Saturday July 5, 2008
By MARK LEAN
Inventive Thai cuisine and reasonable prices meet agreeably at My Elephant.
Business hours: Tuesday to Sunday (except Saturday and Sunday lunch)
It was at Thai restaurant, My Elephant, in Petaling Jayaís Section 17, that I happily found a convincing, if less fiery, version of a favourite Thai dish of mine ó som tam.
For me, Thai cuisine should be a clash of extreme flavours. And very hot.
But, as one of the eateryís owners, Patrick Cheng, explains, most Malaysians like to play it safe, preferring more restrained versions of Thai dishes. As such, Chef Kom has to go easy on the chillies, but he makes up for it with the sheer inventiveness of his dishes.
Imagine dragon fruit, rambutan, and taufu cooked in a creamy red curry concoction. Weird, right?
Iím not sure why, but somehow the dish works. The fruits are added in at the last minute and so retain their fruitiness while the soft-in-the-middle taufu soaks up the rich curry sauce to tasty effect. Known as the Panang Tauhu (RM15), it goes well with the fragrant combination of brown and white rice the restaurant serves.
The Rambutan Salad (RM12), meanwhile, is a credible rival to the papaya salad. It all depends, really, on whether you like your salad juicy or crunchy.
The Gae Yeang Takrai or Lemongrass Grill Chicken (RM12) makes for a filling main course. It is basically slices of tender chicken breast marinated and infused with the wonderful aromas of kaffir and lemongrass, then grilled.
If you like fish, then you must try their Snow Fish (RM39). Baked to perfection, the fish skin and tail were crispy and salty while the flesh was tender and succulent. The accompanying sauce was great. My only gripe was that there wasnít enough of it to go with the large fish.
Of course, no Thai meal is complete without tom yam. My Elephantís version (small: RM20) came with a generous serving of prawns and had a decidedly tangy tinge to it. The restaurant has been around for just a year but the generous portions and reasonable prices have made it something of a household name among PJ folk.
My introduction to the restaurant was through its daily RM8.90 set lunches, which includes a sweet, pandan-flavoured drink, a main course, and a serving of fresh fruit. Dinner, though, sees My Elephant offering a greater variety of dishes, which it updates every four months.
In these trying economic times, itís perhaps wise to discover the simple pleasures in life, especially those that donít tax the wallet too much. And you certainly get good deals here.
You can have a lovely Thai meal accompanied by several glasses of ice-cold beer without stretching the budget too much. If you bring your own bottle of wine, the corkage charge here is just RM10.
Whatís more, there is no service charge.
The only thing I must point out about My Elephant is that the service can quite languid. You will probably have to wait a bit for your food to arrive.
Their eager-to-please, college-going wait staff will probably require a bit of prompting too. But I suspect the slow service is largely due to the size of the kitchen and the fact that each dish is freshly prepared.
Situated within Section 17ís three-decade-old Happy Mansion, My Elephant features an interior that is contemporary but still respectfully blends in with its surroundings. The modern concrete-and-glass interior with a koi pond design incorporated into it makes the place perfect for kicking back.
The laid-back tunes of Hotel Costes softly playing in the background impart an almost international atmosphere.
One of the owners is an interior designer, Iím told, and this is no surprise.
Itís apparent that the restaurant is as much a labour of love as it is a cleverly positioned restaurant.
If youíre in the Petaling Jaya area, and have a craving for authentic but experimental Thai cuisine, My Elephant is probably a good bet.