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Thursday, March 11,2010

A hut with potential

By Clay Fong

With ith a name like Elephant Hut, it’s initially unclear what’s served up at this Boulder restaurant, housed in 30th Street’s Steelyards development. Those with dark imaginations may envision it as akin to Pizza Hut, except with a certain massive land mammal serving as the centerpiece of the menu. The conspiratorial amongst us may envision this as a discreet meeting place where the likes of Babar and Horton patiently plan their next subversive moves in whispered tones. …

In reality, Elephant Hut is a swank Thai eatery, serving obligatory staples of Southeast Asian cuisine such as curries, entrée salads freighted with fresh papaya, noodle plates and spicy, citrusy soups. The bright interior is colorful and lively with an Ikea-by-way-of- Bangkok feel — perhaps Alexander, Babar’s hipster son, would feel more at home here than his bowtie-wearing dad. However, its true etched glass panels hanging between the booths could afford Babar and Horton a measure of privacy.

Colleague Ramon and I began our lunch with $3 glasses of classic Thai Ice Tea. Our attentive server swiftly brought these to the table, and these beverages were certainly cool and refreshing. These could have been improved, however, with an additional splash of condensed milk, more for the purpose of enhancing creaminess than sweetness. Longer brewing of the tea itself would have made for fuller flavor, although it was nice to taste a version of this drink that wasn’t over-the-top sweet.

Elephant Hut
2500 30th Street #101 Boulder 303-284-0308

A $5 order of vegan summer rolls (described as spring rolls on the bill) made me wish we had ordered a more orthodox spring roll instead. Consisting of tofu cubes wrapped in what appeared to be a green tortilla, the thickness of the wrapper seemed disproportionate to the delicacy of the soy stuffing. It also lacked the complex mélange of spices I’ve come to associate with most Thai preparations.

Ramon ordered a $9 plate of pad see ew. Despite its pronunciation, this plate has nothing to do with the University of Colorado, and more to do with Southeast Asian street food. The foundation of this dish is wide rice noodles, similar to those found in Chinese chow fun, stir-fried in soy sauce. Unfortunately, these noodles were undercooked, giving the dish a dispiritingly chewy consistency. Traditionally this dish is served with meat, but vegetarian Ramon opted for tofu, which had a pleasant-enough texture, and provided a foil to the subtly herbaceous leaves of gai lan, Chinese broccoli.

I fared better with my $9 bowl of duck noodle soup, which included a generous helping of my favorite bird, which was tender, boneless and richtasting. While the broth could perhaps use less salt, it possessed a depth and complexity that tasted of authentic Asian home cooking. Also, the medium-diameter noodles were cooked to the desired point of tenderness without plunging into sogginess.

For now, the star attraction at Elephant Hut is the décor, and the food requires some fine-tuning before it rises to the level of the ambience.

That isn’t to say that this eatery can’t reach the top ranks of local Southeast Asian outposts, as dishes like the duck noodle soup are more than fine. Bring the rest of the menu up to this level, and perhaps even Babar himself will make an appearance.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com


Clay`s Obscurity Corner

Thailand’s bald eagle

As much as the bald eagle is associated with the United States, the elephant is emblematic of Thailand. Powerful white elephants (the animal, not the unwanted item), were particularly prized by royalty, and the more elephants possessed by a monarch, the greater that sovereign’s prestige.

The flag of Siam, from 1855 to 1917, depicted a white elephant against a red background, and later versions have the animal cloaked in ceremonial garb. The current Thai flag is a pachyderm-free red, white and blue tricolor. However, both the contemporary Thai consular and naval flags feature the elephant as a proud centerpiece.

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