Don't expect to find pad Thai on the menu at this comfortable but simply bedecked subterranean East Village restaurant. An outpost of a popular Queens restaurant of the same name, Zabb Elee is one of the few very good Thai restaurants in Manhattan. The long menu is a showecase for the cuisine of Isan, a region in northeastern Thailand that emphasizes simplicity and spiciness. Order a plate of larb—ground meat with mint, scallions, cilantro, and chili—or som tam, spicy papaya salad. Fish lovers will dig the herb-stuffed grilled tilapia. Just be sure to tell the server the level of hotness you prefer (one means mild, four means very spicy, and "Thai" means out-of-this-world hot).
75 2nd Ave., between E. 4th and E. 5th Sts., New York, New York, United States