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A Sandwich at Zunzi’s (Savannah, GA)

August 17, 2011

To my mind, the best way to experience the food culture of a new town is to ask a local where to eat. Of course, in a town that is known for something (like seafood in Boston, etc) you should also do your research and possibly plan a few meals that you’ll look forward to. For a real taste of the city, though, often the best method is to ignore what people are saying online and put your trust in a local. The spontaneity of not knowing where or what you’ll end up eating is as much a part of the cultural immersion as the smells, tastes, and conversations of travel.

I’m in Savannah, and in this case the local is my brother.

According to him, the one place I had to try while visiting was Zunzi’s, a tiny service counter jammed with customers lined up for the South African and European takeout. By all accounts this place is a staple, at least for the students of Savannah. That doesn’t mean it’s cheap, though, and with a limited budget I put all my trust in my brother’s one menu choice.

This is the Fisherman’s Deck:


Charbroiled salmon, tomato, lettuce, mustard, and “Zunzi sauce” on house-made French bread.

Hits:

The tomatoes were fresh and clean, and the lettuce was crisp. Despite the fact that two sauces might seem like overkill, I found that the mustard and the Zunzi sauce complemented each other and the rest of the ingredients well, creating tangy, slightly acidic pull. The salmon was well cooked and most importantly, not overwhelmed or lost. Seasoning on the fish was light, a good call given the amount of sauce. The ingredient ratio was almost perfect, with the exception of the sauce.

Misses:

The char on the salmon wasn’t super crispy, and there was too much sauce. The two stars of the sandwich, the fish and the sauce, were equally highlighted, whereas for my taste I could have used a less even sharing of the spotlight. Still, despite the amount of stuff going on, the bread held up really well, creating a soggy on the inside crispy on the outside final bite that my brother is particularly fond of.

Takeaway:

The Zunzi sauce is one of the big pulls for this place (they sell it in bottles), and I can see the appeal. Somewhere between the consistency of mayo and thousand-island, I couldn’t quite get a handle on what was going on inside it. I tasted vinegar, lemon juice, paprika or maybe cayenne…or maybe. I dunno. It was zesty, creamy, and messy in the best way. When it pooled at the bottom of the plate it had drops of oil in it, almost like a curry soup, that spoke of big flavor. Zunzi’s is takeout at its sloppiest and finest.

The menu includes falafel, curry, lasagna, good salads, and “something like pizza”. Despite the variety here, it makes sense given the multicultural origins of the place. The hole in the wall strikes the perfect balance between quick, ethnic takeout food and quality local fare, a balance that creates lines out the door. Also of note is the Rooibos sweet tea–a fruity, coconut-infused take on the South’s favorite drink.

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