On a Tuesday evening in December, Avenue L through Canarsie can seem like a sleepy upstate town with hardly any foot or vehicle traffic. Many shops have closed, but the light is on at Honey Bee's, the newest Nigerian in town. The green and white vertical stripes of the flag are backlit in the window, and Ms. Bee herself is seated at one of the tables watching Nigerian soap operas.
Behind her is a big shiny mural of Africa, and the logo of the place, a stern looking honey bee chef. She is all smiles though, and hops up eager to please. Having a limited vocabulary of Nigerian cuisine, solely based on a few spots around town and in New Jersey, we asked questions and sought advice. Everything on the menu was available, somewhat strangely for a West African restaurant, I thought.
She guided us through the things we did not know, and was careful to point out the intensity of spice levels used in Nigerian cooking. We settled on "Not crazy but still spicy" as our heat level, and ordered the spicy fried chicken ($5, below) to start. The chicken seems to have been fried in the sauce, which is also applied to the top after cooking. Our mouths resisted and suggested she had a different definition of crazy than we did.
Also fried, were the various components of the dun dun ($15, below), sliced yams with your choice of meat. We chose goat, which came in three pieces from three different parts of the animal. A very similar, if not the same pepper-tomato-onion sauce was used with this dish as well.
We both had the impression that these meats may have been fried one time too many, possibly cooked earlier in preparation for lunch and not used.
Our last dish was the fish pepper soup ($10, below), a whole tilapia served over broth, which we were warned would take 15 minutes. Not in a rush, we were not worried and happily agreed. The fish that came to us may have needed an extra few minutes of cooking though, so we had it packed to go so we could eat it later instead of having the awkward conversation about undercooked meat.
The pepper soup itself was bold, smoky, and incredibly spicy as advertised. I like to order the famous goat pepper soup at Nigerian restaurants, and was excited to see a new version.
In summer, try the Chapman ($3, not pictured) a thoroughly Nigerian drink made up of randomness. If you were like me when you were 10 years old, an all-you-can-drink soda fountain was an excuse to make cups full of every soda on offer. This is basically the premise of a Chapman, which combines Sprite and Fanta, with a dash of Grenadine and bitters, and sometimes orange juice and limes.
Next time we return to Honey Bee's Kitchen, we will do it for lunch and see if the kitchen is more in full swing, and make sure it is in summer to get a sugar rush from Chapmans.