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?