By Rolanda Stinson
Have you heard of a restobar? Well it’s exactly what it sounds like - a restaurant and a bar in one. Believe it or not, Manta had a pretty large restobar scene before the pandemic. I arrived here during the downturn of the pandemic and never really had a chance to experience Manta in all its glory. I heard that Manta had a very lively nightlife before the pandemic. As of 2022, the city is reopening and with that comes back the nightlife scene. Many of the clubs, bars, and live music venues are reopening and rebranding. I had the pleasure of visiting one such location this past month, Zulu.
Zulu is a newly opened restobar as of April 2022. It is located in Plaza Del Sol on Calle 32. It’s down the road from the Wyndham Sail Plaza and is on the second floor of Plaza Del Sol. Going up to the 2nd floor the first thing you notice in front of the bar is a doorman, impeccably dressed, in a full black suit. You must make reservations and that gentleman is there to check the list. Once inside Zulu, you are escorted to a woman behind a window who takes your cedula in exchange for your drink card. It is very common in Manta to exchange your cedula for a drink card at clubs and restobars. This way the establishment ensures that drink bills are paid by tipsy customers at the end of the night. Once you get inside Zulu, the decor transports you to another place. It is so beautiful and artfully done. The interior has a modern African tribal theme with plenty of greenery, murals, and mirrors. There are two levels inside, with the bottom level being more of the restaurant and the top level more for standing and socializing. There is a stage in the front for performers and a sitting area with sofas and cocktail tables tucked in a glass lounge room just to the side of the stage. It looks like a posh VIP section. The bar stretches across the room and is fully equipped with top shelf liquor. There are multiple TV’s throughout the restaurant advertising Zulu’s signature drinks and entrees.
Speaking of signature drinks, Zulu heavily advertises its signature drink menu and specialty cocktails. Their signature drinks keep with the tribal theme of the restaurant in name and in appearance. The elaborate looking Gatsha and Zulu signature drinks were highlighted on the TVs in front of me, so I decided to try them. The presentation of both drinks was none like I have ever seen before. Two of the wait staff came to the table, each holding a drink. The Gatsha was actually presented in a wooden box. They opened the box, removed the drink, and placed it on the table in front of me and then set the top ablaze. The Gatsha drink contained vodka, hierba luisa, lime, and coconut juice, and was very delicious. The Zulu drink came out in a glass container that when lifted produced clouds of smoke. The actual drink was served in a brightly colored parrot glass. The Zulu drink contained rum, tropical fruit, and simple syrup. Both drinks were delicious, very large, and came with grand presentations. Along with the drinks came a very nice little complimentary appetizer of camote (purple sweet potato) chips and a sauce.
I asked the waitress for a recommendation of what dish to order and she suggested the Tabla Mar y Tierra, which is a surf and turf platter. It came with slices of very well-seasoned steak, jumbo fried calamari strips, fried planks of chicken, grilled shrimp, and fries. If you are looking for something light on the waist, this is not the dish for you. But if you are looking for something to help absorb all the amazing drinks, the Tabla Mar y Tierra is what you need. The waitress mentioned that it was a perfect dish for sharing and I would have to agree. It was a very sizable portion and two people could not finish it all. I also tried the Ceviche Tempura de Calamar which is definitely not a ceviche by normal standards. Zulu’s ceviche tempura was a dish of several large, fried calamari rings stacked in a bowl with chopped onions and tomatoes on top. It is served with a special house acevichado sauce. When the dish comes to the table you immediately think you’re just getting served a plate of fried tempura, however, the server pours the sauce tableside and once again Zulu is giving you a show. The tempura fried calamari was so flavorful and the house sauce just took it over the top.
Zulu is open Tuesday through Sunday from 6pm to 2am. If you want a more relaxed restaurant dinner, arrive early and enjoy the food, drinks, and upbeat music playing from the speakers. If you’re looking for the bar scene, it’s best to go much later. The live music or DJ (depending on the night) starts around 11:30pm. At this time, Zulu, the restobar turns into a full on club. The restaurant tables are moved to make space for dancing and the music is cranked all the way up. The party starts and the signature drinks are flowing.
Zulu offers something different in Manta with a little extra on top. So if you are looking for an artsy restaurant, fully stocked bar, and a party, Zulu is definitely the place to go. Zulu is a place that boasts “your vibe attracts your tribe,” and the vibes they are bringing are a win for Manta.