Royal Thai Cuisine in Paris

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Royal Thai Cuisine in Paris
An inauspicious blue pachyderm suspended above the sidewalk at 43-45, rue de la Roquette announces your arrival at the Blue Elephant, one of Paris’ many Thai restaurants.  The sign represents the epitome of understatement, for if you cross the threshold at this address, you will instantly be transported into a lush oasis of Southeast Asian cuisine and hospitality.   Blue Elephant seats 230 people, but the layout and décor provide for a sense of intimacy that belies these numbers.   A skylight in the center of the restaurant provides natural light that accentuates the greenery and waterfall below.  Then, it’s over the wooden bridge to an elegant, split-level dining area, or up a short flight of steps to the mezzanine so that smokers and non-smokers are free to enjoy their meals without constraint.  Plants abound everywhere, contributing to the feeling of being in a tropical setting.   The restaurant launched a new menu on January 27th, and Chef Sathit Srijettamont, aka "Joe", is responsible for turning out the dishes that burst with color and flavor every day.  Vegetarians will be thrilled to find a sumptuous variety of entrées and main courses that suit their dietary preference, including a coconut and mushroom bouillon, lady fingers (okra) in a sesame batter with basil sauce, and morning glory (the foliage, not the seeds).  Many offerings are relevé, or spicy, due to the propensity of the Thai to use peppers in their food.  Look for the number of red elephants (from zero to three) next to the name of each dish on the menu to gauge the “fire potential” of your selection.   Cuisine at the Blue Elephant is authentic.  Ninety percent of the ingredients are flown in from Thailand, with only the most fragile of products being purchased in Paris.  All dishes are prepared as they are ordered – none of the components is pre-made.  Dishes are served family style; serving plates are placed in the center of the table and diners help themselves.   The only departure from Thai gastronomic tradition is the serving of wine.  Luc Menier and Delphine Siaud carefully select biodynamic wines to accompany the perfumed and piquant cuisine.  The restaurant even has its own “Cuvée Royale Thaïe”, a delightful white wine created from the four grapes of Alsace – Sylvaner, Gewürtstraminer, Riesling and Pinot Gris.  This is a marvelous accompaniment to foods with just a touch of spiciness.  The wine list is both extensive and impressive, with recommendations for food and wine pairing offered freely.  There are even some Thai wines on the menu!   Desserts are primarily fruits – mangoes, papaya, mangoustans and longanes (the latter two are similar to litchis) – with a healthy dose of sorbets and ice creams to round out the menu.  One of the best of the prepared desserts is the Sodsai, a moist, slightly sweet mixture made from coconut and rice flour, cooked in a banana leaf and served warm.   Blue Elephant has locations around the world, from London to Beirut to New Delhi (but interestingly, none in the U.S.).  The Paris restaurant has graced rue de la Roquette since 1991 and is going strong.  It recently launched a Sunday brunch that is already wildly popular.  It easily fills its 230 places, so reservations should be made at least a week in advance.   Additionally, the restaurant is offering a special promotion for Valentine’s Day – a dégustation of five entrées and five main dishes, preceded by a coupe of rosé champagne.  Delicacies such as Surat Narie (oyster soufflés perfumed with red curry and citronella), Sa Neh Ha Kinarie (quail in a pineapple curry) and Sook Saran Warn Jai (a selection of exotic fruits served with a litchi and rose petal sorbet) are among those that await lovers with a penchant for epicurean flair.  Reservations are absolutely required for this special event!   Blue Elephant 43-45, rue de la Roquette 75011 Paris 01.47.00.42.00 Open 7 days a week for dinner; everyday except Saturday for lunch Metro: Bastille Monique Y. Wells is co-owner of Discover Paris! – Personalized Itineraries for Independent Travelers as well as the author of Food for the Soul – A Texas Expatriate Nurtures her Culinary Roots in Paris.
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