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Zabb Thai Now In The East Village

244 East 13th Street
Between 2nd and 3rd

Yep, that Zabb from Jackson Heights. This could be a very good thing for the state of Manhattan Thai.

Some people have complained that when they went, they were not given spicy food. Not spicy? Good god, my mouth is on fire! I might've gone a little too far with my spicy insistence but here was my battle plan. I first asked her if she was the same Zabb from Jackson Heights and then told her how much I liked it.

The menu that they have is completely American-speak as in "minced chicken/pork or beef spicy salad." I guessed that was laab and ordered it that way, also saying "I like it spicy!" It came that way and it really is good. The other dish I got was a spicy grilled beef salad. I was hoping that it was like my favorite Sripraphai beef salad with red onion, mint, sliced lemongrass, lime juice, etc. It wasn't really like that, it has a lot of celery, red onion and cherry tomatoes. Not as delicate as Sri's but still good and REALLY SPICY.

So I say go and order dishes by their rightful names. Emphasize spicy and perhaps we can convince them that they don't have to just dumb down and serve the East Village hipster clientele.

Also of note is their tea menu. The place is really sweet looking and I can easily see myself ordering a pot of tea, some sweets and just hanging out.

Oh and it is BYO.

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  1. For real?

    1. Awesome...where is it located?

      2 Replies
      1. re: Simon

        Are you serious? Did you even read my post?

        1. re: Abbylovi

          whoops: in my excitement at Zaab's arrival, i skipped right over the address and read the bulk of the post...*smiles*

      2. Abby is this a branch of Jackson Hts, or did they move?

        Just to mention, Zabb's food is Issan, a different cuisine than Sripraphai presents - with lots of grilled meats and perhaps less subtle spicing. Curries are not a specialty of this region.

        3 Replies
        1. re: jen kalb

          jen, I believe that it is a branch but I didn't ask.

          1. re: jen kalb

            Just called the original. It's still there, and the lady who answered the phone confirmed that they now have a Manhattan branch.

            1. re: jen kalb

              They are best known for their salads. I think the guy use to have a restaurant out in Lambertsville, NJ, but closed because the commute was too far from Queens. I feel the after burn...its the real McCoy.

            2. I've heard about the new outpost but thought I'd give it some time to iron out the kinks. Were there any fish specials? Did you recognize any of the folks from Queens?

              1. it's all very exciting.

                1. This place has been around for three or four years. It's called Chaa Chaa. I went there two or three years ago and didn't care for it -- I think I posted about it back then. Now they're rebranding themselves as Zaab at Chaa Chaa, whatever that means. I went tonight -- I recognized the waitress from the last time I was there, and she confirmed that they've been there three or four years and that they're associated with Zabb. I almost left when I realized it was the same place I'd been to before, but decided to stick it out.
                  Anyway, we tried som tom, a noodle dish with beef and bean sauce, and a string bean and shrimp dish and asked for them all to be real thai food and thai spicy if they were meant to be. When she brought them out she said, "Here's your real Thai food." But it was pretty disappointing. The som tom was okay, but wasn't spicy like I was hoping and had the traditional American thai ingredient in it, green bell peppers. The beef noodle dish didn't have good balance and tasted predominately of soy sauce, and the noodles were not well-cooked. The string bean and shrimp dish was fine but was basically just string beans and shrimp, no special spicing.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Peter Cuce

                    Has the menu changed noticeably since two or three years ago? I suspect this restaurant is still in transition. Since the original Zabb is involved, the East Village place should eventually offer more Isaan stuff (the beef noodle and string bean-shrimp dishes don't seem to fit in and aren't on Zabb Queens' menu).

                    1. re: squid kun

                      The menu looks very similar to what I remember from before. Maybe Zabb's been involved all along, before there even was a Zabb in Queens. One of the kitchen people looked familiar from my previous visit. All I know is that I'm not returning unless I start hearing reports of awesome dishes coming out of the kitchen.

                      1. re: Peter Cuce

                        Wow, that's nothing like the menu in Queens. Thanks for posting it. I was at Zabb I in Queens a few weeks ago, and was really impressed by how they had revised their menu since my last visit, and identified each dish by an English term, a translisteration of the Thai name, and Thai script. It makes for great reading.

                        I suspect (hope) the grilled shrimp might be one of the better dishes at this new place. I would have thought that the papaya salad with crab would be good too, but I've never imagined green pepper in a papaya salad, so that's a bad omen.

