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A Taste of Portugal at Tavira

13 Apr

Living in Bethesda, we have always passed Tavira while driving along Connecticut Avenue, but you wouldn’t know it’s there because of its unassuming location. Situated in the ground floor of an office building, we soon realized that it was a rather charming and intimate restaurant.

Thanks to (yeah, you guessed it) Groupon, it turned out to be a great venue to go out for dinner when Rachel’s parents were in town a few weeks ago. While the entrance is in the parking garage of the office building, don’t let its initial appearance deceive you. Once you step inside, you’re transported to the old country where painted murals adorn the walls with an interior design that looks like it has not changed since day one. Honestly, it was a nice change of pace from the modern interiors you see at the majority of restaurants these days.

Cod fritters

Turns out that Friday is live music night, so we were treated to a jazz quartet just inches from our table. Featuring Portuguese and Mediterranean cuisine, we started the evening off with Pasteis de Bacalhau, or salt-cod fritters. Delicately fried, this traditional dish had some nice consistency and plenty of flavor.

Stuffed ravioli

We also shared a plate of stuffed ravioli with ricotta cheese, which was served with a tomato cream sauce. While it’s not necessarily a Portuguese-themed appetizer, the pasta tasted like it was prepared in-house while the sauce was creamy yet not too heavy.

Veal marsala

For our entrees, I went with the veal marsala. Served with shitake mushrooms and a marsala wine sauce, the sautéed veal was tender and savory.

Pan-seared beef medallions

Rachel ordered the pan-seared beef medallions, which were served with mushrooms in a reduction of red wine sauce. For a place that doesn’t bill themselves as a steakhouse, these were some exceptional pieces of beef – just incredibly tender and flavorful. As per usual, I was eyeing her dish more than my own… not that mine wasn’t good, I just liked Rachel’s entrée better.

Upside-down apple tart

For dessert, the four of us split a warm upside-down apple tart which was accompanied with vanilla ice cream. Delightfully rich, it was a sweet ending to a very good dinner.

Tavira might not boast vaulted ceilings or funky typeface menus, but it was a warm and inviting atmosphere that had great food and attentive service. And while people occasionally tend to knock Groupon, we probably would not have tried this place otherwise. It’s a great spot for a romantic dinner or for family dining, and we’re so glad we finally had the opportunity to visit after driving past it countless times.

Tavira on Urbanspoon

Nando's Peri-Peri: Portuguese Flame-Grilled Chicken

10 Feb

While I certainly love all the lunch options I have by working in Bethesda, there are times when it’s good to mix it up. One of my former co-workers now works in Silver Spring, so a few of us decided to meet at Nando’s Peri-Peri in the downtown area.

The neighborhood is like their own version of Bethesda Row, with Lebanese Taverna, Potbelly’s, Panera Bread, and Macaroni Grill as options, just to name a few. I have always heard good things about Nando’s and have wanted to try their food, but since I don’t work in downtown DC, it’s obviously not that convenient for me. I didn’t even realize that there was a Silver Spring location until today, so I was excited to try it out.

At first glance, Nando’s looks like a typical Peruvian chicken joint, however, that is not the case. The food chain’s origins are in South Africa, where the original restaurant opened based on cooking flame-grilled chicken with a Peri-Peri spice taught to Portuguese settlers long ago by Africans in Mozambique.

Butternut Squash and Couscous Salad

Their grilled chicken is marinated for 24 hours in the Peri-Peri sauce, and then basted before serving with a sauce of your choosing based on the level of spiciness. You can get anything from a whole, half, or quarter chicken with sides, or choose between various sandwiches and salads.

For those of you who don’t love chicken, they also offer veggie burgers, a steak sandwich, and a portabella sandwich. You can also order any salad without the chicken.

I decided to get the butternut squash and couscous salad, with red onion, olives, grilled corn, and the famous chicken on a bed of greens. I choose the mild lemon and herb sauce, and then topped the salad with additional sauces at the table.

One unique feature to Nando’s is the sauces, which come in tall bottles with metal spouts that can be brought to your table. You can add as much spice and flavor to your dishes as you like. I mixed in some medium spicy sauce, garlic, and wild mushroom, and they all added a nice flavor to the salad.

Chicken Breast Wrap

While Nando’s is a fast casual chain, the staff was very friendly and greeted us at the door with menus and led us to a table. We ordered at the counter and the process seemed very smooth, until two of us got our order while our friend had to wait an additional 10 minutes for hers.

It was odd, since she ordered the same exact thing as my other friend – a grilled chicken wrap with yogurt sauce and two sides. When it finally arrived, the waiter explained that the macho peas side takes longer to prepare. In the end it was fine, but it is never fun to wait for someone’s dish while we all awkwardly look towards the kitchen.

I’m glad we discovered the Silver Spring location of Nando’s, and we will definitely be back soon. It’s a nice option for an easy meal that is also healthy and very satisfying.

Nando’s Peri-Peri is located at 924 Ellsworth Drive in downtown Silver Spring.

The store plans on opening two more locations in Bethesda and Gaithersburg, according to their website.

Nando's Peri-Peri on Urbanspoon