Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

The Zai Zest

- Jen F. Vega -

Washed in eye- catching tangerine with walls accentuated with dark wood, the venue’s ambiance play up the pillars and beams with lights that are dramatically dim. Interiors reflect minimalist Zen that encourages anyone who wishes for a relaxing night with acoustic music and delish food in generous servings, before he/she retires for the day.

Zai Acoustic Lounge & Café, formerly clad in sexy red as Maxim, now tones down, literally, in warm hues that appeal to a bigger, wider crowd. Menu has been revamped, as well, yet still owned by two of the four previous owners. Bestfriends Doreen Ruiz Danas, a sought-after caterer, event stylist, restaurateur and a native of Baybay, Leyte; and Eurizza “Ezai” Verra, after whom the lounge & café’s name was coined, an experienced hotelier with a four-year exposure in a 5-star restaurant in Dubai, took over the business to position it as a preferred hangout of Maxwell Hotel guests, as well as Cebuanos, in general.

As the dining concessionaire of Maxwell, Zai is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They also have a bar full of wines, spirits and beers, and is manned by experienced bartenders who can quickly concoct ladies drinks, frozen cocktails, shooters, even smoothies and shakes.

You have two options: There’s the acoustic lounge that opens from 4pm till the wee hours of the morning with live entertainment (and “open mic”)  - from 9pm – 1am – and the café/restaurant that is operational from 6:30am to 10pm.

* * *

Rack of Baby Back Ribs. When you get lost in Zai’s glossy menu, add in the tab this top selling offer and you won’t be wrong. Some carnivores simply lust for “fall-off-the-bone” while others would prefer their pork ribs well done with a crispy crust exterior. The result varies according to food preparation/cooking process: marinating the racks in a rich sauce overnight before pressure cooking, parboiling or slow-cooking, and tossing it in the oven or wood-fired griller. Although the duo refuses to disclose the exact process, they simply revealed that the secret is in the marinade – Zai’s very own honey and barbeque sauce concoction. At P190, you can pair this with Asian fusion rice (choices of plain, garlic or java rice) or mashed potato, and served with a glass of iced tea.

Zai Spectacular Porkchop. Another bestseller is this slab of rib eye porkchop, grilled with an 18-herb-and-spice rub – a Zai original. Truly rich in flavor while meat is tender and grilled without getting over-charred! For the budget-conscious, this is a smart choice since the serving size can already satiate two diners. Best dunked in Zai’s special sauce. Served with Asian Fusion Rice and iced tea at P180.

Chicken Snitzels – Skinless and deboned chicken breasts seasoned with select herbs and spices, drenched in flour, egg and breadcrumbs.  The danger of deep-frying chicken breast is overdoing it, resulting to gummy and dry meat. Zai was able to pull it through. Succulent meat with golden brown and crispy exterior complimented with gravy.

Encrusted Lemon Salmon, for me, is a rare treat at P250! About one inch thick salmon is grilled over medium heat. Salmon is marinated with lemon zest, herbs & spices before tossing in the chargrill. Add lemon-butter sauce to taste. Served with butter vegetables and rice.

Garlic Lapulapu. The fish fan will enjoy this crispy dish topped with a generous amount of garlic flakes. Best eaten hot.  

Brownie Cup (with vanilla ice cream) is a sweet ending. This is perhaps Zai’s dessert star! A must-try for the sweet tooth.

Zai is located at the first level of The Maxwell Hotel along N. Escario Street. They also offer catering services. Open daily.










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