Not to call myself a trendsetter or anything, but South Africa is so the next culinary fixation. Joining Madiba in Clinton Hill and Shebeen on Mott Street, NYC’s first South African wine bar, Xai Xai, opened in Hell’s Kitchen earlier this month. So I stopped in this week with endless simmer’s erstwhile mac-n-cheese expert, el, who was in town for some sort of conference, about mac-n-cheese I presume.
Despite the confusing name (Xai Xai, pronounced shy-shy, is a beach town in neighboring Mozambique), this laid-back spot is genuinely South African, complete with a chilled-out endless summer vibe, a lekker, straight-from-SA staff, and of course, a lengthy list of wines from Stellenbosch, (SA’s Napa). There are about a dozen different varieties of pinotage (a red wine made from a South African grape), and we had an especially tasty Anvil Road merlot-pinotage blend. Each glass of wine is served in a mini-decanter, a healthy portion for seven to twelve bucks.
Xai Xai also has a small plate menu, and while there is sadly no bunny chow, there’s plenty of biltong, South Africa’s famed cured meat snack. The biltong I encountered in South Africa was usually an incredibly dry, unappealing beef-jerky variation, but Xai Xai’s version is a thinly-sliced, salty product that goes nicely with their sample platter, which is really just an antipasti plate loaded with tasty meats and cheeses alongside some British-style meatpies, another South African staple.
365 W. 51st Street
Photo: Cape of Good Hope, by me…why am I not there right now?