This review is late. Until now the standard procedure has gone as such: Hear about a place, have a look at said place’s website, eat at place, write about place. This time, someone (me) accidentally hit the loop button at stage three. So, to be kind, let’s not call the article late, but well researched.
Brought to us by the owners of Sukhothai, Zaap is a marked change of direction from the dimly lit, ornately peaceful dining rooms of its cousins. Rather, it revels in Leeds’ new found enthusiasm for street food with a loud, neon fuelled, tuk tuk filled, lucky cat-embracing interior, all designed to transport patrons to the bustling lanes of Bangkok. Whether it is authentic or not is beyond my capacity to say, but it is fun.
The busy design doesn’t end at the décor but extends through the surprisingly techno music, the bubbly, attentive staff, the lively post-work punters, and seeps into the menu. The thing is migraine-inducingly massive, split into Dim Zum, Yumyum Tumtum, Tarmsung and more in a hazy mess of terracotta madness. And yet, one thing always stands out.
Without fail, someone snuffles a snigger before pointing to number 54 and drawing the table’s attention to the stir fried morning glory. To clarify (and we have checked this), this is not seared wake-up erections smothered in oyster sauce, it is a green vegetable, probably related to spinach, and really rather tasty.
Normally, in an attempt to save time and effort, I just ask a member of staff to order for me. So far it has paid off in dividends. The dumplings and gyoza make for reliable choices but the ribs in black bean sauce are my pick of the starters – soft and juicy meat, lifted by a strong kick of coriander. Then it’s anyone’s guess.
As can be expected with any menu resembling the Millenium Falcon user manual, the standard is not constant across all of the dishes. Fortunately, hits are much more common than misses and there have never been any disasters. In particular, the large roasted duck is good and the Massaman is excellent.
Zaap is a great place for sharers. There is plenty of intrigue, exciting flavours and unusual ingredients for people to dive into and going at it tapas style lessens the immense stress of trying to choose one dish. There is ample opportunity to be pleasantly surprised at this restaurant, not least when it comes to paying the bill.
In what really is unbelievable value for money, it is perfectly possible to get a starter, a main and a beer for less than fifteen quid and leave both satiated and highly satisfied. Zaap is disorientating and endearingly mad. It isn’t perfect but it extends the hand of friendship and leads you through a blur of colours and tastes. And I keep going back.