Being in the restaurant industry and my previous job at a turkey factory, I can honestly say I am very picky about my Poultry - you don't want to know what I've seen. I never order chicken at a restaurant unless it's followed by the word "fried". I whole heartedly believe chicken should be chewed and not "dissolve" in your mouth - hence my strong distain for Swiss Chalet. But obviously there's an exception to that rule ...
Which brings us to my first time at Nando's Flame-Grilled Chicken - the South African Restaurant brand. I've heard of Nando's the way I've heard of In-and-Out Burger - never been but the buzz has definitely reached my ears. So when Dave from Goat Roti Chronicles invited me to the media preview - I was more than happy to tag along. I wouldn't consider this a restaurant review - more of a "Hey, I've had something yummy!" and now I want to tell 20,000 of my closes friends - just kidding, I don't know 20,000 people.
It didn't take long for a group of us to gather and wait for the servers to bring out trays of samples from fries dusted in peri peri spice, sliders as well as chicken from very hot to lemon & herb spiced. There was also copious amounts of beer and South African wine circulating the room.
It also took less time for the whispering - the "oh my gawds" and the "this is really good" Yes - a chain restaurant actually delivered some bomb ass chicken - even the white meat was scooped up and devoured! Shocking right? Well, not really. It's a simple recipe - they take exceptionally marinated chicken, butterfly it, and flame grill it. That's it.
The fries were pretty generic and the sliders were good but the Peri Peri - Swahili for "birds eye chilli" - which they use plenty of in the very, very, unique recipe should be number one of the many reasons to swing by Nando's. All sauce fanatics know what I'm talking about, when it's good - it's good! It's spicy enough to give you that kick you need but calm and warm enough you can be very generous with your lashings.
The dynamics of the restaurant is a little more different than your typical Nando's. I'd consider this one a flag ship location more similar to their UK brand. There's no table service but there's a hostess. You're greeted at the door but you order food at the counter. Sounds unusual but what you're left with is a quick eat & go - if you choose, or a leisure meal - if that's your cup of tea. But I'll tell you this now - this place is so well designed you're gunna wanna sit down and soak it all up. That was part of the reason I was so impressed.
These large neon green banquets were calling my name but I just couldn't walk away nor take my hands off of this hand knit pillar. I'm told they flew the artist in from South Africa and she hand knitted the pattern herself. I felt like a little kitty wanting to purr up against this wall ... that just got really weird didn't it?
These seats were also brought in from stadiums from all over the country - seriously they spared no expense. They definitely did a great job of giving you a unique dining experience - you completely forget you're at a franchised dining establishment - an establishment shipped over from South Africa mind you so it's très classy.
The chicken was moist, with little bits of charred burnt pieces, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I happily threw lashings of the peri peri sauce onto every bite. What can I say? I was hooked! I check the menu online and I've definitely got my eye on the grilled chicken livers and halloumi cheese. But I haven't had a legit meal there yet so I'll let you know how portions and prices are when it happens.
Of course they had a soft serve - self serve and of course I helped myself. Don't judge - you're only jelly. The grand opening is today so rally up your coworkers, grab the wifey & kids - #NandosIsHere
832 Bay Street