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The Suya Spot at 1104 Somerset West

The Suya Spot: Hintonburg gets a taste of Nigerian BBQ

By Alejandro Bustos on October 9, 2012

Hintonburg is quickly becoming one of the best – if not the best – neighbourhoods in Ottawa for trying delicious cuisine. With a wide range of restaurants offering numerous tasty dishes, this area just west of downtown is developing into a foodie’s paradise.

The newest food establishment in Hintonburg is set to join this illustrious group of eateries by offering up appetizing servings of Nigerian-style barbequed meat.

Operating at the former location of the Indian Express takeout, The Suya Spot at 1104 Somerset West offers customers several meat dishes that are very good.

“Suya is an African grill, it’s like an African barbeque ” explains Koele Khutlang, co-owner of the restaurant that opened on August 31. “Suya is served everywhere in Nigeria. It’s served on the street.”

Khutlang adds that other African countries have similar barbeque concepts, although the word suya comes from northern Nigeria.

According to Nigerian tradition, the meat must be marinated for a minimum of six hours with peanuts, hot peppers and seasoning. The Suya Spot, however, lets their meat soak overnight.

“If you do it overnight [the seasonings] actually goes into the meat,” Khutlang tells me. “You can taste the difference.”

That being said, if you have a peanut allergy you are well-advised to stay away. As well, if you are a vegetarian, the only non-meat dish on the menu is fried plantains.

For meat lovers, however, this place is a sheer delight as customers can choose between chicken, goat, gizzard and beef suyas. For the adventurous, the mixed suya offers an assortment of meats including offal, kidney, liver, tripe, goat and gizzard tail. All meat dishes are $10 for a small plate or $20 for a large.

I arrived for dinner on a Sunday night and ordered a small beef suya with a plate of fried plantains ($5). As someone who has been eating plantains all my life – my family lived in Venezuela when I was a small boy – I was blown away by how good they were.

One of the challenges of frying plantains for dinner is to maintain the fruit’s sweetness while making sure that it doesn’t clash with any salty dishes. To my delight, this balance was done perfectly as the sweet flavour of the plantains blended in with my meat dish.

The beef suya was also quite good. What I particularly liked was the separate slices of onions, tomatoes and spicy dip on my plate. For those who don’t like spice – or onions and tomatoes – you can ignore the accompaniments and eat the meat by itself. Alternatively, you can dip the meat in the spicy seasoning or combine it with the tomatoes and onions if you wish.

The only thing I did not like was the Tiger Malt drink that I ordered, which tasted like a strong molasses root beer. Blaming the chef for a bottled drink, however, is a bit gauche as The Suya Spot did not make it! Nevertheless, next time I will order the palm juice instead.

With an order of plantains, small beef suya (which was actually quite large), Tiger Malt and a diet coke my bill came to exactly $20, which is very reasonable.

The Somerset location is the first franchise of the original Suya Spot in Toronto. At the moment, the Ottawa site is operating as a takeout place, given its small space. Without a public washroom, it does not offer liquor nor is it equipped for dining (the two small tables and four bar stools are meant for customers who are waiting for an order).

Khutlang tells me, however, that he and his partner Reynolds Okoh want to open another location within the next year in the Merivale Mall or St. Laurent area.“We want to open a new location in Ottawa, a bigger location, a sitting location,” he says. “A place where people can play pool.”

A new spot in Ottawa will allow customers to dine onsite, as well as buy alcohol. Furthermore, in the future, the two partners would like to expand to Montreal where there is no Suya, says Khutlang.

Until then, with its opening hours of Monday-Thursday (1pm – 10pm), Friday-Saturday (1pm – 1am), Sunday (3pm-10pm), the restaurant does not cater to the early lunch crowd. However, its late closing time makes it ideal for dinner or a late bite after an evening out.