(Sorry for both the lack of posts this week and the vagueness of the below review – I’ve had a cold all week and, perhaps as a result, have forgotten some of the more crucial dish details in the intervening week. I wouldn’t post the review except that I feel strongly enough about Zabb City that I NEED to. Sorry in advance.)
It’s not often that I can wholeheartedly recommend a Thai restaurant in Manhattan – something about “making huge rent payments” seems to always corrupt the food or flavors to the point where they may as well have opened a cocktail bar in the space. This time, though, it’s different. Woodside favorite Zabb has opened a Manhattan branch that, while not hewing completely to the menu and high flavor standards of its Queens parent, is a very fair approximation.
I went on consecutive nights this past weekend, flying solo the first night. It wasn’t even a premeditated trip – I recalled reading something about it while riding the L back from a record-shopping excursion and called my friend in California to do some Google research for me. (For the record, it’s called Zabb City, and it’s on 13th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues.) The décor differs from its Queens counterpart by emphasizing the rustic rather than the modern. Instead of a wide-screen TV and bare white walls, Zabb City has benches, hand-decorated chairs, and tin ceilings.
The food is, however, top-notch. On my first visit, I tried the pork labb salad (Woodside’s staple catfish lab is not on the menu). Without asking for any special spice alterations, it came back a pleasing heap of pleasantly spiced ground pork – not bland, but not overpowering, either.
This bade well for my second visit, undertaken the following evening with two friends of mine. We came in hungry and ordered up a storm, and Zabb City did not disappoint. Though they were out of several of the appetizers, we found what we ended up with to our liking: the fish cake came sliced with six pieces to the plate, and, while rubbery, made an excellent pairing with the included spicy sauce. The sliced grilled beef appetizer was pleasingly tender and not at all crusty, thank god (skip the sauce).
A dinner at Zabb isn’t complete without ordering some kind of salad, and we opted for the duck iteration. It featured sliced apples in place of the green mangoes, which worked alright, texture-wise. Again, just the right amount of spice.
I can also attest to the peanut curry, which was (who guessed?) delicious without being overpowering. Unlike most times I have curry, there was nary a stray bit of soup left by the time the bowls left the table.
In the “more refreshing than spicy” category was the final dish: the Zabb noodle soup, featuring pork (crumbled similarly to the labb salad) and fish balls in a citrus-leaning broth.
Our bill came to slightly more than $20 a person, and considering it’s BYO (or try the excellent Thai iced tea, available in a swell sans-condensed-milk variation), you’ll save buckets over SEA or any of the other local Thai cocktail joints.