C, E at 50th St.; F, G at 15th St.-Prospect Park; F, G at 15th St.-Prospect Park
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New York City’s first South African wine bar is much like the country’s signature Pinotage: Earthy and bold, with lush traces of the African bush. Cypress tree trunks rise grandly to the ceiling and candles flicker on dark-wood tables. Just as Pinotage was once something of a secret, with no sign out front so is Xai Xai (aptly pronounced “shy shy”). The wine list is short but superb: The Southern Right Pinotage flaunts all that’s excellent about the wine, with a muscular, dark-berry bouquet, and a weighty, smoky finish reminiscent of a fine whiskey. Chenin Blanc has long been the dominant white grape of South Africa, and it yields some excellent vintages, including the brisk Teddy Hall. Some of the small plates can be middling, like the droe wors, or dried sausage sticks, which have all the flavor of a Slim Jim. Tastier are the bilton, or beef jerky, feathery with a meaty tang, and the plump coil of farmer’s sausage pressed onto a quivering mound of pap, a mild, maize porridge that tastes a little like Cream of Wheat. But the biggest personality at the table is the wine, which imbues the night with all the heat and flavor you’ll need.
Pap and Boere Wors sausage, $14; Southern Right Pinotage, $19 a glass/$54 a bottle; Teddy Hall Chenin Blanc, $15 a glass/$42 a bottle.