Located in one of the strips of villa developments from the 1990s that are scattered throughout the city, Zeus Restaurant & Bar is trying to be a moderately upscale western restaurant and, mostly, succeeding. With private dining rooms on the second floor, about ten tables on the first floor and a small back porch, this is a cozy space suitable for a meal with friends or a date.
We particularly like the wall art at Zeus. From the Gods of Mount Olympus metal triptych in the front room to the fun (but less thematically appropriate) travel posters in the rear, everything comes from local artists. In our eyes, that's a major improvement over yet another restaurant that bought an interior design package off of Taobao.
With lovely 1960s style tables and chairs and some entirely way too cool LED ‘candles’ on each table, the only major complaint we have about the layout is the overly high bar. From talking to the owners, we gather that once the workmen's mistake was discovered, it was too late to undo.
However, at only 10cm above the intended spec, provided you are reasonably sober and have long legs, you can—just barely—sit on the extra tall stools they found to match it.
Opened in April of this year by six Hainanese millennials who have known each other since they were kids, and who either spent significant time outside China or worked at places like the Shangri-la, Zeus is not your usual Chineseified western restaurant. That having been said, the menu and choices in ingredients for dishes still reflect a primarily Chinese customer base with Chinese expectations. It is for this reason that we like to refer to the food at Zeus as ‘western food with Chinese characteristics.’
This is not to say that the food is bad. The food is quite good. However, if you are not Chinese it is important to realize before you order that you likely won’t be getting exactly what you think a dish of that name or description ought to be. Of course we’re not to judge, as we’ve pointed out in our bagel article. It’s a similar situation to what would happen when ordering ‘Chinese food’ from restaurants owned by non-Chinese Asians in small towns in the US or UK.
Of the items I’ve personally tried from their menu, I find that the Caesar Salad (RMB38) is one of the best examples of a localized recipe. Prior to ordering this, I’d never encountered a Caesar with either almond slivers or sliced radish. Although it does have Caesar salad dressing, I’m pretty sure this is the first salad of its kind that I’ve had which lacked the savory umami tang of anchovy paste.
Given the tendency of Chinese-style ‘western’ salads to be a few sad leaves drenched in mayonnaise, while I personally would not give this the name Caesar Salad, it still ends up being one of the best restaurant salads I’ve had in Haikou with a good value for the price.
The Spanish Tapas (RMB38) are another example of a localized recipe. As an American who has lived in China for 19 years and whose lone visit to Barcelona was 3 years ago, I think these are truly excellent tapas. However, on the day that I ordered tapas, I was accompanied by a Spanish friend who declined to so much as try them on account of it ‘not being a carb day.’ As I later saw him drinking a decidedly not carb-free glass of beer, something tells me that the tapas here are not an item which he would describe as either ‘authentic’ or ‘excellent.’
The soft shell tacos called Mexican Fajitas (RMB38) also fall into the category of ‘I think it’s good but people from that area would probably disagree with me.’ With four fajitas per order, these are a good snack to split with friends when you’ve been here drinking for a while.
Most non-Chinese patrons will initially be attracted to Zeus by the cocktail menu. The majority of the non-specialty drinks are a reasonable RMB68 per glass and, if that wasn’t good enough, they have an incredible free flow cocktail happy hour special which ends this weekend, (RMB99 per person per day, 7-11pm. The only rule is that you’ve got to finish your glass before you order another off their cocktails list). They are now planning to offer pitchers and other specials like a taster flight of gin and tonics made with different kinds of gin.
In terms of their cocktails, my personal preference has been to drink far too many Tequila Sunrises, but patrons avoiding a hangover the next day might want to consider Zeus’s scotch and cranberry based Mr. Zombie Cocktail (RMB88), the floral gin creation Miss Fiona’s Backyard (RMB88), or the Strawberry Fields Forever (RMB78) named after The Beatles’ song.
Mr. Zombie Cocktail
Miss Fiona’s Backyard
Strawberry Fields Forever
If you’re in search of a meal instead of snacks and booze, the Spaghetti Carbonara (RMB58) and Asparagus Chicken Ravioli (RMB68) are easily on par or better than the pasta dishes at Chimac. While it’s true that they can’t compete with the pasta dishes at Casa Mia, it’s also true that I can’t compete in a swim meet against Michael Phelps.
cheeseburger with potato wedges (RMB48) is also a pretty good example
of the genre. Half of the times I either ordered potato wedges
or was with someone who ordered a dish that came with potato wedges,
they came out cold.
Management has since assured us that this was fixed after the kitchen guy was scolded and took a number of our other suggestions. In our opinion it’s great that feedback from guests results in change, which can’t be said of every food and beverage establishment. If you’ve got helpful feedback that includes a reasonable solution, get in touch with Zeus via their official account or ask to speak to the boss while there.
The pizzas (RMB78-98) though, served thin crust and with plenty of cheese, are probably one of the most authentic items on the menu. I want to say this is because it’s just not that hard to make an authentic pizza however, after this many years in China, I’ve gradually come to the understanding that it apparently is that hard. I am happy to say I have not seen lunchmeat, durian, corn, mayonnaise or ketchup on any of the pizzas I've eaten at Zeus.
I have yet to try either of their brunch sets or the steaks and I've always come too late in the day for their coffee (which I’m told is excellent).
Have you tried their brunch, steak or coffee? Let us know in our directory on our website what your review of Zeus would be.
If you’re curious about Zeus, join the group just for That’s Sanya readers to redeem a free coffee courtesy of Zeus’ generous team.
We suggest trying the Dirty Coconut Latte free on the house, but they’ve got one americano or latte lined up for you if you’d rather. Not a coffee fan? Join the group anyway! They’ve got a special deal on food coming up later this month just for those in the group along with several tantalizing events lined up in the future.
Zeus Restaurant & Bar
Mon-Fri 4.30pm-1am, Sat-Sun 11am-11pm, Building B3, Longyuan Villa, No. 24 Longkun North Lu, Longhua District. See listing.
translator living in Hainan for 17 of her 19 years in China, Marian
Rosenberg is best known for her annual cycling trips through rural
China. These trips not only have her blogging on Cycleblaze (username:
brucianna) and helping people out on the Travel in China During Covid
groups (Cyclist Translator), they've also landed her in the Washington
Post's travel section and are the reason she has more than 40,000
followers on Douyin (我是凡一).
Would you like to promote your business, organization or product? Contact Vanessa Jencks via email at email@example.com and on
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[Images by Marian Rosenberg for That’s]
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