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Any updates on Zabb Thai? Good substitute for Sripraphai?

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So I've read all of the posts on Zabb Thai in the East Village, but most are from last fall, when the place opened as Zabb. Anyone been there recently? The reason I ask is that my parents were recently wowed by a calamari salad at Saigon Grill (Vietnamese) and I think there are Thai salads that would do even better. I read that the Issan region is known for its salads, which is why I've been wondering about Zabb. Since I don't eat out with my parents often, I'd love to get it right on the first try. I'm looking specifically for the combination of spicy, sweet, sour and salty that Thai salads have. Would Zabb be good, or should I just take them to Sri? From the other posts, I'm worried about getting watered-down glop. Is it still BYO?

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  1. hi...as many regular posters know, i'm about as critical of Manhattan Thai food as anyone, but i have to say Zabb is extremely good...the last time i was there was about three months ago (because i just got back from two months in Thailand) and the food was excellent...

    Zabb City (as the 13th St location is called) specializes in Isaan food, which is the spicy NE Thai cuisine. So their somtam (green papaya salad) and laab moo (spicy pork salad) are actually better than Sripraphai (which nonetheless has other great salads, notably the fried watercress salad and the broiled catfish salad)...for curries, you might be better off at Sri, but at Zabb get the somtam, laab, sticky rice, and maybe an Isaan fish topped w/ mango salad...if your parents want a dizzying experience you prob still want to take them to Sri, because the menu there is gigantic, but i'd definitely give Zabb a try...and, as of three months ago, yes, they were still BYOB...

    4 Replies
    1. re: Simon

      I went soon after it opened. I remember an excellent spicy beef salad.

      Thanks for the reminder, I need to return!

      1. re: Simon

        Thanks Simon! I've been to Sri a bunch of times, but I don't know, I've never been "oh my god, this is GOOD!" Since their menu IS so extensive, there are probably a lot of hits and misses (I remember a bland chicken and ginger sauce dish, and a ridiculously spicy drunken noodle dish while nothing else touched those levels of spice). Since I really want a good salad, Zabb City sounds like a good choice. Plus, it's right down the street ;)

        1. re: janethepain

          I second your opinion on Sri. I took my friend there for his first time and he also had the terribly bland chicken and ginger sauce dish. I've had some good curries but Sri's definitely hit-or-miss. There are just way too many items on the menu.

        2. re: Simon

          I'm going to add the link to Zabb City here, just because we can.

          -----
          Zabb City
          244 E 13th St, New York, NY 10003

        3. Don't know about Zabb Thai in the East Village, but I do know Zabb Queens is spectacular.

          3 Replies
          1. re: BronxBoy

            I wholeheartedly concur that Zabb City's salads (with few exceptions) beat Sri's hands down. Try the SomTam, of course, as well as the Zabb Squid Salad or Crispy Duck Salad. You really can't miss with any of them. The perfect balance of Chili, Lime, Grilled Meat and crisp fruit/veggies.

            1. re: keith

              Oh hell yes, perfect. I was thinking of ordering:

              fish cake app
              seafood som tam
              Esan beef salad

              does that sound like a good selection of salads for a party of 5? All of their salads sound really good but I don't want to overdose on the same flavors. I think the Esan beef salad probably has the same seasonings as the Crispy Duck Salad, and a few of the others. Should I throw the Laab Moo in there, or is that too much of the same? Thanks!

              1. re: janethepain

                Laab moo is a classic Isaan dish: i'd say go for it...

          2. i've ordered delivery from zabb city 3 different times - and the food quality has differed wildly.

            and i've ordered the same thing.

            first time - the green papaya salad was fantastic. really spicy, funky with dried shrimps and fish sauce (or whatever gives it the funky taste). nicely tart.

            next 2 times - totally bland. not tart, not spicy, not funky.

            noodles (pad kee mao) were mushy and bland.

            should i try again?

            4 Replies
            1. re: mas

              I often wish we didn't worry about diplomacy so much and simply told managers when their take out varies from night to night.They need to know what's going out the door. My buddy has a venue nearby and I don't have the courage to tell him the take out rice (obviously pre-packaged) is always tepidly warm, but not hot.

              1. re: sing me a bar

                speaking of: i went to Zabb City this eve and had the weakest meal i've had there so far...somtam was good but the laab was mushy, and the Zabb fish was very sweet and the chicken w/ cashew nuts was literally as sweet as cracker jacks...very un-Thai to other direct criticism though, so instead told them in Thai that is was tasty but a *little sweet*, which they interpreted correctly i think

                1. re: Simon

                  I don't speak Thai but was so disappointed with my last meal there that I haven't been motivated to go back yet. Apparently, it's necessary to ask for "Thai spicy"; saying "spicy and not sweet for Americans" isn't sufficient to actually get that.

                  1. re: Pan

                    Yes. What had made me so encouraged about the place on my first couple visits was the fact that i didn't have to belabor the point like i have to at all other Manhattan places. But evidentally that's now the case at Zabb City too. I'm give them another shot but i'll prob stick to Isaan dishes. The second time i went there the laab moo (pork) was shockingly good and i'm hoping they can repeat it.

                    Thai ordering lexicon:

                    "Pet" -- "spicy"
                    "Pet maak maak" - "very spicy"
                    Pet maak maak. Khon-Thai" -- "Very spicy, Like for Thai people."
                    "Mai wan" -- not sweet
                    "Mai sai nam-dtang" -- "do not put sugar"

                    Male speakers: add "krab" after every sentence to be polite, as in "Pet maak maak, krab. Khon-Thai, krab." Female speakers, add "kah" at the end.

