I am just going to go right ahead and say it. There is a Thai restaurant in the East Village that I have been back to multiple times.
The sound of that from my own mouth still makes me cringe a little bit, but it's Zabb Elee's fault, not mine. The former chef of now-defunct Poodam's of Astoria is currently cooking good Isaan Thai food on 2nd Avenue.
Now, it also must be said, that with all my being I hate when asked to rate on a scale how spicy I want things. I do not want a restaurant to cater to me. I want it the proper way. I'm not the chef. Rant complete.
People are raving about the larb here, and it is quite good. The larb moo ($9, above) is a nice way to start your meal, the delicate spices and tingly lime juice get your mouth working. Better yet though is the yum koon chieng ($8, below), sweet sausages that are also dressed in lime juice and covered with fresh vegetables. This is definitely an Isaan specialty and should not be missed when done well.
During lunch times, the restaurant offers a very good value lunch special for $9, that gives you a starter, main, and side. The portions you see in this review are all from that, but the prices shown reflect the larger dinner portions, which are also available if you do not want the lunch special. My favorite side for the special is the sticky rice ($2, below), which is enjoyable to eat with anything.
For a soup, try the toam zabb kra dook moo ($9, below), the restaurant's slightly different version of toam yum lemongrass soup. This version has pork spare ribs that are mostly sunken to the bottom, and an enjoyable mix of sweet, sour, and spicy like usual.
One dish that should be making you sweat, but doesn't live up to that unless you insist is the pad ped gai ($8, below), a mountain of chicken and peppers and vegetables. The chilis and chili sauce are delicious, but crank this up to its highest degree if given the chance. It calls for that kind of spice that makes you start seeing things.
The moo tod kratiem ($8, below) was the unfortunate plate of my visits, far too over-fried and losing any juiciness in the meat. The chili dipping sauce livens it up a little, but sadly it could never be fully revived.