Three-year-old East Cambridge Thai restaurant Pandan Leaf (569 Cambridge St.) is no more, but its owners have replaced it with a new Thai restaurant, 9Zaab, with a focus on Thai street foods (and an attractive renovation).
The pivot away from the ubiquitous Thai-American build-your-own-curry type of a menu and into more of a street food focus is probably a smart one; relatively new Thai restaurants like Dakzen and Kor Tor Mor have been finding eager fan bases for their street food-inspired menus. (In fact, 9Zaab and Kor Tor Mor are part of the same restaurant family, per business filings with the state. They are also seemingly connected to Tom Yum Koong in Medford and Kapow Thai in Dorchester.)
9Zaab does have plenty of familiar curries and noodle dishes for those who are looking for pad thai, mango curry, and the like. But those looking to dive deeper into the Thai street food canon will find a wide range of options, especially in the rice dish department: khao mun gai, khao moo dang, khao na ped, and lots more.
The sai ua — an herby pork sausage from northern Thailand — is an early standout at 9Zaab, as are the chicken butts, listed as “grilled” on the menu but served deep-fried instead, with a sweet chile dipping sauce.
The space seats about 20, and the decor is tailor-made to get diners excited about street food: The focal point of the room is a giant photograph of people eating street food in Thailand, and a television plays non-stop videos of Mark Wiens, a prolific food and travel writer and YouTuber who is based in Bangkok, eating his way through Asia and beyond. There’s full-service dining for those who want to eat at the restaurant; takeout and delivery are also available. 9Zaab is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, except for Mondays, when it is closed.
Note: 9Zaab serves some desserts, including shaved ice, mango sticky rice, and more. But if diners have room for more dessert after, the fairly new Elmendorf baking supply shop and cafe is a short walk diagonally across the street, serving a mix of baked goods made in-house (like cookies) and baked goods from Salem icon A&J King (like croissants). Make it a two-stop East Cambridge food crawl.
• Pandan Leaf in East Cambridge Has Closed; 9 Zaab May Be Moving In [BRT]
• 9Zaab [Official Site]
• 9Zaab [IG]