of butter and garlic on it. It was a nice, solid dinner that M really hoped would soothe her stomach and erase all memories of jellied eels.

A got the chicken livers which we both knew he was going to get as soon as we looked at the English menu. The chicken livers aren't on the American menu, and that's a real shame. The chicken livers came with a Portuguese roll and he got a side of fries. We couldn't pinpoint exactly what they used to cook the chicken livers, but they were so good. Looking at the Nando's recipes online before they were removed, it sounded like it was just butter and peri-peri sauce, but it tasted like something more than that. There was something familiar about it, but we just couldn't figure it out. We tried these on everything: plain, on the roll, on M's garlic bread, and even on the fries. It didn't matter how we ate them, they were just awesome. There was a little bit of a spiciness to the sauce as well as A ordered them with medium spiciness.

Dinner was really good. We were very glad that we had such a good, tasty dinner since lunch was not as good as we were expecting it to be.

After visiting Nando's four times in 2015, we haven't been to one since then, pretty much since they don't have one here in New York. When the day comes (hopefully) that they do open here, we will be so happy. It's the perfect fast casual type of spot - good flavorful food, no fuss, not too expensive. Nando's, please open in NYC, and if possible bring the chicken livers too!

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