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Feb. 9, 2011

Nando’s Peri Peri spices up Downtown dining

by Jialin Quinlan, Page Editor and Natalie Rutsch, Page Editor
With restaurants already spread across five different continents, Nando’s Peri-Peri finally brings its cultural flavor to Downtown Silver Spring. Its famous Peri-Peri Flame-Grilled Chicken, which has delighted worldwide, is a fusion of Portuguese and Mozambican cuisine.
In the 16th century, Portuguese sailors arrived in Mozambique and discovered the African Bird’s Eye Chilipepper, or pili-pili, as the locals called it. The settlers mispronounced the name as “peri-peri” and began adding it to their food, eventually introducing it to the world as a fiery baste for grilled chicken.

The spacious interior of Nando’s Peri-Peri fuses folk art, innovative light fixtures and gorgeous natural wood furniture to create a refreshing atmosphere. Nando’s Peri-Peri is a great mix of casual and upscale — customers order at a counter, but waiters deliver food to the table. The restaurant is filled with decorative vases and pillows, but there are also paper napkins and a soda fountain. A great spot for lunch in sweatpants or a date in a tie, Nando’s embodies versatility.

Even though customers place orders at a counter, the wait staff holds a warm, friendly presence in the restaurant. After admitting we were first time customers, our waitress gave us a full rundown of all the menu had to offer. With her helpful advice, we were ready to delve into the diverse menu.

Nando’s specialty is their flame-grilled chicken, so naturally we couldn’t leave without trying it. We went with the Lemon and Herb baste because we weren’t sure how hot the Portuguese/Mozambican mix could get. It’s a good thing we were careful because Nando’s mild is at least our medium. But with a full cup of water to swig, we were fine. The Lemon and Herb baste provided a nice burst of citrus that complimented the chicken’s grilled flavor. The side of Macho Peas (yes, we liked the name) was equally scrumptious. The unconventional dish offered a bed of green peas with little flecks of chili spice, parsley and a hint of mint.

The Butternut Squash and Couscous Salad is a tasty option for vegetarians, but customers can add chicken for a little extra. Marked with a red star as Nando’s Favorite, the refreshing salad is a winning combination of oven-roasted squash, light couscous, roasted corn, red onion, olives and raisins, all on a bed of spinach. The salad is flavorful from the first bite and, in typical Nando fashion, includes a hint of spice. The salad is definitely a delicious option, but buyers beware: It might be hard to pass up the chicken entrees.

If you’re looking for something a little less healthy, the garlic bread and French fries are the sides for you. The garlic bread is spread thick with butter and sprinkled with mouth-watering garlic and herbs. The bread is an ultimate comfort food, matched only by the savory fries. Fries are less exotic than the other dishes, but regardless, Nando’s serves up crisp, salty delights.

Another one of Nando’s Favorites is the Chicken Breast Pita. While seemingly a safe bet, the chicken-stuffed pita pocket packs an unexpected punch. The warm, toasted pita is full of crispy vegetables, mayonnaise and just a touch of cilantro. If you can’t handle spicy, the mild is a must; even the medium can leave your mouth on fire.

Since no meal, no matter how good, is complete without some dangerously sugar-laden desserts, we finished the meal with the Chocolate Spoon Cake and the Dulce de Leche Cheesecake. The Chocolate Spoon Cake is criminally chocolate, layering a moist, dark cake bittersweet frosting and chocolate shavings. The cheesecake was equally delectable, a perfect blend of the sweet cheesecake and even sweeter caramel swirls.

From the fiery chicken to the tangy salad to the savory desserts, Nando’s is the best multicultural dining experience Ellsworth has to offer. So pack your appetite, and take your taste buds on a flavorful journey.



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