By : JOHN GRANVILLE
20 February 2020
About: Blue Elephant has a long history. Chef Nooror Somany Steppe is married to a Belgian art dealer, Karl Steppe, and they opened the first Blue Elephant in Brussels, way back in 1980. The Bangkok restaurant dates from 2002, and the gingerbread mansion in which it is housed has a far longer history: the building began life in 1903 as the Bombay Department Store, then became the headquarters of the Thai-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, then a Japanese Army HQ, then back to the TCC again. These days the mansion is listed by Thailand’s Fine Arts Department. There is another Blue Elephant in Phuket Old Town, also in a lovely old property, and others in Malta, Paris and Copenhagen. The cuisine is Royal Thai, the table settings are fine dining, and the wine listing is impeccable.
Decor: Part of the charm of the building is that there are many little rooms, and the spaces are carefully divided to ensure privacy. Snug really is the word, with warm brown teak woodwork, wooden tables, rattan chairs, candlelight, fine glassware on the tables, and gold platters. A bar is to the front of the building, there are private rooms, and the cooking school is on the top floor.
Menu: There is a full a la carte menu, but on this occasion we decided to try one of Chef Nooror’s tasting menus, which combines modern and ancient recipes and which is priced at 2,600 baht per person, with a minimum of two persons. We added to this the optional wine pairing, at 1,250 baht per person. Two amuse bouche portions, of vermicelli topped with blue swimmer crab, and a salad of smoked sturgeon from Hua Hin, were followed by a dish that Chef Nooror created fifteen years ago, French Landes foie gras with Thai tamarind and sweet potato. To accompany this our wine was a sparkling Bortolomiol from Veneto, in Italy. Baby scallops from the Gulf of Siam were served with avocado mousse from the Royal projects and black diamond garlic, and a crispy prawn cake with pomelo. Our wine was a Josmeyer Cuvee Royale Thai from Alsace, a blending of Gewurztraminer. Soup was bisque of river prawn tom yum, made with Khao Yai white wine. On to the main courses, and they arrived in Thai style. Issan Charolais beef with black diamond garlic, black truffle, and Phuket abalone; red curry with crab and mango leaves; steamed red grouper drizzled with fresh lime and served with a dash of honey; green asparagus and lotus root salad; and organic rice served in a young coconut shell. Our wine was a red from the Cotes-du-Rhone in France, a Syrah from Le Sang des Seigneurs. Dessert, a simple blending of homemade jasmine ice ream, mango sticky rice, and date palm custard with pistachios; and a sweetish Muscat from Domaine des Bernardins, in Rhone.
Evaluation: Blue Elephant is one of Bangkok’s great destination restaurants, and certainly a place to visit if you are celebrating, or have out-of-town visitors who want to try the best of Thai food but who also like dining in style. The tasting menus represent good value, but the a la carte also does not need to break the bank.