Friday, October 3, 2008
The Elephant Walk
After a number of my friends told me how much they had enjoyed their experiences with French and Cambodian cuisine at elephant walk, it was about time I tried it for myself. Located at the beginning of Back Bay at 900 Beacon St., it presents itself as a handsome red-brick building with nice big white windows. Once inside I was very impressed by the simple yet elegant decor. I thought it really did evoke French colonialism in "Indo-China" with its yellow walls trimmed with white molding and elephant decorations all about the place.
Always into getting to try as many things for as little as possible, both of us opted for the 3-course prix fixe, but not before a drink. I had a wonderful martini called 'Hendrick's Heaven'. Thanks to the Elderflower liqueur it had a wonderfully flowery aroma that interplayed with the crisp clean cucumber smell. Christopher had a green tea mojito, which unfortunately on the watery side and tasted mostly of lime juice.
Christopher started with the Rouleaux - "two Cambodian spring rolls filled with ground pork, crushed peanut, beanthread noodles, carrot and onion; served with fresh greens and herbs for wrapping and tuk trey on the side for dipping". These were delicious - not at all greasy like some spring rolls, and you could tell the ingredients were nice and fresh.
I chose the Nataing, which was "ground pork simmered in coconut milk with sliced garlic, crushed peanuts and chili pods; served with crispy jasmine rice" I wasn't sure how to eat these so I started by scooping with the rice crisps, but then just dug right in with my spoon as if it were soup. I loved this dish - the savory pork went wonderfully with the rich and sweet coconut milk, and even the rice crisps were incredibly tasty.
Just as we finished up our first course, the second arrived. Chris had the Salade Cambodgienne - "Shredded cabbage, carrot and chicken with red bell pepper, onion, crushed peanut, mint, Asian basil and tuk trey"
Meanwhile I had the Croustillants aux Poires et Crevettes Flambées - "Crispy wontons layered with warm Bartlett pear and scallion, topped with natural shrimp flambéed with white wine, leeks and garlic" This was very nice - the wontons were still crispy and the pear and white wine gave an overall sweet flavor to the dish.
For the third course Chris had the Loc Lac - "Sautéed, cubed beef tenderloin, lightly caramelized in black pepper, garlic and mushroom soy; served over shredded lettuce with a lime and black pepper dipping sauce". This had a really interesting flavor that I couldn't put my finger on. To be honest it reminded me of the dried and spiced fish snacks one can buy at places like Super88 - hopefully that won't turn anyone away from ordering it. Both of us thought it was great.
I decided to order something I typically don't, that being catfish. I could just picture a Cambodian fisherman casting his net into the river looking for these bottom-dwellers. Yes, I'm a weirdo. The Catfish Tonle Sap was described as "Catfish marinated in a light mushroom-soy, lightly caramelized and topped with a coconut-ginger sauce and sweet pepper relish." The fish itself was a bit on the bland side, but by no means unpleasant. The sweet pepper relish was nice, though I think I'd have preferred roasted sweet peppers just to add some smokiness to the dish.
All in all we had a great dining experience and also got a great deal with the 3-course option. There are still a number of fun dishes I can't wait to come back for that aren't included as part of the fixed price dinners. Also, for those readers in Cambridge and Waltham, you have your own Elephant Walk locations to check out!
The Elephant Walk
900 Beacon Street
* first photo courtesy of virtualtourist.com