Disclaimer: This meal was comped.
Much has been written about Montreal's relationship with chicken, rotisserie chicken and Portuguese chicken in particular. The latter comes in two forms: roasted on a spit or charcoal-grilled spatchcock style. Add a brushing of spicy peri-peri (often stylized as "piri-piri"), and you end up with one addictive dish!
Derived from "pilipili" ("pepper" in Swahili), the malagueta pepper was originally produced by Portuguese colonists in their former African territories. Later it made its way to the nation's motherland and spread from there until it became synonymous with Portuguese cuisine.
One Montreal-area fast-casual venture has been slowly invading the city under the Piri Piri monicker. This chicken empire went from one location in 2012 to nine, with the latest addition landing in Marché Central a mere two weeks ago.
Having accepted an invitation to try it out on a Monday at noon, I was expecting a slow start for the spanking-new franchise; but was surprised to see a long lineup of hungry patrons queued up all the way to the restaurant's front door. Obviously the strip-mall setting with its ample parking space make this a convenient pre/post-shopping destination.
Piri Piri occupies a standalone spot in Marché Central, and is surrounded by picnic tables under umbrellas on two of its sides. Inside, the décor is minimal and muted, with some color and nuance added via navy-blue walls and mosaic patterns on part of the floors and tables.
If I could modify one element, I would ask for stronger ventilation. At one point, the whole place was engulfed in smoke from the charcoal grill. You would not be able to hide your whereabouts from your dog after; the odor on your clothes would give you away in a second!
tagged: BLOCK YOUR NOSE
Piri Piri obviously suggests a menu revolving mostly around its chicken – which is halal – along with a few unappealing vegetarian options – because one must in this day and age. White and red cuts of their bird meat can be ordered in plate format, in a traditional Portuguese sandwich between two slices of a papo seco bun, on a poutine or a salad.
Most of these orders can be complemented with potatoes, fries, rice or coleslaw on the side. For a sweet finale, pastel de nata and flan are sitting behind the counter and waiting. Newer additions to the menu are a Piri wrap and a Piri bowl, which we agreed to try as part of the invitation today.
White slices of chicken and diced veggies are held together with aioli and packed into an ordinary tortilla. The latter was pressed to produce a nice crisp, but overall the wrap is just plain and simple. It certainly improved by dipping into a saucerful of the house Piri Piri sauce, which is bottled and sold separately.
Bowls are all the rage today, because – you know – all-in-one! They can be boring and repetitive, but I did enjoy the one here. A base of rice, quinoa or lettuce supports scoops of corn, beans, carrots, peppers, onions and tomatoes. Add chicken strips and top with more of that hot sauce for a surefire pleaser.
For a franchise labelling itself as "fresh, generous and affordable", Piri Piri delivers with a tasty and filling proposition with good bang for the buck. Would I choose it over more iconic and long-lasting institutions such as Romados, Jano and Coco Rico, or newer foodie darlings such as Campo or Le G.O.A.T. Grill? Definitely not.
However, if I found myself shopping in the area, I would not think twice before dropping in for some of that spicy chargrilled taste. This banner's rapid expansion is a clear reminder that Montreal loves its chicken.
Montreal restaurant and bar reviews brought to you by two regular guys who like to eat and drink. We will go anywhere and we will say it like it is.