Zhima, Glasgow

At the end of this meal they will take the whole cost of the Triple Szechuan Fried Rice off my bill. That’s eighteen Scottish pounds. Give or take 5p. Which is very impressive. But also very awkward.

Firstly, The Herald always pays. And, secondly, I didn’t complain. I only asked where the crispy duck that’s supposed to be in this Indo-Chinese dish, actually, umm, was.

That prompts a comedy gold moment of me and the waitress peering down at the platter (nice ceramic incidentally) while giant question marks float above our heads, and then (no crispy duck being visible) she goes off to the kitchen to resolve.

Honestly? I could also have asked where the cashews were and the spicy Szechuan sauce too. But I didn’t. Instead I had a couple of forkfuls more, considered it was at best a pretty poor fried rice. Bland. With noodles. Generic duck and chicken bits. And eventually asked for the bill. At which point the young lady arrived saying the kitchen was making me some crispy duck. Ooh.

The Herald: Zhima is a grand-looking placeZhima is a grand-looking place (Image: free)

Now, Zhima. A millioooooon pounds spent on the decor I read somewhere. Really? It looks expensive, it’s meant to be classy, the staff are very slick, engaging and professional. But does it suffer from the Glasgow disease? A fortune on the decor, a pittance on the kitchen?

Well, when I wandered in off St Vincent Place and asked for a table for one, I didn’t get the usual teeth-sucking, face-pulling, we’ll-see-if-we-can-fit-you-in-leper-boy. But a bright, cheery, “no problem”.

Then I was led past booths, beyond stylish black lacquered screens, not to a micro table outside a toilet door as often happens, but into a lush atmospheric two-seater under a display case containing fabulous Game Of Thronesish golden masks.

A glamorous bar area ahead of me, sophisticates (though shock horror some wearing baseball hats indoors) supping drinks, picking at platters. Cool. I like this. The whole place. And it’s pretty busy tonight.

Moving on. “There’s no dim-sum this evening,” I’m told by my waiter, but I wouldn’t have had that anyway. And I have already scoured the extensive (okay rarely a good sign) upholstered menu for something different.


Middle Eastern Cafe Tehran in Glasgow is a little wacky but fun

Every plate was crammed full of surprises at Skua in Edinburgh

Settling on Dynamite Shrimp (£13) and Haa Do Si or “delicate” prawn toasts at £13. These are not starters, of course, but small plates. Often the same thing. Different prices. The shrimp? Is it actually shrimp? Does it even matter? Because they’re not kidding when they say dynamite. It’s fiery, prawny, whoosh. An aoli of sambal oelek (aka chilli paste) somehow conspiring to be tasty and cooling. Like a mayo.

The prawn toasts may be redefining the word delicate; they’re massively thick, like prawn heels. But they crunch, they crisp, they smack of fried bread which they absolutely should; there are sesames on there and then a considerable layer of mashed prawn to savour, which all in all is not bad.

It’s really with the mains that things start to go prickly pear shaped. The rice I have mentioned, but I also have a Mongolian Beef, (£18 without any sides) and it’s gloopy, very salty, cloyingly sweet, though the beef that’s in here, surrounded by hunks of amateur-hour-looking chopped peppers, is reasonable.

Sign up for Ron's review and get it two days before it appears anywhere else.

I can’t finish this either though. I wonder, as I sit here thinking not bad vibe for the city centre, I wonder if this is an attempt to capture the same market as the runaway successful Ho Wong nearby.

The Ho Wong is pricey and serves, to my mind anyway, 1970s Scottish-Chinese food, but done extremely well. If so, is this then the Yin to the Ho Wong’s Yang?

There I have always found the food great and the service atrocious. Here the service is great, but the food’s well, at best, generic. They wisely claim Cantonese, Hunan and Sichuan influences only underpin their cooking style in here. I wouldn’t go as far as underpin. With that in mind it seems only right to take that £18 generously deducted from the bill and put it on the staff tips.

The service being the best thing tonight.

The Herald: ZhimaZhima (Image: free)

Zhima, 35 St Vincent Place, Glasgow 0141 212 3413

Menu: A modern take on traditional Chinese cooking, with prawns toasts, Dynamite Shrimp, Sesame Chicken. Interesting. 3/5

Service: Staff were great, relaxed yet professional. Took the price of a whole dish off the bill even though I didn’t complain. 5/5

Atmosphere: Loadsa money spent on this place to give it a rich, intimate, dark and yet comfortable feel. It kinda works. 5/5

Price: It’s up there. Small plates run from £7 into £13, mains start at £18-ish and can hit £30s. Rice, as always, extra. 3/5

Food: Early days but both the mains I had were terrible. One didn’t even have what it was supposed to have in it. Generic. 5/10