I’ve been to several restaurants specializing in grilled fare ever since I was a child. There’s the old Kenny Rogers Roasters when it still had décor of the eponymous country singer in its outlets. There’s also Racks, a homegrown chain known for its baby back ribs. Lastly, there’s also Peri-Peri Charcoal Chicken & Sauce Bar – a recent player – which is famous for its chicken and the sauces that accompany it.
Peri-Peri is a concept restaurant from the Philippine company responsible for bringing pizza joint Shakey’s to the country. It takes its name from the piri-piri chili, a cultivar of the Capsicum frutescens chili that is widely grown in the former Portuguese territories in South Africa.
The restaurant’s dishes are reminiscent of South African chicken joint Nando’s, which I was able to dine at during my 2017 trip to Singapore. It had a branch at Changi Airport Terminal 2, where I had my pre-flight dinner – which is now closed.
Peri-Peri has several branches around Manila, and its Eastwood Mall location was conveniently situated just walking distance from my former workplace. Thus, it became a choice for lunch whenever my salary arrived. I would usually order the Chicken and Rib Plate as it already had two mains, two sides, and rice to boot. I featured that dish from Peri-Peri in a 2019 cube as part of dishes that I spent a portion of the previous year’s Christmas bonus on.
It was only three years after that post that I managed to return to Peri-Peri – but under new circumstances. We decided to have dinner here in early December 2021 since me, Dad and my younger brother were already fully vaccinated. We checked out Peri-Peri‘s location at Brittany Square, a commercial center just outside of an exclusive subdivision a short drive from where I live.
I’ll stop here with the introductions and proceed with the food.
We ordered the Sweet BBQ Chargrilled Chicken Bundle for this dinner. It consisted of roasted chicken with a sweet honey-soy glaze, home-style Java rice, four side dishes, and a liter of either house blend iced tea or the signature limeade. In addition to the bundle, we also ordered Salted Egg Chicken Skin and four pieces of the Peri Natas.
True to its name, the grilled chicken has a sweet barbecue taste with hints of soy and honey. Despite the cooking process often drying this out, the chicken was tender and moist. The much-prized chicken skin was tasty and crispy, acquiring the marinade’s flavors. It came with two lime wedges that were supposed to be squeezed onto the chicken, but we opted not to do so.
It came with home-style Java rice good for about four people – but it more than sufficed for the three of us. The rice is reminiscent of the Indonesian nasi kunyit that uses turmeric, but adds annatto oil – resulting in a bright orange color. First introduced by the legendary Filipino restaurant Aristocrat, it has become a mainstay in Filipino cuisine. Peri-Peri‘s version matches with the original, with less oil to boot.
The bundle came with three side dishes, respectively – baby potatoes in barbecue sauce, buttered corn on the cob, coleslaw, and mixed vegetables. Of the four, I was only able to taste the baby potatoes and mixed vegetables. The latter consisted of bell peppers, baby potatoes, broccoli, and white onion. But aside from these, separate side dishes can be also ordered ala carte.
We also ordered a regular size of Peri Peri‘s Salted Egg Crispy Chicken Skin. Traditionally, chicken skin is coated in flour and deep-fried until crispy. This version takes it up a notch by coating it with salted egg powder and chopped parsley. The salted egg powder’s slight sweetness cut through the explosive umami of the fried chicken skin. While it came with a vinegar dip, I didn’t bother dipping it in as I preferred it that way. Believe me when I tell you that this dish is a must-try!
Of course, a trip to Peri-Peri is not complete without trying its signature sauces. Diners get three sauces by default: Harissa Exotica, Cajun Remoulade, and Hoisin Sesame. I found that the chicken we ordered jived well with the Hoisin Sesame. It also happened to be the mildest among the standard sauces, with the remoulade being spicier. The Harissa Exotica sauce, which uses Moroccan harissa spices and chilies, fits the palates of those preferring a kick.
Peri-Peri‘s Limeade washed everything down. The restaurant’s take on the traditional lemonade is noteworthy as the more acidic lime cleansed the palate. While sweet, it wasn’t cloying unlike more traditional takes. The joint may have used honey to sweeten the drink, given that I didn’t experience an itchy throat whilst drinking it.
We finished off the meal with a four-piece order of the Peri Natas. This new menu item is Peri-Peri‘s take on the traditional pasteis de nata (egg tarts) from Portugal. Interestingly, these tarts are also popular in areas formerly under Portuguese control such as Brazil, Macau, East Timor, and Mozambique. I had a high expectation of this confection, given that I already tried Lord Stow’s – which is considered a benchmark of superior egg tarts.
Unfortunately, Peri-Peri’s take came short. While the sweetness was just right, I found it rather dry. If anything, it reminded me of a Hong Kong-style egg tart. The pastel had a more cooked filling that evoked a baked omelet instead of a custard-y texture similar to crème caramel. Outside of that, the puff pastry was rather sturdy – which matched that of its more expensive counterpart.
I hope to return to Peri-Peri when things get better, despite the presence of the “mutant” B11529 omicron variant which purportedly causes milder illness than earlier strains. Nevertheless, we just have to learn to live with COVID – similar to what Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.
Until the next review, bon appetit!
Peri-Peri Charcoal Chicken & Sauce Bar
G/F Brittany Square Building
Belfast Ave. cor. Mindanao Avenue
Brgy. Pasong Putik, Quezon City 1118