When I first moved into my new furnished apartment rental in the East Village of New York City, of course I walked around right away to check out what local restaurants I’d need to visit over the coming days. One that I noticed right away was called Zabb Elee, a small Thai restaurant serving Isaan cuisine (food from the Northeast of Thailand). Have I ever mentioned how much I love Isaan food?
I almost jumped for joy and looked at the menu in the window right away. It had all sorts of authentic dishes listed that I love to order while actually in the Land of Smiles, and I knew that I would be hitting up this place quite frequently over the coming week. Although I had no idea whether it would actually be good or not, I just had a feeling that I would be super happy about the restaurant, which is literally half a block from my place. After eating there and then looking up the website to write this review, I noticed the high amount of praise that Zabb Elee has received since it recently opened this second location (the first is in Queens), from the Wall Street Journal, SeriousEats.com, and The New York Times.
The restaurant itself was cute, with white and light green paint, dark tables throughout with white bench seating, and a bar towards the back (and yes, there’s a unique cocktail list that I’ll have to also try out at some point).
Well, a few days later, I tried it for the first time for a quick solo lunch, and decided to go straight for something I can’t get here: the Larb Moo Thai. Larb is one of my favourite Thai dishes to begin with, and I’ll even make it at home pretty regularly. It’s considered a salad, and is quite healthy and refreshing in that the meat is cooked only in water, and the spices and veggies included are all fresh. It consists of some type of ground meat, along with shallots, lots of fresh mint, scallions, cilantro, Thai chilies, and a lime, fish sauce and sugar dressing. Moo means pork in this case, and the Thai part of this dish means that it is made up of not just regular ground pork, but also pork ears and liver – to me, this is absolutely delicious, and filled with texture!
I ate this dish with a serving of sticky rice, which I ate in the true Thai-style – using my fingers to grab it and then dip it into the accompanying larb sauce.
Although I only had the chance to eat this one dish this time around, I’ll be back for more lunches very soon, as it was truly spicy, and brought me back to authentic Thailand. The fact that it’s located so close by for me? Priceless.