Churrasqueira Kinay (Porto, Portugal)

Well, I’ve talked about most of Porto’s distinctive food and drink: the port wine, the ubiquitous Francesinha, the sande de pernil, and the tripe. But that leaves at least one distinctive treat that’s readily apparent throughout Porto and much of Portugal, and that’s their love of going to a local churrasqueira and getting some “grelhado” action (grilling). There are dozens of nice cafés throughout Porto offering a selection of grilled steaks, chicken, turkey, and fish, usually featuring a large grill in the window. On our last night in Porto, we were unable to resist the wonderful smells coming from the ground floor of our Airbnb’s building, so with that, we decided to try out Churrasqueira Kinay for some Frango Piri Piri (grilled chicken with hot pepper sauce).

Frango Piri Piri is one of those dishes where the culinary history of the dish is just an amazing story of exploration and cultural adaptation; the name and concept of the “churrasqueira” hails from Portugal’s former colony of Brazil, while the name “piri piri” comes from the Swahili name for birds eye hot peppers (which, in turn, are themselves an import from the New World), so you’ve got this wonderful combination of Old and New World concepts. And served up with a veritable mountain of French fries, it’s both a flavorful and cost effective option for dining.

True to form, walking into Kinay, the main attraction is the gigantic charcoal grill filling the front restaurant window; indeed, we originally stopped by to check out Kinay’s menu after seeing the impressive array of spatchcocked chickens spread on the grill one day at lunchtime. Sitting down in one of their interior café seating and getting an affordable but pleasant bottle of Portuguese Touriga Nacional wine, while the beef, pork, and fish options on the menu all looked delectable, we ended up going with what we had originally spotted: frango piri piri (grilled piri piri chicken), with some sides of salad and mixed veggies (a blend of carrots, onions, and cabbage; aside from kale we didn’t see a lot of green vegetables on our trip).

Kinay is pretty busy, so they’ve got an assembly line of chickens lined up on the grill, after ordering it took about fifteen minutes for our chicken to arrive, along with a gigantic pile of fries, a light salad, and our veggies. Having long been a fan of both piri piri chicken (hey, a guy can love Nando’s…) and it’s culinary close cousin, Peruvian chicken with aji amarillo, I’ll have to say, I was quite the fan of Kinay’s frango piri piri. Everything worked here: the outside of the chicken was crisped to perfection. The piri piri sauce was neither sparingly applied nor drenched, so the skin and exposed meat were nicely pepper tinged without overwhelming the actual chicken flavor. And the chicken itself both moist but smoky. Overall, a fine grilled chicken.

Add in a decent salad, veggies, and a mountain of well-executed fries (as a slight aside, most European places seem to have distinctly yellower fries than the US; I’m curious whether that’s an additive like dextrose, or just different potatoes), and Kinay was an most excellent, and affordable dinner. A single “full” main course was easily enough food for both of us, and the grilling effort was spot on perfect.

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