Driven by PASSION. Powered by your SUPPORT. Keep Johor Kaki blogging.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Lao and Thai Food at Restoran Tam Zabb in Taman Nusa Bestari, Johor Bahru (Restaurant is Closed)


I was food spotting in Taman Nusa Besari near the Giant Hypermart when I stumbled upon this new restaurant. I was intrigued that it offered Lao and Thai food. In particular, I was curious as I had never eaten Lao food before.

I stopped and stood at the entrance for quite a while, and then the two Indian gentlemen eating at the nearest table said to me smiling, "Try it, the food is nice." One of the gentlemen then got up and said he will introduce me to the boss. "The boss is very friendly", he said reassuringly.

And so I met Benny Sriphet, the owner. Benny is an IT professional from Sweden and the lady boss Aphinya Sriphet is from northeastern Thailand at the border with Laos, hence the Lao and Thai cuisine at Restoran Tam Zabb.

Aphinya had been a Head Chef in a Thai restaurant in Sweden before moving to Singapore where Benny works and now opening Tam Zabb in Johor Bahru.


Sriphet with her hometown kitchen crew.

The decor in Tam Zabb has a minimalist contemporary Nordic feel with touches of Thai and Lao in pictures and ornaments adorning the walls and niches around the restaurant.


What does the name Tam Zabb mean? It sounds like "thumbs up" and in Lao it means "Delicious Mortar". Aphinya said that in Lao cooking, the fresh ingredients are pounded using a mortar. In fact, there are different types of mortars made of different woods and stones for different ingredients. Foodies familiar with Southeast Asian cooking will know that hand pounding creates unique flavours and textures that cannot be replicated with modern electric blenders and grinders.

Aphinya said that Tam Zabb serves authentic Lao and Thai food with many ingredients imported from Thailand and Laos. Some of the herbs are even grown in their own home in Johor Bahru to ensure a secure supply of the key ingredients.


Wood Apple drink at RM5. Sweet with a hint of herbal flavour, this reminded me of the Chinese dried melon herbal tea.


Lemongrass Infusion drink served hot or cold at RM3. Made with Thai lemongrass which tastes milder than the local variety. Benny said that Johor Kaki readers will be offered a free Lemongrass Infusion just by mentioning "Johor Kaki" to the staff. So, you can try this Lao drink whenever you dine at Tam Zabb.


First up was the Som Tam Thai (RM10), a salad of fresh vegetables eaten with hot glutinous rice served in quaint little satchels made with woven leaves. Som Tam Thai was a complex blend of sweet, spicy, tangy and savoury flavours with interesting textures. It's a great appetiser to "open up the stomach" as the Chinese phrase goes.


Num Tok Phla (RM25) is a tilapia fish, its flesh diced into cubes, marinaded with hot spices, deep fried and served with garnishing.



Classic Larb (RM15) is fried finely chopped pork in tangy, savoury sauce. This is a classic Laotian dish. Also available made with chicken.


Steamed Glass Noodles with Shrimps at RM15.  Savoury and spicy flavours.


Tam Zabb's Thai staple Pad Thai at RM12 was quite subtle in flavour. Aphinya said that this would allow the customer to add condiments like powdered nuts, chili powder, sugar, or chili pickle according to their personal tastes.


For me, I like my Pad Thai to have a little sting.


I like it that Tam Zabb's Pad Thai come with crunchy, pearly white bean sprouts with their roots removed.


Everybody, well almost everyone, orders a Tom Yam Kung when dining in a Thai restaurant. Tam Zabb's rendition of this Thai classic is mildly spicy and doesn't have that lingering sting of some Tom Yam.


With the milder palate that I have nowadays, Tam Zabb's Tom Yam was just nice for me. The key to good Tom Yam is fresh ingredients and Tam Zabb got that well taken care of.


We rounded up our sumptuous dinner with the Sticky Rice Mango dessert (RM12). The refreshingly sweet and subtly tangy mango went very well with the sweet sticky rice. That milky syrup on the mango is made with palm sugar extracted from "sea coconut" palms. Refreshing and yet not overly sweet. Not available in Johor, so Aphinya gets the palm sugar directly from Thailand. This was so delicious that somehow, my stomach found space for this rather substantial dessert.

We had a lot of food for four people and need to come back again for other interesting Lao and Thai food like the BBQ catfish which I can't wait to try.


Restaurant name: Restoran Tam Zabb Lao and Thai
Address: 48G, Jalan Bestari 3/2, Taman Nusa Bestari, Johor Bahru
Map: (rough)
GPS 1.481964,103.666407 (rough)
Hours: 11:00am to 11:00pm (Closed in Tuesday)
Non Halal

Date visited: 21 Jan 2013


  1. Amazing! Looks so delicious!

  2. wow, they have wood apple! never seen that in malaysia before, its a very popular fruit in sri lanka, usually eaten with palm sugar (similar to gula melaka).

    also regarding the hand grinding, modern grinders and burr grinders can be found which replicate hand grinding due to using stones instead of blades, which crush instead of chop. they are getting increasingly popular now that japanese and western companies are targeting the exploding indian market that uses mortar and pestle for a lot of dishes.

    1. Ah... I saw these contraptions that you talked about in JB downtown today (near the Hindu temple). Very interesting. Thanks.

  3. r the food prices quoted here 4 1 or 4 2 ppl ?

  4. The portions are sufficient for two people.

  5. After seeing all the mouth watering good food I just want to jump into my car and fly there right away. But I just have only 2 legs.. No car.. just too bad

  6. alamak seems no halal la pulak

  7. after trying today, waitress services really need to improve!
    at first refuse to provide foursquare check in compliment appetizer even the guideline page is in the menu first page and giving pointless excuse!

    after showing the menu first page to her only willing to provide the appetizer with no choice but in the menu got variety appetizer

  8. the johor kaki compliment drink is for 1 table 1 ? i got 2 person dine in and only provide for 1! if it is the case i shall make separate order in 2 bills!

  9. Hi, I'm Benny - the owner of Restoran Tam Zabb. There's been a miscommunication internally on the free drink with the Johor Kaki reference and this is entirely my fault, of course this promotion is for the whole table and not only one drink so this will be properly managed going forward. I apologize for the inconvenience caused on this.
    When it comes to the first time check-in on Foursquare, it's one appetizer per check-in. So if your group all check in for the first time you could in theory have close to a free meal.. ;)
    Halal certification I'm afraid we decided not to try for this first food venture. My approach in business and life is all or nothing which means it would be with a proper Halal-certificate or not at all. Given the complexity of this process I decided not to do this for the first outlet. My 2nd outlet will however have Halal certification and I'm aiming to open that sometime early 2014 in the Nusajaya area.

  10. plan to go on chinese new year...
    May i know the restaurant during Chinese new year?

  11. also can try a pure Siamese chef food even it just a stall, at : 富山咖啡厅 Restorant Sum Chinn Siamese Thai Cuisine. No2, Jalan Rawa 5, Taman Desa Cemerlang. 81800 Ulu Tiram Johor

  12. Went there last saturday around 6pm but it wasn't open?


I firmly believe that taste is subjective and so, warmly welcome differing viewpoints :-D But, I disapprove negative comments that are anonymous or hide behind fake identities. I feel that that is the same as speaking ill of others behind their backs. I look forward to all your comments :-D Thank you. (Date: 18 Dec 2015)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...