The Early Word: Zabb Elee in Manhattan
Rebecca Marx A little Isan in the East Village
When we heard that Zabb Elee had replaced the very mediocre Le Da Nang, we were very excited, primarily because we live within walking distance of the restaurant and the East Village is in need of some Isan (the region of Northern Thailand near Laos) cuisine. So obviously we had to check out the new spot. And we have to admit, we were pretty stoked by what we found.
Lauren Shockey Pla goong
Pla goong ($9), steamed shrimp with Thai herbs and chile lime dressing, ranked as our favorite dish of the evening. Big tender shrimp were tossed with lots of lemongrass and sliced shallots, along with lashings of fiery chiles and mint. The heat from the peppers lingers in your mouth for sure, but the flavors were spot-on and vibrant. A must-order.
Lauren Shockey Ped larb
Larb, ground meat tossed with shallots, mint, cilantro, scallions, chile, lime, and ground toasted rice powder, is hugely popular in the Isan region, so we had to sample the version here. All varieties are $9, and we opted for the duck, which had a nice texture, thanks to the addition of skin cracklings. It could have been slightly spicier, but overall a good dish and not too dry, as often occurs with larb. And with it, we ordered the requisite side of sticky rice ($2).