I remember watching the space where XO is currently located, and for the longest time it had the signs “Burger and Relish, coming soon!” posted all over it. I had heard it was going to be a nightclub when it was clear nothing was happening with it, and before I knew it, XO popped up in its place.
XO Ghana is the first Pan-Asian restaurant in Ghana and brought to us by the same owners as Burger and Relish. Pan-Asian, according to my google searches essentially means ‘across Asia’ so Pan-Asian cuisine would be cuisine from all over Asia.
The name itself actually reminds me of my grand-uncle on my mum’s side. I have memories of XO cognac bottles going around the lazy susan that’s often in the middle of the table in Chinese restaurants. He would take turns with other family members taking shots of cognac during the meal and in between courses. XO sauce is also a spicy seafood sauce that’s popular in Cantonese cuisines. It’s a personal favourite of mine, as it’s so versatile. You can have it as a dipping sauce or use it to spice up dishes with fish, meats, tofu and vegetables.
I had the pleasure of checking XO out with my friend, Accragenda. I’d heard mixed reviews of XO and was keen to check it out for myself. For those who don’t know me, my background is Malaysian-Chinese, and having grown up in mostly New Zealand and Australia, and meeting friends from all across the globe especially during my University years, I think it’s fair to say I’ve been exposed to most cuisines and in particular Asian cuisine.
XO’s clean and sleek decor with accents of copper stand out immediately to me. It has a bit of an industrial feel too and very modern. The interior decor is dark but during the day the large windows allow a lot of natural sunlight through.
Besides their food, XO is known for their cocktails. Chris Beanie is the man behind their cocktail menu and is the same man behind the cocktail menus for restaurants like Burger and Relish and Santoku just to name a few. Chris was at the restaurant when we dined, and while he tried his best to get us to try the cocktails, we stuck with our hibiscus juice.
We were extra hungry that day so we chose to have a few appetisers to start with. The calamari (32 Cedis) was served with a sweet chilli sauce. The calamari (38 Cedis) was perfectly cooked and tender. It was a welcome change to the usually overcooked calamari you get around town. They were coated with panko crumbs and deep fried but still tasted so light and weren’t greasy at all. The crystal rolls were also delicious, but I wish the vegetables were more finely cut and not have the big chunks of cucumber and carrots that it did. It was also missing some freshness from herbs like mint or coriander which would’ve helped lift the flavour. I enjoyed the peanut sauce it was served with and it was quite authentic in flavour.
They have a set lunch menu which includes miso soup as a starter, spring rolls, salad, rice and dessert of the day. I chose the fiery szechuan pork set and Accragenda had the beefy set.
The miso soup was great, and tasted just right, with tiny pieces of diced tofu, seaweed and spring onions. Sometimes you get miso soup which is overly salty or too light as it’s been watered down a lot. XO’s miso soup was just perfect.
I enjoyed my szechuan pork and found it had quite an authentic taste, but wished there was a little bit of gravy to eat with the rice, as it was a bit dry. The side portion of chilli added a spice kick for me which was great as I love my food spicy! The portion of rice was quite large, and I don’t think I ate through even a third of it. The crispy prawn crackers were a welcome textural change and also reminded me of my childhood as they were a favourite snack!
Accragenda enjoyed her beef dish but found the meat a little tough and not as tender as expected. I tried it too and found that it was quite authentic. As soon as the tray hit the table and I had a whiff of the beef, it reminded me of my dad as it’s one of his favourite meals to cook for us. The addition of carrot isn’t traditional but it gave a natural sweetness to the dish, and a nice colour contrast as the dish can look rather bland.
The dessert that’s included in the set menu was a lovely way to end our meal. On this particular day, the dessert was a small slice of chocolate mousse cake with a surprise crunch element as the base. We guessed that it was cornflakes or maybe even oats that gave it that lovely crunch. The rest of the cake was airy and light.
The set menus were priced at 70 Cedis each, and while it was reasonable for the amount of food we got, these kind of prices are definitely not your every day lunch prices but perfect for a special occasion.