Traditionally, Indian restaurants in the East Bay get nervous when their customers ask for a "spicy" dish. At , for example, the waiter will take pains to clarify whether you want it "spicy" or "Indian spicy" — and recommend that you avoid the latter unless you are a curry-eating professional. But when the "spicy" food arrives, it's barely a tickle.
Zaika, on the other hand, packs a punch.
The restaurant on University Avenue opened around six months ago and meshes culinary chic with sports bar cool. The place hasn't been shy about wooing a student following, with "Cal" flags adorning the windows, or soliciting Yelp reviews and Facebook fans in return for discounts. Currently serving just wine and beer, Zaika is due to get a full liquor license in the next few days and take maximum advantage of the spacious bar surrounded by TV screens — perfect for both college football and European soccer alike.
Just like the vibe itself, the food is refined, vibrant and bold. Ask for something "spicy" and they're going to honor that wish — to your detriment or delight, depending on what you can handle.
As the waiter explained on a recent evening, the scale at Zaika goes from one to 10. "If you ask for something 'spicy,' they're going to give you a 10," he said, gesturing toward the kitchen.
So, what does a '10' feel like? A mouth furnace — albeit a delicious one. Water won't help, as frequent hot curry-eaters quickly learn. Thankfully, there is always a mango lassi on hand to extinguish the flame.
Have you been to Zaika? What did you think of the food and atmosphere? Share your thoughts in the comments.