            2. I went to dinner here with four other people on Tuesday night. Overall, the place was eh. Not bad, but I'm not exactly in a rush to go back. The place is BYOB for another month only. I was eating with my Korean family, which means we eat eat lots of spicy food at home, and my bf, who's white and is developing a taste for sriracha. So I told the waitress we wanted 3-4 stars out of 5 for spice level. I've found spiciness radically inconsistent at different Thai restaurants, and this was true even within our order here.

              We started with the seafood som tum, which was ok. There definitely could have been more seafood. I think there were like 1-2 shrimp and a couple shreds of rubbery squid and scallop. The papaya shreds reminded me more of Korean turnip, and the overall tastes were Spicy and Sour. I was expecting an explosion of different flavors but it was more just spicy lime juice in a cool (not cold) salad. We also ordered the Esan beef salad, to which my parents instantly detected a 'smell' they always complain about if meat isn't prepared correctly (I don't know what that is). It looked like bulgogi on the plate, and tasted like a more steak-y version of bulgogi. Good but nothing amazing.

              We each got our own main. This is where the spice level went haywire. My dad ordered a seafood green curry that was so spicy, he couldn't even eat it. This is a guy who normally eats very spicy Korean food. My mom traded him for her Kee Mao. My brother and I both ordered the Zabb noodles, which are your choice of wide rice noodles (mine) or thin noodles (brother's) in a spicy sour broth with veggies and ground pork. It was pretty good, interesting flavors for a soup. Mine was nice and spicy enough to start a slightly runny nose. On the other hand, my bf ordered red curry, and this was not spicy at all. I had specified that all dishes be 3-4 star spicy, and this was more just a normal sweet curry. Why the spice levels are so crazy, the world may never know. All in all, I think I'll stick with Sripraphai.

              2 Replies
              1. re: janethepain

                Jane, thanks for the detailed report...given the poor/mediocre experiences that you, Pan, and i all have had there recently, it makes me wonder if they changed chefs or something...i'll prob give them one more shot though...also, thanks for the heads-up about the end of their BYOB...

                1. re: Simon

                  I love their crispy duck salad and the last time I had the pad kee mao I was definitely suffering a bit from the heat (and I always think these places are not spicy enough!). It's possible they changed chefs, but I'm definitely going to have to give it another try before BYOB ends!

              2. Haha, so I re-read my post and it's pretty incoherent. So just for reference, I'll say that I had VERY high expectations for Sripraphai but have never had anything that blew my mind. It's usually pretty good, solid Thai food. Unless I just ordered a boring dish, their food is good, no glaring mistakes or anything. Maybe I just have high expectations for Thai food? Or I'm familiar enough with it that the flavors that may 'wow' newbies with it are just normal to me? I have no idea. So for me, Zabb City was only average, though maybe it IS better than the other Thai restaurants in NYC. I can't even compare them to other Manhattan restaurants because the dishes I had were all different, but I will say I have had some downright terrible Thai food in the city, and I didn't even know it was possible to make bad Thai food.

                1 Reply
                1. re: janethepain

                  Jane, it might have been that the problem was that you didn't ask for "Thai spicy." As I alluded to upthread, the last time I was there, when I complained to the waitress at the end of the meal that the food was sweeter than I wanted and could have been spicier, she said that's what I should ask for next time. So if those are the magic words, only if someone actually requests "Thai spicy" and doesn't get it should we conclude that Zabb City has gone downhill for good and all.

                2. I had dinner at ZABB last night. It really is quite good!!! We came early and asked the waiter to serve our food Thai style and ask for grade 3 in spiciness. The som taam (papaya salad) was refreshing, spicy, and good. The pork laab was also delicious. ZABB was the only restaurant in NYC whose waiter asked if we wanted our Pad Kaprow to be served authentic Thai style. We said yes and to our delight, the chicken came diced, the way they serve it in Thailand. I was disappointed with the Panang Curry, which was, surprisingly, very watery and not served 'gravy' style like in Thailand. Soo far Sripraphai is the only restaurant I know that serves it authentically now that Siam II and Red Garlic have closed.

                  Anyhow, I would recommend ZABB!!

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: theskyflyer

                    My favourite dish Thai is panang and my biggest complaint is the watery nature of what one finds in most places. I had it done authentically once; more reduced by cooking into a thicker "gravy" like consistency. Even Wondee makes it pretty watery. I haven't tried Sripraphai, but Spice downtown and even Isla, (which at least will make it spicy if you ask), offer a very watered-down version of what I know as panang.

                    1. re: sing me a bar

                      I wonder how Panang Curry became very soupy in NYC (US?). When I had my first bite of Panang Chicken in BAAN KHANITA (Bangkok), I said to myself, I've found my favorite Thai dish. But unfortunately, the real Thai version is very difficult to come by in NYC. I find that to be very disappointing.

                      Sing me, definitely try Sripraphai for an authentic version.

                      By the way, the waitress/owner at SIAM INN II (50th and 8th) which has now closed, told me that they would relocate to Chelsea with a name (IIRC) "Thai Market". Does anyone know where it is or if it indeed has opened?

                      1. re: theskyflyer

                        Just got back from Zabb thai in the East Village and I have to say its the best thai in Manhattan......Sriprathai in queens but the dishes in this small east village joint are just as hot spicy and very tasty. Good thai sausage, larb, and curries.
                        Check it out!