Thursday, May 3, 2012

Suya Heats Up Berkeley Restaurant Row

By Emma Krasov, photography by Yuri Krasov

Suya African-Caribbean Grill is a new kid on the “restaurant block” in Berkeley, and it makes itself known by bold tastes of its simply (and healthily) prepared West African and Caribbean specialties.
Emulating the street-food favorites that made their way from Nigeria, Cameroun, and Niger to the islands of Jamaica, Dominica, and Grenada, the small yet endlessly appealing eatery caters to the sophisticated Berkeley clientele – people who know their food and wouldn’t take a fake even for quick take-out.
Located nearby UC Berkeley campus, Suya is equally appreciated by the Cal student body and faculty; by the many regular patrons from the surrounding offices; and even by some out-of-towners who would gladly indulge in the authentic, flavorful, memorable delicacies put up by the skilled chefs.
Without any exaggeration, a meal at Suya is a spice-and-heat event.
Following traditional West-African recipes, fish, meat, and vegetables are first marinated in a blend of spices – groundnuts, cayenne, ginger, paprika, onions – and then grilled over open fire to juicy perfection. 
The Caribbean aspect kick-in with the Jerk seasoning – allspice, Scotch bonnet peppers, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, thyme, garlic, scallions – and brings a layman’s understanding of hot and spicy to a whole new level.
The everyday eat-in and take-out menu is satisfactory diverse, yet simple and seriously affordable. Grilled tilapia and skewers of beef, chicken, or assorted veggies come with a side of grilled plantains (yum), corn (never to be missed), roasted potatoes, or sweet potato chips. No matter what entrée or side you choose – it’s as fresh as can be, spiced to your specifications, and obviously prepared with love.       
Every meal includes flatbread, some row onion rings, and aioli or additional Suya spice on a side. I wish it were served real street-food style on a newspaper, as is customary in the countries of its origin, but the cleanliness of the place would not allow for this little deviation from the sanitary code.
A good accompaniment to the spicy food is Suya’s own fruit punch Chapman made with cranberries and cucumbers for ultimate coolness.
The place is geared toward take-out, but it’s such a pleasure to eat right here, by the tiny open kitchen, in a mint-green colored room with a floor-to-ceiling window, or on a sidewalk outside, that the owners are considering adding more seats to their current table for 4 and a couple of bar-stool tables for 2. Eating in or taking out, Suya’s experience is bound to be hot.   
Suya African-Caribbean Grill is located at
2130 Oxford Street, Berkeley
. Open Monday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. For more information and orders call (510) 981-8028 or visit
www.suyaafricangrill.com.

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