Coconut-rich khao soi, fish curry noodles, and several Thai salads are coming to a new spot in Northeast Portland. Zaap Thai, which should open in early June, will deliver the Isan food of Northeastern Thailand to a cozy spot on NE Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
For those unfamiliar, Isaan Thai food comes from the Northeastern region of Thailand, influenced by Cambodia and Laos — Portlanders have probably encountered it at places like Paadee and Pok Pok. Its dishes, often using fermentation techniques and chiles, include various salads, like the ground meat dish larb and the Thai papaya slaw som tum, as well as soups served with accoutrement like pickled mustard greens. Zaap will serve all of the above, as well as a number of combination plates, pairing papaya salad with grilled meats and sticky rice.
The restaurant will stray outside of Northeastern Thailand, however, with a few of what owner Sirimanee Tebuteb calls “more traditional” Thai dishes and another Portland favorite: khao man gai. The restaurant will also cater to vegans, with mock-meats, tofu, and tempeh available in many of the dishes.
Tebuteb moved to Portland to be closer to her family, who will help run Zaap — her mother will make her famous oxtail noodle soup, for instance. Tebuteb has worked in restaurants in Seattle, Lake Tahoe, and Reno, moving to Portland to open her own; however, her family has their own culinary background, with her mother working as a chef for years.
Zaap will open in the former Promise Land Cafe space, and those familiar with the restaurant will probably find the interiors familiar —Zaap is keeping much of the decor of the original restaurant, with its red walls and chandeliers. Tebuteb hopes that Zaap will start serving khao soi and som tum by June 1.