Xai Xai

That time there was a South African wine bar two blocks from our hotel in Manhattan. Because, New York.

In South African Wine
on 17 Jul 14

My sister and I recently had the good fortune of going to New York to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch off Broadway, having received tickets from our awesome parents for our birthdays. I hadn't been to the City in years, and I fell in love with it all over again.

Xai Xai wine bar

My sister is also a food and wine lover, and way more into geeky wines than I realized, so we were fully entertained to walk around the various neighborhoods and eat and drink for two days. We enjoyed a cheese plate and glasses of bianchello and muscat at Murray's Cheese Bar and goblets of Southampton Grand Cru with lamb sliders at Blind Tiger in the West Village. We had a bowl of guacamole prepared at our table, and proceeded to eat pretty much the whole thing. We shopped at Crush, one of my favorite wine shops in the world, and bought a great cava (Raventos i Blanc)and some Takashimizu sake to share in our room.

One of the most surprising finds was a South African wine bar that turned up on a random Google Maps search when we left the theater and decided to get a drink. Xai Xai is right at the border of the Theater District and Hell's Kitchen, and it is the kind of place where I'd hang out all the time if I lived in New York. It's sexy and simple, with a fantastic South African menu and fairly priced wine list.

I had a glass of Black Pearl shiraz while Emily had a glass of the Pepper Pot; it was late and despite the warm summer air we were in the mood for big, spicy reds. The menu's small plate selection was just what we needed: truffle biltong mac and cheese and Cape Malay coconut chicken curry hit the spot, providing that magic mix of comfort food and earthy spices that I've always loved in South African cuisine.

Xai Xai is on the same block as Braai, a South African restaurant I've been meaning to try. If there's one takeaway from this trip, it's that I need to get to New York more often––and my sister and I need to drink more wine together.

Julia Burke reviews South African wine and writes about social justice, the South African wine industry, and her own adventures in winemaking.