For some Thai students studying abroad in the 1990s and early 2000s, the name Blue Elephant leaves a unique impression. A Thai dining establishment that’s out of reach for many, and a place we knocked on the door to place an application in the hope to win a part-time slot, Blue Elephant wasn’t just a top-of-the-class Thai restaurant. At a certain point in time, it WAS “Thai cuisine.”
Fast forward to 2020 when I’m no longer a student, Blue Elephant is no longer a place I could only dream about. Instead, it’s a fool-proof choice for any dining occasion that calls for the elevated flavours of authentic, unfussy Thai cuisine crafted to please both local and international palates alike.
Master Chef Nooror Somany Steppe welcomed us with Chef’s Tasting Menu — a set of dishes that feels surprising in ideas and ingredients, but endearingly familiar in taste.
Our first dish is grilled river prawn with Royal Project’s purple eggplant salad with lime juice and chili dressing. A delicacy of the central region, river prawns are the crown jewel material not only for its soft, rich and sumptuous taste and texture. It’s a joy and a challenge to cook — because it’s so good in itself whatever you cook it with should only serve to bring out its flavour, not distorting or changing it. Chef Nooror goes for eggplant salad and we love the idea of cooking it a little spicy — a substitution for the spicy seafood sauce we always have when we enjoy grilled river prawns. The sourness balances out the creamy fat, while the slight hint of truffle gives a rich but not overwhelming aroma.
The first course is the iconic signature dish — something you cannot miss when you visit Blue Elephant no matter what set menu you’re after. The tamarind and French “Landes” Foie Gras. Looking back 15 years ago when this recipe was first created, you could tell it has somewhat set the tone and cooking approach of Chef Nooror until now: her love for enriching her premium materials with local herbs and flavours that feel unmistakably Thai — a little sweet, a little sour with mild spices. Mangoes and tamarinds bring out the unique taste of Foie Gras the way berries do, but they give it a unique and delectable Thai twist.
Next up is the soup — scallops Tom Klong. My personal favourite among Thai soup and one I consider most aromatic, and easiest for foreigners to enjoy, Tom Klong is great for palate cleansing. Usually cooked with freshwater fish, Chef Nooror makes scallops the material for this dish, making it more appropriate as a palate cleansing soup and not a main to be taken with rice.
The main course is massive and when we say it’s massive, we mean it. You start out with Duck Laab Confit with sticky rice. The Chachoengsao farmed duck is cooked to perfection with the French technique, yet taken with a Northeastern dip caramelised tamarind roasted rice Thai herbs. It is simply delightful — a blend of chewy meat, crispy skin enveloped in the aromatic spiciness of a familiar flavour we all love and know.
Served together with the Duck Laab Confit is a set of 3 dishes in small portion: noodles with hot Phuket-style Tumeric betel leaves and mangrove crab curry, sweet basic and chili sea bass and garlic zucchini. The noodles with curry is hot in the true Souther style, and with a blend of multiple spices that evoke the multiculturalism of its origin. You can take the stir-fried zucchini to soften the spicy taste left by the curry. The sea bass is mild and aromatic, yet the unique blend of spices makes the dish so rich and enjoyable.
The dessert set “Pearls of Blue Elephant” is comprised of four selections in a dish. I’d easily handpick the sweetened sticky rice with ice-cream as a hands-down favourite with the ice-cream exuding such rich aroma and mild, not-too-sweet taste to compliment the perfectly-cooked rice.
The Chef’s Tasting Menu course is THB2,250++ without wine pairing and 2,650++ with wine pairing.