Forgive my dessert-first excitement, but this little Thai restaurant carries the best macaron in the city. Let me break that down: Thai restaurant. Strip mall. French confection. The best. The macarons are generously sized—four bites of airy crunch and creamy filling—with interesting flavor combinations, like mango and chocolate. And at $1 each, they’re less expensive than most. The chef, Paendin “Toon” Yongkanaysin—who also makes a minimally sweetened and spicy pad Thai, tender massaman curry, and great galangal-scented tom yum (hot and sour soup)—has a deft hand at desserts. Her handmade ice creams (they change seasonally; the black sesame alone is worth the journey north), cakes, and tarts stack up to many pastry kitchens. Many treats, like her coconut infused sticky rice pudding, were featured at Beluga Restaurant. Yongkanaysin and Zab Thai’s co-owner, Cindy Yantarasri, managed the kitchen and the front of the house respectively. At Beluga, her menu was all over the Asian map, but here she squarely focuses on Thai specialties. Familiar curries green, yellow, and panang; noodles both sturdy and delicate; rice stir-fried so that grains stay separate and lightly caramelized; soups rich with deeply flavored broths; and salads that feature calamari or beef or rutabaga and are dressed in chili, garlic and lime, in peanut sauce, or miso vinaigrette. The food is appropriately cheap, saucy, spicy, and plentiful, but Yantarasri and Yongkanaysin serve it in a spacious room with simple modern notes: saffron walls, globe lights, and black vinyl on the tables.
Zab Thai, 10667 Loveland- Madeira Rd., (513) 774-7800
Originally published in the December 2012 issue.