Sunday, 1 February 2015

My Elephant, Thai Restaurant, Ampang, Kuala Lumpur

My Elephant, Thai Restaurant, Ampang
My Elephant, Thai Restaurant, Ampang

My Elephant, Thai Restaurant

Words by Patricia Podorsek
Photos by The Yum List aka Monica Tindal

It’s rare to find a restaurant in KL that actively seeks LESS promotion and marketing for their fare, but the franchise of My Elephant, with five stores in the greater KL area, has a completely different vision for their enterprise. They seek to be a simple neighborhood restaurant, one who serves a local clientele with the highest quality Thai food, and one who takes an active role in the well-being of the neighborhood community. How cool is that?

My Elephant, Thai Restaurant, Ampang, Kuala Lumpur
My Elephant, Thai Restaurant, Ampang
My Elephant, Thai Restaurant, Ampang
My Elephant, Thai Restaurant, Ampang
True to its mission, the Ampang store is nestled in “Little Korea”, a small neighborhood not far from Ampang Point. The market area boasts rows of shops that offer a range of goods and services; most of the signs are in Korean. The unpretentious storefront of My Elephant sits at the far end, with a casual atmosphere to match it’s low-key reputation. Crisp white tablecloths are adorned with single bright flowers and set within contemporary frames of wire and glass.

Stepping in from the afternoon heat, we started with two refreshing drinks from the beverage menu, the Green Aroma (RM8) and the Green Mango Cooler (RM8). The aptly named Green Aroma combines pandan with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and basil seeds in a lightly sweetened blend over ice, making it both citrusy and leafy tasting, complex but not overbearing. The Green Mango Cooler drinks like a tropical lemonade, a little sweet with a light tang and zest. Many other teas and coolers are on offer to tempt dry tongues, as well as a few beers. Corkage fees are a mere RM 20, for those who prefer to bring their own wines.

My Elephant, Thai Restaurant, Ampang
Green Aroma 
My Elephant, Thai Restaurant, Ampang
Green Mango Cooler
A new experience for me, Monica ordered us a snack in the form of Miaeng Kum (RM18), betel leaves with assorted condiments. In true DIY fashion, you take a single leaf, add bits of dried shrimp, ginger, lime, peanuts, chilis and toasted coconut husk on top, and then cover with a dot of sticky plum sauce. Then you roll it up, tuck in the ends, and pop the dwarf wrap into your mouth. All the flavors converge into something a little hot, a little sweet, a little savory, and highly addictive. I was tempted to skip lunch altogether!

My Elephant, Thai Restaurant, Ampang
Miaeng Kum
But I was happy I didn’t. We moved on to more substantial starters, including Tod Man Plah (RM12), deep fried Thai fish cakes, that were tender without being too oily with a nice balance of herbs around the fish. 

My Elephant, Thai Restaurant, Ampang
Fish Cakes - Tod Man Plah
Few cuisines can manage the combination of fish, fruit and heat as well as Thai food, especially in salads, where texture matters as much as taste. My Elephant’s pomelo salad, Yum Som Orr (RM28), is artfully arranged with prawns, scallions, toasted coconut, fried onions, coriander, sweet/spicy dressing, and of course a pile of pomelo. Guests toss it themselves at the table, and the effect is sublime - so many flavor explosions detonating like taste bombs with with every bite.

My Elephant, Thai Restaurant, Ampang
Pomelo Salad - Yum Som Orr
Next we were treated to Tom Ka, Thailand’s galangal and lemongrass scented soup with coconut milk. Delicate oyster mushrooms and fresh tomatoes swam with tender bits of chicken (or fish or seafood) in a citrusy broth that was rich and silky to the tongue. Thankfully, there was plenty for everyone; soup portions come in 2 pax (RM15), 4 pax (RM28), and 6 pax (RM52) sizes.

My Elephant, Thai Restaurant, Ampang
Tom Ka - Lemongrass Coconut Soup
A perennial staple of Thai cuisine, My Elephant’s green curry, Gaeng Keow Wan (RM19), offers a more contemporary version of the classic that is creamy and gingery, flavorful without being overbearing on the spice side. Charlotte Yap, marketing director and our host for the day, indicated that this was their most popular menu item, with some guests who have standing weekly take-out orders for it! Complemented by long beans, eggplant and fresh peas, it was one of the best I’ve tasted. Alongside, we ordered rice, and were pleasantly surprised to discover a confetti of jasmine, brown and red rice, a healthy and colorful alternative to plain steamed.

My Elephant, Thai Restaurant, Ampang
Green Curry - Gaeng Keow Wan
The menu boasts several chicken, fish and seafood mains, but the beautifully-presented baked ‘Snow’ Fish (RM58) was the crown of our meal. A whole sea bass is stuffed with seasonings, then baked in rock salt and skinned, producing a moist, melting taste and texture. Chili fans will love the two sauces served with the fish, one fresh and one slow-sautéed

My Elephant, Thai Restaurant, Ampang
‘Snow’ Fish
Desserts are a straight-forward affair in Thai cuisine, capitalizing on the abundance of local fruit. For My Elephant, this means mango, mango, mango, mango, and (one option of) durian. We found it impossible to resist the Mango with Glutinous Rice (RM8.50), bite-sized pieces of creamy golden lily mangoes served predictably with sticky rice (confetti-blend, again) and a spoonful of sweetened coconut milk to pour over the top in a gooey mess. The Mango Cheese Cake (RM8.50) is a sly addition to the list, not quite authentic, but delightful in its partially frozen state. I was prepared to lick the crumbs off the plate of both. 

My Elephant, Thai Restaurant, Ampang
Mango and Glutinous Rice
My Elephant, Thai Restaurant, Ampang
Mango Cheesecake
The humble location and atmosphere along with the excellent food would surely be enough to draw even the most reluctant diners. But if this isn’t enough for you, know that these are people with a social conscious. They have an ongoing relationship with Hilla Community Centre in Ampang that supports refugees from Afghanistan and Myanmar with education and training programs for children and adults. This organization was started by local Korean expats, and since the Ampang franchise is in Little Korea, you can see how My Elephant lives its mission to be a  high-quality neighborhood restaurant with community support on the side. What more could you want from a restaurant?

My Elephant Ampang is open 7 days per week, serving lunch from 11:30am - 2:30pm and dinner from 6:00pm - 10:00pm. They plan to be open during Chinese New Year.

Reasons to visit: Addictive Miaeng Kum, creamy green curry, tender baked Snowfish, and the good feeling of supporting a business with a heart.

My Elephant - Ampang (four other branches in KL area) 
B14-1, Batu 4.5, 
Jalan Ampang Utama 2/2,
68000 Ampang,
Selangor, Malaysia
+6 03 4251 9955


5 comments:

  1. I've heard a lot about this place...your post covered all the perennial favourites of Thai cuisine like pomelo salad, green curry, fish cakes and mango & glutinous rice but miaeng kam is something I can't wrap my taste buds around because of the taste of the betel leaves.

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  2. Looks delicious. Great to see white tablecloths.

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  3. I've dined here before, great choice!

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  4. I'm a huge fan of Mieng Kam too! Love those crunchy bites and the sweet Thai sauce that goes well with everything!

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  5. That looks like a lovely place - you can't beat the fresh, fruitiness of Thai food.

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