Zi’s Cafe is one of those places. Places which aren’t social media stars, places which are notable by their absence in the self-promotion stakes, but places which you hear praised and recommended far too often for that acclaim to be groundless. It shouldn’t have taken me this long to try it. Now next door to their former Woodville Road home- and with a shiny new ‘5’ in the window- let’s put that oversight right.
The decor at Zi’s is unremarkable: ‘functional’ would about cover it. But that’s not the point here, because it soon becomes clear it’s all about the food.
We ordered partly from the lunchtime deal menu (£6.99 for one of 32 mains with rice) and half from the full. The choices are in English and Chinese- a good sign, and testament to the numerous Chinese diners who typically fill these seats. There’s nothing particularly esoteric here, none of the stewed pig intestine or tripe or duck’s tongue on other Chinese menus*,
A Tsingtao (‘Ching- Dou‘, embarrassment-avoiding beer pronunciation fans) was the pick of the short beer list, although non-drinkers have plenty to choose from here, from bubble tea to matcha to root beer (huzzah!)
Chicken satay was plentiful- six lightly-battered skewers, no less, the peanut sauce mildly spiced, though I could have done with rather a lot more. A portion of chicken with ginger and spring onion was beautifully velveted, with that classic umami hit of the sauce. This was the lunchtime deal selection, £6.90 all in.
Duck- a thick, dark mixture of soy sauce, Chinese mushrooms, peppers and bamboo shoots- was excellent. The slices of breast come with a strip of fat still attached in a reminder of the Chinese nose to tail philosophy. It could be crisper, but it’s sliced thinly, so you don’t have lumps of the stuff to chew through.
‘These need something else’, said my wife over her steamed dumplings. (Steady…) The ‘something else’ was dash of the dip: julienned ginger and the mouth-puckeringly sharp notes of the soy sauce and Chinese vinegar mix were just the thing to play against the pallid, sticky casings and their mildly-flavoured minced pork fillings.
Zi’s is easily worth a visit. It’s not a fancy ‘romantic’ night out (though naturally, if you’re with the right person, a cone of chips on a pier can be just that), more a laid-back fill your boots kind of thing, at its best when you order a bunch of dishes. Just be warned- you may not realise just how hungry you are until you start. And you still won’t finish it all.
*Wolf’s nipple chips, ocelot spleens and jaguar earlobes are also absent.
96 Woodville Rd
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.