Zaap Kitchen Lao & Thai Street Eats is a cutely packaged, three-store concept serving Lao and Thai dishes fast-casual.
I visited the North Fitzhugh Avenue store located in a nicely renovated, old two-story strip center so close to Strangeways that I got irritated pulling up thinking about how much I miss that bar.
This stretch of Fitzhugh feels like it is only being held back by COVID from an absolute explosion of new concepts and skyrocketing rents. It’d be nice if the city would fix the damn street.
Speaking of COVID-19, they take it seriously: Masks and a temperature check are required for entry. Zaap is also a model for ease of online ordering. They have a handy app, and the website uses ChowNow, which has become one of my favorite platforms. Delivery is handled by Grubhub and Caviar.
I ordered everything mild so my sampling partner could try it all. On the basis of that experience, I am not sure who wants level 5 Zaap Spicy. I once went to a Thai place that refused to serve its maximum level spicy dishes to my south Indian companion like L’Idiot withholding the duck from Steve Martin. Zaap Spicy must be like that.
Zaap Kitchen also offers a level zero, no spice I would recommend if you’re trying to feed any spice weenies.
The Lao-style papaya salad met mixed reviews. It differs from Thai style by incorporating savory crab paste and, according to the restaurant, Lao style is the original dish that later found its way to Thailand. And then to ‘thigh-land.’
To my taste, the crab paste was a welcome variation on this dish (and it reminded me of this). Other takes found it too bitter. Neither of us liked the accompanying shreds of raw cabbage, though.
The pad woon sen glass noodles in a sauce incorporating oyster, soy and bold fish sauces were dynamite. The brilliantly stir-fried vegetables would have been at home in a pretentious, chef-driven, pan-Asian concept. What a delight to find such exceptional cooking at a fast-casual place.
The red curry was similarly well done. I don’t know what it is about bamboo shoots that grabs me, but I always gravitate to them. The sauce was creamy enough that when served over Lao staple sticky rice, it was easy to eat with even my chopstick skills. That I couldn’t tell the difference between Lao curry and Thai curry bothered me not a bit.
But the standout was the “Heavenly” beef jerky. I shared this with a true Texas gourmand who agreed that the name had not oversold the dish. Zaap is using thin slices of beef and seasoning them with what tasted like sweetened soy and chilis. Deee-lightful.
The large menu has many other attractive soups and entrees that will definitely lure me to return trips, even if I never qualify to order level 5.
Zaap Kitchen Lao & Thai Street Eats, 2325 N. Fitzhugh Ave., No. 105 (East Dallas). Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.