Slender strips of beef, dusted with a formidable West African spice mix, are scattered atop a waxy sheet of “The American Periods,” a faux newspaper whose motto is “All the Information That Modifications the Environment.” The slogan, an evident riff on the Grey Lady’s 19th-century retort to yellow journalism, looks tailor made-designed for Olumide Shokunbi and Spice Kitchen area.
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Shokunbi acquired his stripes in the restaurant organization at Chipotle Mexican Grill, soaring to the level of general supervisor at a shop in his native Bowie, Md. The chain still left its mark on him, not so considerably with its method to customization but with its big-tent philosophy. Prospects at Spice Kitchen really do not wander the line and accessorize their plates of steak or hen suya. They do a thing maybe extra vital: They knowledge West African flavors in a counter-provider setting, a relaxed ambiance that, by its structure, is intended to ease newcomers into a dish still mainly foreign to American palates.
Spice Kitchen area is Nigerian street food items by way of MiXt Food Hall, an ethereal, open up house with significant home windows that flood the area with sunlight, great for shining a light-weight on a person of West Africa’s beloved dishes.
The chef and owner’s objective is to modify “the way people believe about African meals,” he tells me just one afternoon within the foodstuff hall, as he sips on a hibiscus lemonade spiked with ginger.
I would not guess against him. Shokunbi has presence: He’s a tall, barrel-chested gentleman who has a striking stillness to him, as if he absorbs all the information around him but maintains his singular drive. At age 27, he presently operates two corporations — not only Spice Kitchen area, but a roofing and solar company, far too — and he has a lot larger plans to empower communities of shade with investments in true estate.
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But proper now, his goal is to bridge a cultural divide that he sees with West African foodstuff in The united states: The mom-and-pop destinations that focus in the dishes of Senegal, Gambia, Ghana and other nations around the world are likely to cater to their own communities. He would like to Chipotle-fy the delicacies. In other phrases, he desires to make a aware trade-off: Sacrifice a small custom to introduce Nigerian suya to a a lot broader viewers. “I want there to be far more entry for every person,” he says.
In the name of bridge-making, Shokunbi gives me a speedy schooling in suya. Hen and beef are two of the dominant proteins among Nigeria street sellers, who slice the meat thin, thread it onto skewers, season the raw flesh with suya spice and then area the skewers more than an open up flame.
The moment you spot an purchase, a seller will slide the smoky meats off just about every skewer chop and mix them up with pink onions, cabbage, cucumbers and other veggies sprinkle the mix with extra suya spice then wrap the complete shebang in a one sheet of newspaper, the variety thrown on the front porches of individuals who nonetheless enjoy newsprint. You consume this delicious pileup with toothpicks or your fingers.
“The stating is, ‘Yesterday’s newspaper is today’s suya,’” Shokunbi tells me. Which is why the founder of Spice Kitchen makes use of the meals-grade deli paper that resembles newsprint: It is a nod to custom, even if his followers on TikTok can not often notify the variance. They routinely give him grief about serving meals on a sheet from yesterday’s paper. “Newspapers are soooo filthy use parchment paper or one thing foodstuff protected,” reported 1 modern commenter, ending her misguided rant with a facepalm emoji.
It is just aspect of the understanding procedure. An additional section? Being familiar with the houses of suya spice, a blend frequently termed yaji among the Nigerians. Shokunbi imports his suya spice specifically from the mom place but health supplements and amplifies it with his personal insert-ins, none of which he’ll reveal, not even beneath large questioning. The male knows how to protect insider secrets.
But I did acquire a container of Shokunbi’s suya spice for 50 cents and tasted it on its have: The blend is primarily based on West African peanuts, or groundnuts, which are not as sweet as their American counterparts. But the mix also vibrates with cayenne and features the floral radiance of ginger. But there is a deep, savory good quality, much too, which might be thanks to the Maggi seasoning powder usually included to suya spice. 1 early morning at dwelling, I scrambled some eggs with a balanced pinch of Shokunbi’s suya mix, and all I can say is damn.
The kitchen area sprinkles its suya spice on beef, rooster, shrimp and salmon, and each protein does a fantastic career of showcasing the lots of strata of the blend, help save for the salmon. For causes I really don’t completely understand, the clear, buttery flavors of salmon feel to swallow up the spicier things of the suya mix. If the fish is your most popular vehicle for the spice, preserve in intellect that you’re getting a muted practical experience. Spice Kitchen area serves its suya plates with a handful of sides. Whatsoever you do, really don’t pass up the whole-throated jollof rice or the efo riro, the latter a kind of spicy, spirited spinach stew.
As a native son of the DMV, Shokunbi has a critical appreciation for wings and mumbo sauce. He’s not attempting to re-create the mix at Spice Kitchen. It’s just too much of a conceptual stretch. But Shokunbi is placing a West African spin on wings, which he deep-fries, coats in a incredibly hot-honey sauce and then sprinkles with suya spice. Personally, I feel Shokunbi could make a killing specializing in these suya wings at a number of corner carryouts.
As you may possibly anticipate, Shokunbi has grand designs for Spice Kitchen’s long term. If he need to triumph in his mission, Shokunbi would indeed change the environment in his very own qualified way, just as undoubtedly as Chipotle redefined Mexican fare for a generation constructed for velocity and customization. Ideal now, people designs are just goals, despite the fact that I will have to confess that, as I devour just one strip of beef suya immediately after another, Spice Kitchen area now adjusted one particular earth: mine. I’ve become a frequent.
3809 Rhode Island Ave., inside MiXt Foodstuff Corridor 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.
Costs: From 50 cents to $22 for all objects on the menu.