Thai L’Elephant is well-known for its complete vegan menu (appetizers, soups and entrées!) as well as its regular menu of French-inspired Thai cuisine, but when Petals Harris and I recently went to dinner, it was the garnish on every dish that excited us.
As readers may remember, we adore Thai Iced Tea ($2.50) and Thai Iced Coffee ($2.50) which were not listed on the menu, but were available for the asking. Each beverage came in a tall glass garnished with a straw decorated with a tiny heart and swirl made from the paper surrounding the straw. We were so enchanted with these straw covers that we both saved them to take home. The drinks themselves were a satisfying blend of strong caffeinated beverage with sweet sugar-condensed milk.
Petals chose the Chicken Satay ($6.95) with Thai Herbs and Peanut Sauce for an appetizer. While she had some difficulty removing the chicken from the skewers, the chicken itself was perfectly cooked and the peanut sauce vibrated with sweet and heat from Thai sweet chili paste. The tangled threads of beet, carrot and daikon were an elegant (and tasty!) garnish.
I chose the Corn Cakes ($5.95) from the Vegan Appetizer Menu which were four cakes of fresh corn kernels held together with a vegetative base, pan-fried and served with a side of Thai herbs. I’m not vegan, but I do love corn, so I enjoyed the dish immensely.
While the vegan entrées looked interesting and have a very loyal following, I didn’t feel like tofu that night so ordered a Wok Specialty: BKK Chicken ($15.95). A beautiful plate arrived with crispy chicken rolled in Thai sweet chili paste, roasted onions, snap peas and red bell pepper with a scoop of jasmine rice and a pretty carrot flower on the side with a leaf of parsley.
The restaurant is decidedly dark or "romantically dim," depending on your preference. My entrée had an additional top garnish of three dried cayenne peppers, but in the lack of light, I failed to see them until my fork crunched on something hard and Petals said “What IS that?” Preferring a balance of heat and sweet, rather than a steady heat blast, I quickly picked them out of the dish. I enjoyed the entrée and would order it again, but the light level is low and I know that our food pictures suffered as a result.
Mindful that we’ve been called out before for ordering entrees from the same menu category, Petals chose the Drunken Noodles with Chicken ($12.95) which was large flat rice noodles with chicken, onion, string beans and tomatoes garnished with another carrot/parsley flower. The dish was spicy, which Petals enjoys, but rice noodles, it appears, have a gelatinous quality that Petals found was not something she’d ever order again, anywhere. Any patron of Asian restaurants should try rice noodles as they are a stable of the region; unfortunately, it was Petals' day to find that her first serving of them would probably be her last.
We asked for a dessert menu, but instead, the waitress brought us a pretty dessert tray with five different miniature cakes on it. I chose the Coconut Bliss Cake ($7.95), but Petals, hearing that there were ice cream choices (coconut, mango and green tea), chose the Green Tea Ice Cream ($6.95).
Our desserts were centered on plates with swirls of puréed mango, raspberry and coconut milk artistically arranged. The Green Tea Ice Cream was more subtle than Petals usually prefers (poor Petals--it was not her night!), but the Coconut Bliss Cake was rich with buttercream and heavy with coconut. The sauces added a dollop of fruit brightness to our desserts that was another attention to detail we appreciated.
Service was quick, friendly and efficient. The restaurant was gearing up for a large party halfway through our dinner, but managed to juggle their previous patrons and the new arrivals with grace.
Gathering our paper hearts-with-a-swirl, we left the restaurant, feeling that we’d had a genuine experience with Thai cuisine and looking forward to making better choices there for Petals' tastebuds in the future.
If You Go:
Location: 301 Bridge St., Phoenixville
Cost: Appetizers: $4.95 to $15.95; Entrées: $10.95 to $22.95; Desserts: $6.95 to $7.95
Hours: Sunday: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Tuesday through Thursday: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Payments accepted: Cash, Credit Cards
Parking: Phoenixville On-Street Parking or Paid Parking Lot