Saturday, February 4, 2012

Nando's Peri Peri at the Rio in Gaithersburg

So I have a ton of places to blog about since I banned myself from blogging until after my qualifying exams (which I passes-yay!). One of the first places on my list was Nando's Peri-Peri which recently opened at the Rio town center in Gaithersburg MD. I recalled seeing a review of the Nando's in DC by Tom Setsiema years back and when a groupon for the new place in Gaithersburg became available I knew I needed to make a trip to try the place myself.

Nando's claims it serves Portuguese cuisine but the menu set up was very my like you would see at a Peruvian restaurant where the main star of the menu is an order of a quarter, a half or a full chicken with various sides.  a Nando's gives you a choice of getting your chicken plain, lemon and herb, medium, hot and extra hot. Honestly who WANTS to order plan chicken? You can get 'plain' chicken anywhere so Katie and I split a medium half chicken. We chose to get a side of Portuguese rice, macho peas and the butternut squash with grilled corn. Justin got the portobello mushroom sandwich.

I wills say that the portobello sandwich was actually one of the stars of the night. The halloumi cheese and chili jam have it an excellent flavor and the sandwich was piled high with a generous portion of slices portobellos as opposed to one single cap. There was nothing special about the Portuguese roll it was served on even though it was advertised as one of the sides that could come with the chicken (good choice on forgoing that) but it served its sandwiching purpose.

A huge dissapointment was the star of the menu-the chicken. There was no way the chicken we got could have been referred to as 'medium' in the spice departments. Hey I love spice and I love Indian/Thai/Asian food/and buffolo chicken anything but this chicken went past the line of 'medium spicy' and into the danger zone where I could not detect any flavor other than the hotness of the chili. If I had wanted this I would have gotten some plain chicken, slathered it in hot sauce and just eaten it at home. I was very excited when I saw the range of condiments the restaurant offered to its customers for chicken dipping (or any other kind of dipping) but all the condiments were merely different levels of tongue torture-the same options as you can as for your chicken (chicken plain, lemon and herb, medium, hot and extra hot). The lemon and herb sauce did have a little bit of lemon in there but that was it-you couldn't detect any herb over this version of hot sauce.

Fortunately I had my side dishes to ease my pain. The butternutsquash dish was a home run. The squash had been perfectly roasted and caramelized with onions and an assortment of other dishes. Now this was a flavor explosion (in a good way). The peas had a unique cooling taste (must have been the mint). The rice was mediocre but helped take the heat from the chicken down a notch.

Honestly, all I really need is one really main dish at a restaurant to keep me coming back so I would return to Nando's and get a portobello mushroom sandwich with the peas and butternut squash medley. I don't know what Justin is going to get though because the rest of the menu lacked creativity or else packed too much heat for his tastes. I'll let you decide if Nando's is worth an outing-I was just glad I had my groupon handy when I paid the bill. Next time when I get a craving for some good chicken I am heading to Sardi's in Gaithersburg or College Park.

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