Spice Kitchen restaurant review: Superb Nigerian street food

Spice Kitchen restaurant review: Superb Nigerian street food

Slim strips of beef, dusted with a formidable West African spice blend, are scattered atop a waxy sheet of “The American Times,” a faux newspaper whose motto is “All the Information That Variations the World.” The slogan, an obvious riff on the Grey Lady’s 19th-century retort to yellow journalism, appears to be custom made-produced for Olumide Shokunbi and Spice Kitchen.

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Shokunbi acquired his stripes in the restaurant company at Chipotle Mexican Grill, rising to the amount of general supervisor at a retail outlet in his indigenous Bowie, Md. The chain left its mark on him, not so considerably with its strategy to customization but with its huge-tent philosophy. Buyers at Spice Kitchen area don’t stroll the line and decorate their plates of steak or rooster suya. They do something most likely far more critical: They expertise West African flavors in a counter-assistance location, a calm atmosphere that, by its structure, is meant to ease newcomers into a dish nonetheless mostly foreign to American palates.

Spice Kitchen area is Nigerian street foodstuff by way of MiXt Foodstuff Corridor, an ethereal, open up house with massive windows that flood the space with sunlight, excellent for shining a mild on one particular of West Africa’s beloved dishes.

The chef and owner’s purpose is to modify “the way men and women think about African food items,” he tells me a person afternoon within the food corridor, as he sips on a hibiscus lemonade spiked with ginger.

I would not bet from him. Shokunbi has presence: He’s a tall, barrel-chested man who has a hanging stillness to him, as if he absorbs all the information and facts close to him but maintains his singular generate. At age 27, he currently runs two companies — not only Spice Kitchen area, but a roofing and solar organization, much too — and he has a great deal bigger ideas to empower communities of shade with investments in actual estate.

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But proper now, his objective is to bridge a cultural divide that he sees with West African food in The united states: The mother-and-pop sites that specialize in the dishes of Senegal, Gambia, Ghana and other international locations are likely to cater to their very own communities. He needs to Chipotle-fy the cuisine. In other words and phrases, he needs to make a acutely aware trade-off: Sacrifice a minor tradition to introduce Nigerian suya to a significantly wider viewers. “I want there to be additional obtain for every person,” he claims.

In the identify of bridge-making, Shokunbi provides me a fast schooling in suya. Rooster and beef are two of the dominant proteins amid Nigeria avenue sellers, who slice the meat thin, thread it onto skewers, year the uncooked flesh with suya spice and then area the skewers over an open up flame.

When you put an order, a seller will slide the smoky meats off each and every skewer chop and blend them up with red onions, cabbage, cucumbers and other veggies sprinkle the combination with additional suya spice then wrap the entire shebang in a one sheet of newspaper, the form thrown on the entrance porches of men and women who nonetheless appreciate newsprint. You take in this tasty pileup with toothpicks or your fingers.

“The expressing is, ‘Yesterday’s newspaper is today’s suya,’” Shokunbi tells me. Which is why the founder of Spice Kitchen works by using the food stuff-quality deli paper that resembles newsprint: It’s a nod to tradition, even if his followers on TikTok simply cannot frequently explain to the variation. They routinely give him grief about serving food stuff on a sheet from yesterday’s paper. “Newspapers are soooo dirty use parchment paper or some thing foods secure,” explained a person new commenter, ending her misguided rant with a facepalm emoji.

It’s just element of the mastering method. A further component? Understanding the properties of suya spice, a blend typically known as yaji amid Nigerians. Shokunbi imports his suya spice straight from the mother country but health supplements and amplifies it with his individual increase-ins, none of which he’ll expose, not even less than hefty questioning. The dude knows how to shield techniques.

But I did invest in a container of Shokunbi’s suya spice for 50 cents and tasted it on its have: The mix is primarily based on West African peanuts, or groundnuts, which are not as sweet as their American counterparts. But the combine also vibrates with cayenne and offers the floral radiance of ginger. Still there is a deep, savory good quality, as well, which may possibly be due to the Maggi seasoning powder typically added to suya spice. A person morning at dwelling, I scrambled some eggs with a balanced pinch of Shokunbi’s suya blend, and all I can say is damn.

The kitchen area sprinkles its suya spice on beef, rooster, shrimp and salmon, and each individual protein does a exceptional task of showcasing the a lot of strata of the mix, help save for the salmon. For explanations I never completely have an understanding of, the cleanse, buttery flavors of salmon look to swallow up the spicier things of the suya blend. If the fish is your preferred auto for the spice, continue to keep in brain that you’re finding a muted practical experience. Spice Kitchen area serves its suya plates with a handful of sides. Whatever you do, don’t skip the total-throated jollof rice or the efo riro, the latter a form of spicy, spirited spinach stew.

As a native son of the DMV, Shokunbi has a really serious appreciation for wings and mumbo sauce. He’s not trying to re-build the mixture at Spice Kitchen. It’s just way too a great deal of a conceptual stretch. But Shokunbi is putting a West African spin on wings, which he deep-fries, coats in a scorching-honey sauce and then sprinkles with suya spice. Individually, I feel Shokunbi could make a killing specializing in these suya wings at a handful of corner carryouts.

As you might hope, Shokunbi has grand patterns for Spice Kitchen’s upcoming. If he really should triumph in his mission, Shokunbi would without a doubt modify the world in his personal targeted way, just as certainly as Chipotle redefined Mexican fare for a generation designed for velocity and customization. Proper now, those strategies are just desires, although I will have to confess that, as I devour one strip of beef suya following an additional, Spice Kitchen by now transformed just one earth: mine. I have develop into a normal.

3809 Rhode Island Ave., within MiXt Food Hall in Brentwood, Md. 202-280-1491 spicekitchengrill.com.

Several 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.

Rates: From 50 cents to $22 for all products on the menu.