Zab Zab masters strong flavors of Thailand with homey ambiance

Tucked away into the charming recesses of Lighthouse Avenue, local gem Zab Zab Thai Cuisine features a cozy family-friendly environment, authentic Thai flavors and affordable prices that make for a memorable dining experience.

Zab Zab’s menu is extensive, providing options from spring roll appetizers to a plethora of entrees, including noodles, soups and rice dishes.

We, your editors, decided to go with “classic” entrees in order to test the quality of the authentic Thai cooking, ordering Pad Cashew ($11.99) from the wok and Chicken Thai Fried Rice ($9.99).

The former was served straight out of the wok, plated with savory Pad Thai sauce and a side of rice. Well-cooked tofu, broccoli, green onions, cashews and bell peppers created a complete and balanced, exquisitely flavored meal. The dish was simple, yet accomplished a comfort-food feel while remaining flavorful and interesting to the palette.

The latter consisted of a bed of jasmine rice as its base, complemented with various flavors and bright colors in the form of carrots, tomatoes, green onions and fried eggs. The dish achieved the satisfying feeling of traditional fried rice meals, but added complex tangy flavors and components cooked to perfection that gave the dish a professional feel.

In addition to the meals, we ordered Zab Zab’s Thai Iced Tea ($2.99) to test their take on an exotic—though familiar—beverage. Although it was slightly too saccharine, having been sweetened past the ideal, overall, the strong flavor of the brewed tea was offset by a smooth layer of creamer, giving the drink a perfect consistency and cutting the normally harsh edge of the tea.

With a traditional restaurant set-up, Zab Zab was packed full for a late dinner at 8 p.m. on a Sunday evening, the hostess taking names for a short ten-minute wait.

Once seated, customers may find themselves in one of a few intimate rooms, furnished with clean small tables and cushioned benches lining the walls, garnished with colorful plush throw pillows to create a homey atmosphere. Zab Zab also boasts outdoor seating, complete with heating torches to add ambience and character to the patio in the midst of downtown Monterey.

Dining in low temperatures, we opted for indoor seating, finding the weather to be too chilly for much comfort, though there were also parties seated outside.

The service was quick and efficient, with friendly servers who returned every few minutes to refill water served in handled mason jars and check in on customers.

There is no doubt that we would return to this restaurant for another night out. Zab Zab, we hereby bestow upon you the Gumloff seal of approval.

-Anna Gumberg and Melissa Pavloff