No passport necessary, folks. No need to convert the moula. Keep the bags unpacked and get on board because this column is dedicated to exotic cultures in your own backyard. I present to you, the first stop on our Around the World series, Thai L’Elephant.
You pass a place so often, you never know what to expect. You see a Chinese restaurant, and assume it resembles the one you frequent. Or you zoom pass an Irish bar and think Guinness signs and shamrocks. But when you take the effort and step into Thai L’Elephant, you know you stumbled into something special. After my first three steps, I knew this was why I crafted this series.
Alright, so if you’ve never been to Thai L’Elephant, I’ll paint you a picture. First and foremost, I was feeling the ambiance. If you’ve lived in Phoenixville as long as I have, you know that building was once the home of Sleepy Hollow, the “once upon a time” local video store. What Nui Kullanna, the owner and head chef of Thai L’Elephant, did with the place is rather impressive.
The use of gold, burnt orange paint, brick and Thai décor is very well balanced here. It’s easy on the eyes. I’m no decorator, but you know gaudy when you see it. Not here. Not “theme-parkish” by any means. You don’t’ feel like you’re in a tourist attraction. I personally expected an overabundance of elephants, but Chef Nui runs a classy joint. Plus, you can’t ignore the extra oomph the staff puts into the rose shaped napkins and table settings.
But the wow factor doesn’t stop there. Chef Nui and her staff at Thai L’Elephant are always taking everything to the Nth level. The end of the straws are wrapped in a heart shaped string, making this experience that much more intimate. It really comes down to the little things. I hadn’t even indulged in a dish and felt very reserved and relaxed!
Everything that followed the Thai Iced Tea was more and more engaging. The plates set in front of me needed to be taken with appreciation. Mental notes were made. I found myself perplexed with how Chef Nui can pull this off each day. She’s comprised a menu that pays homage to Thai tradition, but added her own flare. She’s conscious of what people expect of Thai food, but she is also fully aware what’s in demand. Hence, these plates have their own little spin, a Chef Nui spin.
My eyes bulged with the spread of appetizers that were graced before me. And we’re talking appetizers, not even the main event! But before I continue, I need to pull over this expedition for a moment. I ask that if you ever do order the Thai Treasure Appetizer, please take notice of the Tulip Dumplings (these are also available as a stand-alone appetizer). Don’t just dive right in. Review the level of detail that goes into these delicacies. They deserve a certain level of admiration. Chef Nui respects her clientele and gives them a unique experience, even in a single dumpling. And yes, they taste just as good as they look.
After a full attempt to polish off those appetizers, I couldn’t believe what came next. It’s that moment, ones that are few and far between, where you find your seat edged back. The server placed two dishes in front of me, and I didn’t know where to begin. Bestowed upon me were the Chu Chee Duck and the Mae-Nam.
Everything about these dishes is right on the money, spot on. The duck was roasted to perfection, mouth watering and tender. No knife needed. The meat slid right onto the fork. And the creamy curry sauce had just the right level of spice. You need to give it a level of attention to pick up on it, but it’s there.
But let’s step away from the turf and get to the surf portion. The lobster, though intimidating at first glance, had so much going on, that I didn’t know where to begin. Layers upon layers, and flavors upon flavors to dissect. This is a “no butter, necessary” lobster. There’s enough flavor on its own merit. The lobster just melts in your mouth. And the presence of fried onions across the top takes it to that next level. The many added touches that revel this dish. Too infinity and beyond!
But you need to take a break from the lobster and give your taste buds a real dance with Thailand. That’s right, there’s a whole other story going on underneath that shouldn’t be ignored. This course has chapters, people. The real Thai experience of sweet and sour encompasses the bottom level of the plate. I kept finding more and more items that had me excited: Crispy Tilapia, Jumbo Shrimp tossed with Thai Green Mango and Apple Salsa. In one word? Awesome. You can’t put meals like this into words. You just have to experience this dish.
And then came the finale, drum roll finale—the dessert. If you experienced Thai L’ Elephant and were wowed by the décor, were dazzled by the place settings, then my Town Dish friend, you will be knocked off your socks by their Butterscotch Cake dessert.
The pattern you see in the photo is not from the plate. That is syrup. I know, right? Insane! That is the level of respect, sophistication and creativity that Chef Nui has for her customers. This was the swan song to a perfect meal. Standing ovation.
Readers, my journey will continue, but I implore you, make it on over to Thai L’Elephant. Bask in the Thailand flavor that Chef Nui has to offer. You will not be disappointed. Until then, join me on my next destination as I see what other diverse flavors Phoenixville has in store!
Photographs credited to Nina Lea Photography & Amy Strauss. View more photos from Kevin’s Around the World visit by clicking here.