June 15, 2024


Food & Travel Enthusiast

Spice Kitchen restaurant evaluation: Fantastic Nigerian road foods

Slim strips of beef, dusted with a formidable West African spice blend, are scattered atop a waxy sheet of “The American Moments,” a fake newspaper whose motto is “All the News That Changes the Environment.” The slogan, an clear riff on the Gray Lady’s 19th-century retort to yellow journalism, looks custom made-manufactured for Olumide Shokunbi and Spice Kitchen area.

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Shokunbi acquired his stripes in the restaurant organization at Chipotle Mexican Grill, increasing to the amount of typical supervisor at a retail outlet in his native Bowie, Md. The chain still left its mark on him, not so a lot with its solution to customization but with its large-tent philosophy. Buyers at Spice Kitchen really don’t wander the line and accessorize their plates of steak or chicken suya. They do something maybe a lot more essential: They working experience West African flavors in a counter-support placing, a peaceful atmosphere that, by its style and design, is meant to relieve newcomers into a dish continue to largely international to American palates.

Spice Kitchen area is Nigerian avenue food by way of MiXt Meals Hall, an airy, open up room with huge home windows that flood the space with daylight, perfect for shining a light-weight on a single of West Africa’s beloved dishes.

The chef and owner’s objective is to alter “the way people today believe about African food stuff,” he tells me just one afternoon inside the foods hall, as he sips on a hibiscus lemonade spiked with ginger.

I would not wager towards him. Shokunbi has existence: He’s a tall, barrel-chested gentleman who has a hanging stillness to him, as if he absorbs all the information all over him but maintains his singular travel. At age 27, he currently runs two organizations — not only Spice Kitchen area, but a roofing and photo voltaic business, too — and he has significantly larger sized strategies to empower communities of color with investments in true estate.

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But suitable now, his objective is to bridge a cultural divide that he sees with West African foodstuff in The us: The mother-and-pop sites that specialize in the dishes of Senegal, Gambia, Ghana and other international locations are inclined to cater to their have communities. He wants to Chipotle-fy the cuisine. In other words and phrases, he would like to make a conscious trade-off: Sacrifice a small custom to introduce Nigerian suya to a considerably broader audience. “I want there to be far more obtain for everybody,” he claims.

In the identify of bridge-creating, Shokunbi gives me a swift education in suya. Rooster and beef are two of the dominant proteins among the Nigeria road vendors, who slice the meat skinny, thread it onto skewers, season the uncooked flesh with suya spice and then location the skewers over an open flame.

The moment you location an get, a seller will slide the smoky meats off just about every skewer chop and mix them up with crimson onions, cabbage, cucumbers and other veggies sprinkle the mix with more suya spice then wrap the total shebang in a solitary sheet of newspaper, the form thrown on the front porches of men and women who still appreciate newsprint. You eat this scrumptious pileup with toothpicks or your fingers.

“The saying is, ‘Yesterday’s newspaper is today’s suya,’” Shokunbi tells me. Which is why the founder of Spice Kitchen utilizes the meals-quality deli paper that resembles newsprint: It’s a nod to custom, even if his followers on TikTok can not usually tell the variance. They routinely give him grief about serving food on a sheet from yesterday’s paper. “Newspapers are soooo filthy use parchment paper or something food secure,” said one particular latest commenter, ending her misguided rant with a facepalm emoji.

It is just portion of the understanding approach. Another element? Comprehension the homes of suya spice, a blend often termed yaji among the Nigerians. Shokunbi imports his suya spice straight from the mother region but supplements and amplifies it with his individual insert-ins, none of which he’ll expose, not even below large questioning. The dude appreciates how to protect tricks.

But I did get a container of Shokunbi’s suya spice for 50 cents and tasted it on its possess: The mix is dependent on West African peanuts, or groundnuts, which are not as sweet as their American counterparts. But the combine also vibrates with cayenne and features the floral radiance of ginger. Still there is a deep, savory quality, too, which might be because of to the Maggi seasoning powder frequently extra to suya spice. One particular early morning at home, I scrambled some eggs with a healthful pinch of Shokunbi’s suya blend, and all I can say is damn.

The kitchen sprinkles its suya spice on beef, hen, shrimp and salmon, and just about every protein does a fantastic position of showcasing the lots of strata of the blend, save for the salmon. For reasons I really do not completely understand, the clear, buttery flavors of salmon appear to be to swallow up the spicier factors of the suya mix. If the fish is your most popular automobile for the spice, hold in thoughts that you’re having a muted encounter. Spice Kitchen serves its suya plates with a handful of sides. Whatever you do, really don’t overlook the whole-throated jollof rice or the efo riro, the latter a sort of spicy, spirited spinach stew.

As a native son of the DMV, Shokunbi has a severe appreciation for wings and mumbo sauce. He’s not making an attempt to re-produce the mixture at Spice Kitchen area. It is just too a lot of a conceptual extend. But Shokunbi is placing a West African spin on wings, which he deep-fries, coats in a warm-honey sauce and then sprinkles with suya spice. Individually, I consider Shokunbi could make a killing specializing in these suya wings at a several corner carryouts.

As you may expect, Shokunbi has grand patterns for Spice Kitchen’s long run. If he should triumph in his mission, Shokunbi would in truth modify the globe in his very own targeted way, just as undoubtedly as Chipotle redefined Mexican fare for a technology developed for speed and customization. Correct now, those people ideas are just goals, although I should confess that, as I devour a person strip of beef suya soon after another, Spice Kitchen currently modified just one planet: mine. I’ve develop into a normal.

3809 Rhode Island Ave., inside of MiXt Food stuff Corridor in Brentwood, Md. 202-280-1491 spicekitchengrill.com.

Hours: 12:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday 12:30 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday 1 to 8 p.m. Sunday.

Charges: From 50 cents to $22 for all goods on the menu.