Young and Hungry

Has Nando’s Wimped Out at Its Silver Spring Location?

Based on my mouth-watering experiences at the Nando's Peri-Peri in Chinatown — and I mean that literally, since the African pepper-laced peri-peri sauce caused pools of saliva to form at the base of my tongue — I went easy on myself at the new Nando's in Silver Spring. I ordered a quarter chicken "medium," which according to Nando's lexicon, is considered a "tolerable heat."

Why the wussed-out order? Well, consider what I wrote back in August 2008 when my wife, Carrie, and I tried Nando's chicken "hot":

But Carrie’s hiccuping loudly—when, that is, she’s not plugging her nose and holding her breath, which just makes her whole body quake with the force of those seismic contractions. For my part, my nose has started to drip from the heat of my grilled chicken, a quarter section of breast and thigh meat slathered with peri-peri sauce. It’s not until I round us up a glass of water—and Carrie drinks the liquid through a napkin, my fool-proof way of curing the hiccups—that we can begin to evaluate our meals.

As much as I would have loved to recreate that experience, I chose not to. One bite into my medium chicken, however, and I'm begging for some heat treatment. I stride to the condiments counter and grab a bottle of the hot stuff in order to climb the Scoville scale. I pull off a hunk of grilled leg meat, gingerly dab it with the hot sauce, and brace for the blast. It never comes.

The most I feel is a small pinch of pepper heat on the back of my tongue. Disappointed, I pour a pool of the hot sauce on my plate and run my index finger through it for a direct contact high. It tastes mostly of vinegar. The blazing African bird's-eye chilis have been relegated to a small, almost indistinguishable note in the background — or perhaps booted completely from the peri-peri sauce in favor of a milder pepper.

Whatever the reason, I am annoyed. Has Nando's decided to tone it down for the suburban families of Silver Spring or, more conspiratorially, has the chain simply decided Americans aren't ready for the African pepper that defines this operation?

I'm curious about your recent experiences, Y&H Nation? Has Nando's heat dropped into the wimp zone?

  • http://burkas.net jburka

    I've yet to go to any Nando's beside Gallery Place, but my experience a week or two ago suggested it hasn't changed much.

    I typically order the mushroom and haloumi wrap with pepper jam, and ask for it hot. I then grab a bottle of the hot and dip my fries in it and put it on the coleslaw as well.

    This past visit I decided I didn't want to deal with a bladder as full of iced tea as usual, so while I still ordered a hot wrap, I used the medium on my sides. That allowed me to keep my drink consumption to just a couple of glasses, but I didn't think things were any milder than usual beyond my change in sauce...

  • Kevin

    While I can't speak to the bottled peri-peri on offer, I've had pretty widely varying experiences with the heat offered. There have been times that the "hot" chicken is a "tolerable heat" and times when "hot" has very nearly singed my lips off.

    As someone who has avidly eaten at Nando's on both sides of the Atlantic, I'd say the varying heat is pretty standard. The bottled sauces may be worrying though.

  • http://twitter.com/otberbur OTBerbur

    My last order of chicken at the Gallery Place Nando's (where I was jburka's dining companion) certainly exhibited sufficient spiciness. The medium-heat chicken, while certainly not as fiery as the hot sauce the Carman family sampled on their first visit, was sufficiently spicy to get my nose running. I have found spicing at the Dupont Circle location to be comparable.

  • Brian

    Hmmm, did you try going back to the SS location? Before you start blaming boring suburbia (which is really lazy, BTW) or forming conspiracy theories, perhaps you should give them more than one chance. Everyone has a bad day...maybe this particular location had one when you visited.

  • Jenesse

    Hot was definitely hot last night. Runny noses and make a fast dash to the cole slaw hot. We have both found that some nights we are more or less vulnerable to the heat. I can't explain why, but there have been nights (in various restaurants, not just Nando's) when the heat was hot but pleasant and other nights when the hot was hot but scorching.

  • Jason

    "Has Nando's decided to tone it down for the suburban families of Silver Spring"

    Yeah, they've toned it down for a five-block radius that includes a Pho restaurant brimming with Sriracha, a Jamaican restaurant that serves delicious jerk dishes, a Burmese restaurant full of sambal goodness, three Ethiopian restaurants with varying degrees of spiciness, multiple pollo a la brasa joints, an authentic Thai market, etc., etc.

    Those "suburban families of Silver Spring" just can't handle TEH SPICEE.

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  • Andrea

    I have not eaten at Nandos- I am a vegetarian but really, a dig at Silver Spring? What a sad little snob you must be. I had a pretty crappy meal at Ping Pong Dim Sum and thought Rasika was nothing special- is DC losing its touch with food?

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