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May 21, 2008 11:35 AM

Zabb City - underrated

Now, I'm not claiming to be a thai expert by any means, but I think Zabb City is the most underrated thai restaurant on the chowhound boards. My gf and I ate here again on sunday and it was great as usual and i decided that this is one of the places I don't think gets enough or any credit on chowhound. With one caveat, they make some things great and some things are mediocre.

We always rotate 4 dishes, all of which i think our delicious:
- Pork Labb - ground pork mixed with chopped green chilis, sliced red onions in a sort of citric (i believe lime) marinade...spicy and awesome
- Papaya Salad - sliced papaya that i believe is lightly pickled with small tomatoes and peanuts in a spicy lime dressing...i think this is awesome and better than any of the other places ive tried in the city including the recent chowhound favorite Rhong Tiam (which i did like btw)...goes really well with the pork labb
- Duck and Apple Salad - sliced pieces of crispy duck with the skin on, thinly sliced pieces of apple, pineapple, onion, roasted peanut, scallion and chili lime paste...again delicious
- Calamari - just crispy fried calamari with a sweet chili sauce

We also get an order of sticky rice, which goes really well with the pork labb and papaya salad. Now from my understanding and from the onning in front of the restaurant, this is a Isaan thai restaurant, which is from northeastern thailand. I believe the pork labb, papaya salad and stick rice combo is classic isaan.

Now some of the other stuff that I think most of us order in thai restaurants like red curry that I've had at Zabb City are fairly mediocre and no different than the run of the mill thai place.

I've been meaning to try more things, but we can't seem to shake ourselves from ordering a few of the dishes i mentioned above. If you haven't tried the dishes I talked about above, I highly suggest returning and trying them out. Fyi, the pork labb and papaya salad can get very spicy once u start eating them

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  1. Hi Lau,

    Thanks for the report. I am wondering if they have the salty (fermented) little crabs with the papaya salad? I had that in Thailand in the past and I really miss that taste. I think it is common in Thailand to flavor the salad with the salty crabs, but outside of Thailand that does not seem too common.

    5 Replies
    1. re: kobetobiko

      i dont believe it is as id assume that id notice some small crabs and i dont believe there was anything akin to a paste on it either...sounds great though

      1. re: Lau

        Thanks, Lau, for your report. You would have definitely noticed the crabs if they had it as they're really not that small -- perhaps a little smaller than the palm of your hand.

        I LOVE papaya salad with the crabs in it. They add so much to the taste -- so much more savory and flavorful. Thanks to alkapal, I purchased the OXO julienne thing and will attempt to make it at home. They sell the crabs at the Thai store on Mosco. I know it probably won't be as good as the ones in Thailand (especially as some of the places in Thailand use a different utensil to cut up the papaya), but I can put my salted crab in it.

        1. re: Miss Needle

          Oh Miss Needle. Thanks for the tip! I am going to get those crabs! :D

          1. re: Miss Needle

            ohh that sounds awesome, if u ever find a restaurant in the US serving it definitely let me know b/c id love to try it

            1. re: Miss Needle

              Kobe, let us know how your papaya salad goes on the Home Cooking Board if you make it. I'll try to post as well when I get to it. If you can't find it at a restaurant, sometimes you just have to suck it up and make it at home. I don't think it's a difficult thing to make -- just very labor intensive.

              Lau, I've never seen it at a restaurant in the States but will certainly post it on this board if I ever find one. It really is delicious!

        2. I would like to second Lau's post. I almost didn't go to Zabb City because it gets a lot of knocks on this board. But I have lived in Thailand and I think the dishes Lau names really are authentic and great. Especially if you order them five-star.

          Maybe what people need to remember is that Zabb City is an ISAAN restaurant. Three of the four dishes named are Isaan dishes, while your red curries etc are not from the Isaan region. Stick to the things that go well with sticky rice and you will be ok. (Having said that, I do like their pad thai too.)

          1. Actually, that place is good. Haven't been there for a while, but I just seem to walk by that place looking for other places I haven't tried. But thanks for reminding me, I didn't really do a respectful eat of that menu. Isn't there one in Manhattan in the east village?

            4 Replies
            1. re: designerboy01

              yeah thats the one im talking about, ive never been to the one in queens

              1. re: Lau

                The papaya salad @ Zabb's in Queens contains salted crab. It even states that on their menu.

                1. re: henrychan

                  oh interesting, ill have to make it out there one of these days

                  1. re: Lau

                    sticky rice with som tum? thats a llittle strange, try it with sausage, grilled/roasted/fried meats, thats what its designed for eat with your hands, suay mak krub

            2. so i went back tonight and a couple new things:
              1) i actually tried something besides the things in the original post. I got the duck curry which is half a crispy duck covered in a semi-sweet red curry with lychees (which made it sweet) and tomatoes. This was good although wouldn't classify as great as I was expecting a thicker curry and it was slightly too sweet, but the duck itself was nice
              2) when i was asking the lady whats authentic (besides some of the normal stuff i get) she pointed out the duck curry and one of the catfish dishes. She also got very excited that i wanted "authentic" thai and started asking me how spicy i wanted it, she said they do a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being the most spicy), i asked her how they normally serve it to customers and she said 1 (so ive been eating 1 the whole time ive been going here). Now normally its reasonably spicy, so we said give us 2 as i had no idea how spicy it would get and 2 turned out to be pretty spicy, i definitely had a bit of a sweat going (btw i can eat really really spicy food...traveled alot to india, sichuan, southeast asia, korea etc), so i can imagine that it can get ridiculously spicy for some of the chowhounders who want really spicy thai food. Also, i think the spice kicked up the flavor a notch as the pork labb was the best ive had since ive been eating here

              all in, it was another great meal here, highly recommend

              1. so i found something that is awesome at zabb and something that is good at zabb tonight:
                - Mango sticky rice: this is awesome, its the typical sticky rice with coconut milk poured over it with slices of mango and sesame seeds sprinkled on it. It was delicious, the mango was fresh and sweet (i was surprised at how good the mango was) and the sticky rice was nice and hot and tasted awesome when it was all eaten together...sounds like they run out of it alot as she told us we had the last order and i assume given the mango's freshness id assume they don't stock a ton of them
                - Steamed mussels - these are pretty good, they come in a little pot thing and they are steamed in put into a broth that simply has basil and chilis in it. They serve it with this chili lime sauce that is fairly strong so u shouldn't put to much on, but my gf and i both thought it was pretty decent