Kuala Lumpur - Fab Thai food at My Elephant
Honestly, I can't seem to find really good Thai restaurants serving authentic food outside Thailand, with some very rare exceptions if I'm very lucky.
For me, finally coming across an authentic, unpretentious Thai restaurant in the most unexpected of places always brought me indescribable joy. Some which I think deserved special mention included the Heron in Edgware Road, London (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/780882), Sala Thai in Hamburg (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/789624), and A-Roy Thai in Funan Centre, Singapore (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/491426).
Now, I can finally say that I'd found what may be my fave Thai restaurant in the Klang Valley thus far: My Elephant at Happy Mansion, located in a rather dodgy part of Petaling Jaya. My Elephant had a simple, inconspicuous frontage on the ground floor of what looked like a dreary block of council flats. But the interior of this restaurant was surprisingly pleasant, with cool, modern furniture and clean lines. Service by the mainly Burmese crew was very efficient and friendly.
- Platter of Thai morsels: "po-pia tod" (deep-fried spring rolls), "tod man pla" (fish cakes), crispy prawn-filled wantons and fresh Vietnamese-style rolls. Okay - so the food was not 100% authentic here, but everything tasted delicious! I'm not a big fan of "tod man pla" but loved the version here, liberally flavored with kaffir lime leaves;
- "Tom kha talay" (seafood) soup - freshwater prawns, fish and mushrooms in a spicy-sour "tom yum", scented with galangal (blue ginger), lemongrass, star-fruit, kaffir lime leaves & chillies, amongst others, then further enriched with coconut milk;
- "Gaeng ped yang" - roast duck red curry, with lychees and potatoes. Very tasty curry, although toned down to suit Malaysians tastes, so it's not really as spicy, salty or sweet as what I'd find in Bangkok;
- "Snow Fish", which is the restaurant's signature dish: a salt-baked tilapia fish with a sour-spicy green chilli salsa-like dip. The fish-flesh was indescribably fresh, smooth, moist & tasty. Must-not-miss!
- "Khai jiao" - another interesting find here: a fragrant, fluffy egg omelette replete with fresh herbs (like Thai basil), finely-julienned vegetables and minced prawns;
- "Som tum": - shredded green papaya salad with lots of "prik khee noo" (explosively spicy bird's eye chillies), roasted peanuts and dried shrimps. Crunchy, and with almost overwhelming spicy-sour flavors.
A mixture of Thai "hom mali" white rice and brown rice was served with the dishes. My first complaint here: no "khao niew" (glutinous rice) on the menu, despite the chef being from Chiang Rai (northern Thailand). I do love having "som tum' or curries with glutinous rice, a la Chiang Rai-style "khan toke" service.
Second (minor) complaint - no "khao niew ma muang" (mango with glutinous rice) here although it's mango season in Malaysia at the current moment, when mangoes are at their sweetest!
But the desserts served here were delicious. We were too full from the entrees, so only ordered 2 types of desserts:
- durian cheesecake. By itself, this is the densest, richest-tasting cheesecake I'd had in town, with a thick, aromatic biscuit base. Scented with durian - it sent durian-lovers like me into raptures. Not sure what folks who had objections to the smell of durians would think of this cheesecake;
- Mango strips with rose-tinted sago, flavored with syrup & coconut creme - another innovative dessert by the restaurant, and unlike any sweet I'd tasted in Thailand.
Satisfying meal. Reservations are a must for this popular restaurant. It's Malaysianized Thai food, but a rather pleasant one. Prices were very reasonable: RM220 (USD73) for 3 persons, including beers.
My Elephant @ Section 17
Block C-G4, Happy Mansion
46400 Petaling Jaya
Tel: 010-220 1283
The fried platter had simple batter-fried prawns too - their Thai name? The Viet-style rolls = po pia tod, yes?
Interesting about the tilapia - over here, this fish would not be what I associate with the phrase "indescribably fresh, smooth, moist & tasty"...
No pic of the som tum? ;-)
Odd that they have a mango-containing dessert but no "khao niew ma muang".
That durian cheesecake? Sounds heavenly. I suspect it would be too odoriferous, from what is implied by your description, to pass muster with anybody who was not a durian aficionado - and you would be summarily ejected from almost any establishment in many a place if you were to wander in bearing a sample of said cheesecake! :-)
huiray - the prawns were contained inside the "po-pia tod" or deep-fried spring rolls. I just realised now from looking at my 1st photo that the Viet spring rolls or "goi cuon" (the *only* non-fried items on the platter) were not visible as they were topped by a clump of green salad/red chillies.
First time I'd had salt-baked fish in a Thai restaurant - it has a "sealed, pressure-cooked" or steamed-cooked kind of effect which I can't really adequately descibe. It'll probably turn beef smooth-textured as well :-D
You're very observant - I did not upload my pic of the "som tum" as it turned out terribly out of focus. But the only "unique" feature of My Elephant's "som tum" was the inclusion of some shredded purple/red cabbage (rotkohl) which had more of a decorative effect, rather than any added taste/texture to the dish.
Somehow, the restaurant did not serve any glutinous rice (why?! I wondered) but our waitress told us that their other, newer outlet in Sri Hartamas (I'd not been to that part of PJ yet) did.
I thought that it was indeed funny that the very best cheesecake I'd ever had in KL just so happened to be durian-flavored!
But anyway, this place is indeed *the* Thai place to try, despite its rather limited menu (see their web-site) .
I was wondering about if the "spring rolls" were "summer rolls" or goi cuon... :-)
Interesting info about the fish.
Their website and menu looks good. I rather like "limited menus" like theirs especially when the food is good - to me it shows that an establishment prefers to concentrate on putting out what they can do well. That is particularly true when there is only one chef, as seems to be the case here. I am wary of restaurants with 20-page menus and hundreds of choices - I simply disbelieve that they would be able to cook any and every item on those menus a la minute with care from scratch or even using fresh ingredients.