Grab Some Zabb


Zabb Elee Manhattan | 75 2nd Ave. (bet. 4th & 5th Sts.) | 212.505.9533 | www.zabbelee.com | | |

WHAT A DIFFERENCE 4 MILES make. Especially when it comes to “food culture ideology” between the Upper East Side and the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

As the Lower East Side—in a relatively short amount of time—has become a mecca for specifically indigenous foods and dishes, I’ve watched helplessly as, over the same time, Upper East Side restaurants try to include (read, cram) more and more different types and origins of food onto their menus.

Especially when it comes to “Asian” food, as I witnessed first a few years ago, when Chinese restaurants also started to offer sushi; more recently, they’ve all begun listing a staple Malaysian, Vietnamese, and Thai dish or two, so extremely blurring differential lines that they have taken to titling their restaurants ever more vaguely and non-denominationally (see, Ruby Rocks).

Thank goodness for the new M15 Select Service bus, whose express express service gets me from Yorkville down to the Lower East Side in mere minutes, where I could dine (again) at Xi’an Famous Foods, which serves not just “Asian” or “Chinese” cuisine, but western Chinese cuisine (from the region of Xi’an, the first capitol city of China) which boasts really early Middle eastern influences. Or, as I most recently did, could enjoy not just Thai food, but northeastern, or “Isan”, Thai food, at the second outpost of the original Woodside, Queen’s Zabb Elee, newly located on 4th Street & 2nd Avenue in Manhattan. Its clean storefront, somewhat stately basement space, and large, front table-side window made for me a comfy seat at a 4-top just minutes after they opened for lunch service.


Zabb Elee (Manhattan)

Zabb Elee (Manhattan)

Zabb Elee (Manhattan)


Having no recollection of the exact dishes TimeOut NY recommended, I did a very thorough read-through of the four menu pages, dividing dishes into categories such as som tum (papaya salads), yang (grilled meats), kao (rice dishes?), and tod (fried meats), just to name a few. One thing I did remember is wanting, as I always do, the Thai iced tea, properly flavorful with the addition of sweetened condensed milk, which makes for a very soothing visual as well.


Thai Iced Tea

Thai Iced Tea


Knowing full well I need to save most of the naturally palate-cooling beverage for the defaulting hot and spicy dishes, I quickly proceeded to order. I knew I wanted duck, so I ordered the duck larb (cold “salad” of ground then fried meat tossed with shallot, fresh mint, scallion, cilantro, chili powder, and lime) and the kana moo korb (sautéed Chinese broccoli with crispy pork). I should warn you, the food comes out, freshly cooked, yes, but damn fast as well.


Duck Larb

Duck Larb

Kana Moo Korb

Kana Moo Korb


If you’ve ever had a lettuce wrap at a neighborhood Thai restaurant, the larb is reminiscent of that, except multiplied, in the best way, by 10. Most notably, as opposed to having bland, soggy, leftover chopped chicken, you have finely chopped, deep-fried morsels of duck, with its inherently rich, slight game of flavorful and a wonderfully crackling crisp. The herbs’ tastes and aromatics dance from the front to the back of the tongue and escape through the nose, while the chili’s natural heat creeps up slowly and starts to permeate through your head and body.

The kana moo korb is listed as a vegetable dish with meat, but there was ample amounts of pork in my quickly sautéed broccoli, verdant, flavor, and still sturdy at the stalks. The crispy pork—think slices of pork belly—are coated in a sticky sweet glaze that not only compliments, but accentuates the pork’s fattiness and salinity, and the chili in the sauce as well as in the flakes, again, affect a slow burn throughout the head then body, like a hug from within.

So impressed was I by this point (and knowing full well that I would be taking plenty of stuff to go home, the portions are sizable!), I sated a lingering curiosity be then ordering the kai (chicken) tod (fried).


Kai Tod

Kai Tod

Kai Tod


With crispy, subtly seasoned skin, the juicy chicken meat is allowed to speak for itself, amenable to your preferred level of the sweet chili dipping sauce, which I chose to use more as a sauce as I sparingly coated the pieces, finally integrating nicely with the (extremely) sticky rice that I used throughout the platings.

It wasn’t until I got back home uptown that I realized that I had indeed ordered what TONY had recommended, and I am recommending not just those dishes in particular, but a visit to try something authentic, a quality sorely lacking on the Upper East Side, where sushi places have to create rolls such as “the Philly roll” (with cream cheese) offer tempura crunch-coatings just to appeal to the locals while they can no longer offer uni (sea urchin) because too few people in the neighborhood are adventurous enough to try it.

So if you want genuine article Thai food, Upper East Siders—or anyone else, for that matter—get out of your “comfort” zones and take a quick commute to the Lower East Side’s new Zabb Elee.

Bun Apple Tea!

.kac.


Zabb Elee on Urbanspoon


Zabb Elee Manhattan | 75 2nd Ave. (bet. 4th & 5th Sts.) | 212.505.9533 | www.zabbelee.com | | |



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