                        1. re: Peter Cuce

                          yes, that menu is nothing like at Zabb in Queens. I wonder what gives.

                          1. re: Peter Cuce

                            I got a report that this restaurant is actually a joint venture of the Zabb people and the people who were formerly at Patpong in the EV. For now there is just a little Issan stuff on the menu and according to the report the papaya salad was not as good as at Zabb in Queens and the other dish sampled was one note. Probably need to give it time and encouragement to see what develops.

                        2. re: Peter Cuce

                          that's a shame. sounded to good to be true. thanks for checking it out, man.

                        3. and before it was chaa chaa it was goupil & dicarlo... french.. great croissant which moved to chelsea mkt and is now the french market but chaa chaa still carried their pastry/croissant i believe...can't wait to try latest incarnation...thanks

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: mindy

                            Yeah, you're right about that. I couldn't remember the name, but I was trying to find my old post. I remember the last time I was there, they had all this thai food plus french fruit tarts, etc. And the Goupil & DiCarlo name was still on the awning back then, I believe.

                          2. Yow! Sorry about the false alarm. I still do stand by my report of the spicy, spectacular laarb. Perhaps there are other gems hidden in the menu, too? I'll definitely be back.

                            1. Went here last night. It is a pleasant space, rather small and intimate. The service is decent and friendly. We were there for about 2.5 hours and it was not full or even close to full for any part of that time.

                              As for the food,it is quite good but needs refinement in flavoring and perhaps a little more impact. The papaya salad in particular lacked any fish component, either from dried shrimps or fermented fish paste. This made it completely different (and worse)from what Zabb in Queens offers. However, the seafood mango salad is very good. Very refreshing and unique. We also ordered the Zabb noodles. It comes as a stir fry or soup. We ordered it as stir fry, but they mistakenly gave us the soup. We were happy nonetheless. Excellent broth, laced with ground pork and slices of pork and well textured thin rice noodles. This gives pho a run for its money. As mentioned above, the laarb is excellent. There's also a dish called curry puff in the appetizers section that is worth trying. Surprisingly delicate pastry with a mild chicken(?) curry inside.

                              One drawback of this place is the portion size. Our steamed mussels appetizer came in a little bowl with lid. There were 4 mussels in it. I can't remember the price, and I'm not saying I was ripped off, but any dish meant to be shared should be larger than this was. Charge more if you have to, but there needs to be more food in order to feel the impact. The same can be said of the salads. Having said that, the mussels appetizer is quite good.

                              Overall, this place is not Sripraphai, so don't go there with such expectations. However, it is as good if not better than Wondee and Pam. At any rate, if such comparisons are pointless, Zabb City does offer dishes the latter two don't, and in my opinion is worth going to to try them out.

                              Note: they are BYO, no corkage.

                              1. Walked by last night on my way to Momofuku Ssam. Now the sign on the door says Zabb City.

                                1. The Tom Yum Kung was a good 7.5/10, Massaman was a medicore 6, Pineapple fried rice 4.5. But I will give it another go and try more dishes. Sripraphai still tops, and my last 3 meals at Pam has been lousy.

                                  1. How are the vegetarian dishes here? I'm debating on whether I should have dinner with a group of 6 at Zabb City, roomservice, or Pukk. I've eaten at the latter two, but I'm wondering how Zabb City's veggie dishes fare (and it IS BYOB!)

                                    1. A little unrelated to the original posting (my apologies). I have, what might be an ignorant question, after eating at Zabb Queens. I got a papaya salad with shrimp and squid. It came with salted crab on it as well. I normally really enjoy strong fishy flavors (raw, marinated, salted and dried, you name it), but the salad seemed infused with an odor and flavor of what I can only describe as rotten seafood, and the source of it was the salted crab. When I enquired, I was told that salted crab was supposed to taste like that. Does this sound familiar and should I simply put this down to my unschooled palate, or does anybody have a different experience/description of salted crab?

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: smeegle

                                        For salted crab or salted shrimp and such, I won't called it rotten myself, but I have friends who are not used to Southeast Asian cuisine thought that they tasted "rotten". It is like other fermented/salt-preserved products. Because they have been kept (the whole point of using salt was to preserve the food) for a long time, they tend to have a distinct taste, and for seafood it may be even more pungent with the "fishy" smell. The taste may be off putting to some, but I totally love it.