Apart from a holiday in Thailand, my only experiences of Thai restaurants have been quite traditional – carved wood, embroidered menus, waiters in Thai clothing, gold cutlery and ornate crockery – so walking into Zaap Thai was very different to anything we’d encountered before…
The restaurant’s location is somewhere that as an out-of-towner we wouldn’t have just stumbled upon as it’s not in an area we’d necessarily mooch around, so we did need to put it into google maps. You definitely won’t miss it as you approach though…
The smell that hits you when you enter the restaurant immediately makes you feel hungry! Wafts of stir fried garlic and spring onions surround you, teasing you with what’s to come…
We were shown to a table in the middle of the restaurant and swiftly ordered a couple of Chang beers (mainly to bring back fond memories of lying on a Thai beach!). I don’t think I’ve ever known drinks to appear so fast – surely this was a good sign?
The restaurant itself has been kitted out with everything you’d find on a street in Bangkok. With anywhere themed there’s always a danger of it feeling a bit naff but Zaap has managed not only to pull it off but to make it feel authentic and fun
Name that film >>>>>
The concept is Thai street food and there’s LOADS on the menu to choose from which is great, but it did take us a while to narrow down our decision as we just wanted everything! (Those smells were not making things easier!) We decided to share dishes so we’d get to try a wider range of flavours
For one of our starters we chose the chicken gyoza – crispy golden fried parcels bursting with piping hot minced chicken and vegetables, served on shredded lettuce with sweet chilli sauce on the side – not mind blowing but certainly tasty
Our other starter was the Sa La Pao Moo Daeng (steamed buns with roasted red pork filling) Despite their charachteristically stodgy appearance the buns were light and fluffy with a filling of juicy diced barbecue-y pork. For me I’d have liked a little more sauce and pork inside so the ratio of filling-to-dough was more even, but I couldn’t fault the flavours (very similar to some we had in Hong Kong) and would happily have eaten another 10!
Our table was well positioned to see quite a lot of the restaurant, including the front seating area and bar which are open-plan, the bustling kitchen and some of the tuk-tuks, which create booth seating areas
On to the mains and we chose three dishes to share, first up being the Pad Thai Bo Ran Gung (prawn pad Thai). The picture is deceptive as the prawns themselves are mostly hidden but there were at least 6 or 7 really big chunky, well cooked king prawns underneath all those noodles. As with the dumplings this dish was deceptively light and beautifully flavoured – tamarind, egg, spring onion and beansprouts were mingled with the noodles, which were then topped with crushed peanuts, coriander and lime wedges for squeezing over and adding a bit of zing – delicious
The second dish was the Gang Massaman Gai (Massaman chicken curry). As a lover of peanuts this dish was heavenly – good sized chunks of juicy chicken and potato were enveloped in a silky peanut curry sauce which was rich but not heavy. As with most of the main dishes, the curry came with a side of sticky rice
My favourite dish however just had to be the Pad Ga Prao Moo (stir fried minced pork with basil). The flavours were incredible and reminded me of a very similar dish we had a couple of years ago at Night+Market in LA. A punchy combination of minced pork, stir fried with soy & fish sauce, oyster sauce, garlic, chilli and Thai basil. Whilst the meat had a deep colour I suspect this had a lot to do with the soy sauce and not so much from the heat of frying as it had been kept lovely and moist. The menu stated that a fried egg could be added to the dish but we opted to have it without and I didn’t feel that anything was missing. This is definitely something I will attempt to make at home!
Now the desserts were not something we’d come across before… I went for the Tub Tim Krob which is apparently one of the most famous Thai desserts – a sickly sweet syrupy concoction with coconut milk and chunks of semi-crunchy water chestnut. A couple of things surprised me about this dish, namely the overwhelming sweetness and the fact that the chestnuts were red. The dish is apparently sometimes called ‘rubies in coconut milk’ and the red is purely from food colouring. I wouldn’t say I’d never have it again but I’d perhaps try something different next time
The husband chose the Bua Loy Kai Wan (silky dumplings in a warm coconut broth) This can also be served with a poached egg but that really didn’t appeal to him for a dessert! The coconut broth was again very sweet and had an unusual colour which concealed the squishy little blue & green dumplings. Again the dish wasn’t unpleasant and mainly just tasted of coconut but is perhaps more of an acquired taste…
We visited at about 3:30pm on a Sunday and as you can tell by the pictures it wasn’t over busy, but I imagine the atmosphere on a Friday or Saturday night would be buzzing (and you’d definitely need to book!) Zaap is really relaxed and fun, and we’ll be back for sure – there’s no way I’ll be able to resist ordering the Pad Ga Prao Moo again!
They also have restaurants in Leeds & Newcastle – visit their website here