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Jun 6, 2007 11:04 AM

New Restaurant Brief: Nandos and La Pachanga (Calgary)

Super busy with work, but wanted to pass on 2 decent experiences i had recently.

1. Nando's Chicken - i first had this chain in South Africa, when a friend of mine there on exchange took me there, but im not sure of their origins. They serve Portugese Peri Peri Chicken. Flame grilled, this stuff is tender, juicy, flavourful. Someone mentioned to me that they'd finally opened a location in Calgary (they've been in the lower mainland for quite some time now), so i drove around in the wrong part of town looking for where it was supposed to be. Didnt find it! Finally decided to get with the 1990's and googled it. It's located on 32 Avenue and 33rd Street NE, by the Sobey's on the southside of 32nd ave.

Shared a whole chicken, with peri peri fries, baked potato, and peri-rice. The chicken was as good as i remember it being, with both hot and garlic peri sauce on each table. The fries were very average, as the "peri" was really just a sprinkle of seasoning salt with some cayenne. The baked potato was average too, with too much sour cream. The peri rice was quite good, and the only accompaiment i enjoyed.

It's in the old Pizza Hut location. Inside is a "fancy" fast food atmoshphere... some nice banquettes, decent fixtures, quite comfortable. Not quite as trendy as Tommy Burger, but close. A HUGE improvement over Swiss Chalet. It's not cheap, but it's reasonably priced and very good.

2. La Pachanga

There's a spanish restaurant place on 12th avenue between 9th and 8th street SW. It used to be some non-descrip bar. Opened up 3 weeks ago. It's a HUGE location, but they've converted a 3rd of it into a dance floor. They had tango dancing on last night, with free lessons. Apparently there are salsa lessons on thursday for $10, and Mariachi bands on the weekends. One of the staff got up and played a couple songs. Based on the number of ladies sitting around waiting to dance last night, have to say that it's a popular thing :) My understanding is that dancing is always on, so if you want food and dancing, it's not a bad option.

The decor is actually pretty nice - predominant RED theme, but comfortable chairs and tables. The service was insanely slow. This was last night (flood night), so the restaurant was pretty quiet (5 or 6 tables filled), but the waitress still took forever to get to us, to come back to take our order, bring the bill, take the CC, etc... Hate to see how it is when it's busy. Im guessing it's just one of those places that take a lot of time (like Mimo's).

The prices, at first glance, are EXPENSIVE. Tapas dishes are 9-18. A Mohito was 10 bucks! However, in their extensive menu, there were some reasonable dishes. We split a Paella for one, which was $25. Not the cheapest, but it was a good size serving for one, and the seafood wasnt overcooked. A nice chorizo as well. This wasnt the best Paella i've ever had (only a bit of char, a bit too mushy), but it was decent. Had the shrimp and scallop ceviche, which was ok as well. Came with two lime wedges - tried without it, and there wasnt any citrus flavour. Since the seafood in ceviche is supposed to have it's proteins denatured by citrus juice (typically lime), im not sure how this was a real ceviche!?!? However, once the fresh lime was squeezed in, it tasted ok. It was $16 for a large margarita glass, and came with fresh tortillas and plantain chips.

Lastly, to fill us up, we ordered a big plate of nachos (16.5 and 18). These were big, well cheesed, and came with 4 sides - guac, sourcream, and 2 salsas. It was quite good, but at that price, i guess i expected a bit more.

Anyway, i think i may have had a bit of sticker shock from many of the prices. The meal ended up being 72 bucks for 2 people, and we were stuffed, so it wasnt a terrible deal. I guess i was either hoping for lower prices, or better execution. But it might be worth trying out for others out there - especially if you like Latin dancing.

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  1. We went to Nando's on the way back from the airport (conclusion of my trip to Portland) and for the 2-person combo with what seemed to be a whole chicken, wings, kabobs, and for sides we had the peri fries and cole slaw.

    We ordered the chicken "hot" and be warned- hot is HOT, but really delicious, in fact I'd say this was the best "barbecue" I've had in Canada. We were wondering if they brined the chickens or something because even the white meat was moist. Wings were excellent; the kabobs are dry, wouldn't order them again. Fries- okay fries but that sprinkle makes them taste like they've been fried in oil that's gone off. We'll try the rice next time. Cole slaw was fine. Huge serving for 2 is less than $30 in a very pleasant environment- owner is looking for more locations in Calgary. I'd say this is a winner.

    1. Thanks for the La Pachanga review. I was curious about it since I saw the renovations were finished.

      2 Replies
      1. re: alau2

        Didn't John Gilchrist comment on La Pachanga on his weekly restaurant review on Fridays? Name sounded familiar..

        1. re: taiphun

          yep, 7.5/10, which is par for the course when he reviews new places. Fast Forward gave it a pretty positive review a few weeks ago.

      2. I THINK it may be spelled La Pachenga which only matters if you're looking it up.

        I know someone who knows someone who works there and they thought it hadn't been reviewed on Chowhounds because they were looking for the other spelling. I passed on your review.

        4 Replies
          1. re: John Manzo

            Ah, well, my daughter didn't inherit my spelling ability.

            Would this be the right time to rub everyone's nose in the fact that I just had a lobster roll at the Pearl Oyster Bar in Manhattan?

              1. re: John Manzo

                It was excellent, A buttery roll loaded with perfectly cooked lobster and just the righ amount of mayo.

        1. I have to admit that Nandos was my take out place when I lived in London. It's a bit of an institution there and I've found that the Peri Peri sauce really does a wonder for your sinuses if you have a cold!

          It's fantastic I just need a really good reason to get up to the north before I make the effort.

          1. Hy guys! According to the Latin American Portal in Calgary "Hola Calgary" the Restaurant La Pachanga is now closed...for good.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Latino

              not surprised. What they were dishing up at taste of cgy was terrible and their menu seemed ridiculously pricey.

              1. re: John Manzo

                Just back from a trip to Tofino, Victoria, Kamloops and Jasper and decided to stroll through some "threads" that were posted while we were away.

                I spied a Nandos while en route to our hotel in Victoria, on Pandora at the corner of Government I think.

                Agree with the comments above. Excellent flame cooked chicken. I opted for the "hot" and yes, it packs some punch. I am hoping they expand to Edmonton.

                To then my barbeque with liberal lashings of their "hot" or "extra hot" sauce will suffice.