By: Caroline Renfro
A little bite of history
Chi Zhang never met a stranger. Born in China and raised in Brooklyn with his three older sisters, Chi came to Charlotte in 1993 and has called Charlotte home since. An alumnus of Garinger and UNC Charlotte, Chi opened Zen Fusion on East Boulevard and Kenilworth with his business partner and brother-in-law, Phong Luong in 2005.
In 2014, with the encouragement of his family he ventured out on his own to open Persuasian on Park Road, near Ed’s Tavern. “I had an opportunity with the lease on the building and the timing was good,” Chi says.
The friendliest bartender in Charlotte
Despite Chi having quite a following at Zen as the friendliest bartender in town, he said he and Phong “weren’t worried about competing with each other. We felt we could cross-promote.”
Joining him and taking up the helm of the kitchen was his father, Pa Zhang. His father was a huge part of Chi’s decision to focus on Chinese cuisine. But you can also find the influence of his extended family in the Vietnamese dishes found on the menu. After just two years, Chi says he’s honored to have a following all his own, saying about 80% of his business is regular customers.
Here's how to get the best experience!
When to Go: Dinner. Give Chi an idea of what you like and how spicy you like it. Then let him do the rest!
Where to Sit: At the bar. The place is small, which means you’ll get plenty of attention no matter where you sit. The bar is special because it gives you a chance to spend a little extra time getting pampered by Chi, the host with the most!
What to Drink: I like to get Tsingtao, a Chinese beer, or sparkling Sake. Since I like my food spicy, they temper the heat! There is a great wine selection as well, several domestic and Asian beers, sake, and a full bar.
What to Eat:
- Any Soup: Chi’s father, Pa, uses his own recipes and makes every soup from scratch daily. You cannot go wrong here, every soup is excellent. When I’m sick this is my go-to pick-me-up, usually with a hot toddy prepared by Chi.
- Fried Chicken Wings: I usually skip this appetizer at other Asian restaurants because I love veggies and nothing treats veggies better than Asian cuisine. But here, it’s all about the wings. Very hot, juicy, and battered in Persuasian’s proprietary “breading” that’s incredibly light yet substantial enough for a great crunch.
- Spicy Kung Pao Edamame: Not your father’s edamame! Seasoned with generous servings of peppers (seeds included) and garlic.
- Thai Basil style anything: I order this dish "light on the sauce" (which they will happily accommodate). The basil comes through nicely but doesn’t overpower the other flavors. Chi recommends this with beef as your protein.
- Spicy General’s Chicken: Like General Tso’s you get from your takeout joint but better. The sauce is much lighter and has enough heat to balance the subtle sweetness. Persuasian's rendition of this dish is by far the best I've ever had.
- Gluten free? The Singapore Curry Noodle and Ginger White Wine style sauté (or steamer) will have your gluten-loving companions begging for a bite!
Fun Fact: Chi says he has an Egg Drop or Hot & Sour Soup with white rice every day for breakfast. So again... soup, you guys, SOUP!
Lunch / Mon-Fri 11-2
Dinner / Mon-Thu 4:30-9:30 and Fri-Sat 4:30-10:00
Photos courtesy of Yelp Charlotte