RESTAURANT REVIEW The French-Cambodian Culinary Wedding
Go Spicy, Meaty, or Vegan at Elephant Walk
900 Beacon St. & 2067 Massachusetts Ave.
Boston & Porter Square
617-492-6900 (Porter Square)
Though there were no elephants to be found at the Elephant Walk in Boston, my date Eric and I were pleasantly surprised to find a place that serves up elegant Cambodian cuisine as well as original French dishes. The extensive menu is a bit overwhelming at first, but it is well organized into Cambodian, French, and even Vegetarian and Gluten-Free (a rare find in the Boston area). Chef and owner Nadsa De Monteiro, originally from Cambodia, delivers traditional meals but has also created her own inspired recipes that still preserve the flavor of Cambodia.
First impressions are everything, and before we had even reached our table, I was already impressed with the quality of the service. We were greeted immediately by a cheerful hostess, and our waiter gave us just the right amount of time before asking for our orders. He checked back with us frequently, and our water glasses were never empty. The space is rather large with 45 tables and huge windows looking out over Beacon Street, but even on a Wednesday night, the restaurant hardly felt empty; the atmosphere was very comfortable with some folks wearing khakis and others in more formal attire.
The menu contains options for vegetarians, vegans, those who want to play it safe, and those who feel adventurous. There’s certainly something for everyone, so this place would be great for a group that has a diverse taste palate. I chose to try the Cambodian-themed tasting menu (a three-course menu for $29.95), which is a best buy given the quantity of good food. I received the vegan chilled avocado citrus soup as an appetizer, and my entrée was the crevettes amrita, a dish with shrimp sautéed in a sweet sauce surrounded by crisp, freshly chopped pears. Both were very unique and not overly spicy, and the emphasis on citrus paired perfectly with the warm temperatures in Boston as of late.
Eric ordered the French starter: the crepe de canard aux poires, a savory crepe filled with duck, pears, scallions, and crème fraiche ($12.95), and the Kobe beef et gratin de pommes de terre aux champignons, beef grilled with red wine reduction alongside potato gratin with wild mushrooms ($27.95). Though we had mixed feelings about the strength of the flavor of the sauce paired with the Kobe beef, the duck crepe starter was an impressive combination of sweet and savory and extremely tender duck, an absolute must try! Because the kitchen was busy, our waiter also brought us a complimentary order of the rouleaux, Cambodian spring rolls filled with pork, crushed peanut, and veggies ($8.95), which we covered in mint leaves before hand-dipping into a delicious tangy fish sauce, typical of the Cambodian culinary experience.
For dessert as part of my three-course menu, I selected the mousse aux fruits de passion, a creamy passionfruit mousse which was presented in a crisp almond cookie and garnished with fresh slices of pineapple. Eric ordered le peche au chocolat, a beautifully-rich chocolate truffle cake swirled with a light raspberry sauce ($8). The presentation of these treats was as finely-tuned as their deep tastes, and though I was already satiated after my main meal, I savored every bite of my mousse.
Though the Kobe beef was only mediocre, the other dishes we ordered were really tasty and exotic. I best enjoy food that I know would be a challenge to make on my own because of the exceptional flavor combination, and the duck crepe especially made me wish I could be so creative in the kitchen. Fortunately, the restaurant offers reasonably-priced group cooking classes (see their website for more details), and the chef was even kind enough to share with us the secret behind the citrus soup that I had as my appetizer! I highly recommend the Elephant Walk as a restaurant to explore a new cuisine but also as a place that will satisfy any taste preference. And, I will personally be trying on my cooking hat and attempting the Elephant Walk recipe shared to the left.