We’re no strangers to Zaap, the new Thai street food venture in Leeds. In fact, we were invited to the launch night and had a great time. Until last week, though, we hadn’t eaten a proper meal there.
We headed there on Wednesday evening for an early midweek dinner after hearing numerous good reviews from friends to back up our positive first impressions on launch night. We turned up at about 6.30pm and the place was already packed. This was a good sign!
We were seated very quickly by a friendly waiter and set about perusing the tempting menu, which is jam-packed full of amazing Thai options, some of which are easily recognisable (e.g. Pad Thai) and some of which are a bit more unusual and authentic (like the rice with duck in five spice sauce with brown egg).
After settling on a couple of starters to share and two main dishes, we sat back and soaked in the atmosphere with a pot of jasmine tea. Zaap has been done up inside to recreate the atmosphere of a Bangkok street market. As such, you might be lucky enough to be shown to a table inside a converted tuk-tuk, or you might end up dining beneath authentic Thai food market street signs. You may even end up dining next to the popcorn machine, from which you can take a bowl of popcorn, spiced or not depending on your taste.
The result of this decor is an atmosphere in which you instantly feel excited to try the food on offer. Groups of friends were dotted around, looking as comfortable and content as the couples, families, and workmates also dining on some Thai goodies.
It wasn’t long at all before our starters arrived. We had gone for the steamed dumplings with pork and prawn, and a portion of Thai fish cakes. The fish cakes were delicious and came served steaming hot with a beautifully spicy dipping sauce.
I thought that the steamed dumplings stole the show where the starters were concerned though. They were succulent and packed full of different flavours. I honestly could have eaten a whole barrel-load of them!
Thankfully, a barrel-load of dumplings wasn’t on offer because I needed to preserve space for my main. Our main dishes arrived on stainless steel platters, another nod to the casual style of dining on offer here. In fact, I really liked how mismatched everything was in terms of crockery and so on. Our teapot had a slightly leaky lid, our starters were served on china, and our mains on platters. Everything seemed authentic and like real care and attention had been put into every single aspect of the dining experience to bring a true touch of Thailand to Leeds.
My Pad Thai was divine. It combined the crunch and nuttiness of peanuts, with the slimy and satisfying texture of the noodles. The sauce was perfectly balanced, and the chicken – often a less than memorable part of Pad Thai if we’re honest – was cooked really, really well. Too often chicken dishes in Thai restaurants aren’t all about the meat, but the chicken in this dish was moist and actually vying for top position as star ingredient of this fantastic Pad Thai.
Kyle went for a more unusual offering: stir fried spring greens with oyster sauce, garlic, and chilli, with the addition of some crispy belly pork. After trying a square of the belly pork, I immediately thought I was going to have food envy. It was crisp, juicy, and tender all at the same time, and exactly how you want a good serving of belly pork to be. However, when I properly tucked into my Pad Thai, all feelings of envy faded! Kyle wolfed his meal down, leaving just a touch of the rice so as to make space for pudding!
And so on to said puddings. I was too full to indulge in a pud I had my eye on: deep fried sliced banana. Kyle, though, had space and opted for the custard pancake with vanilla ice cream. The filling of the custard pancake was really interesting. It seemed to offer different flavours with every mouthful, all held together by the texture of the pancake itself and the creaminess of the vanilla ice cream.
With Zaap offering such fantastic food, such a different interior and atmosphere, and waitresses who are so friendly, welcoming, and polite that you almost feel embarrassed, it’s easy to see why another Thai option on a fairly crowded Leeds dining scene is being welcomed with such open arms.
Categories: Restaurant reviews