The Elephant Walk is Boston's only French and Cambodian restaurant, and has been a hit since it first opened in 1991. A gluten-free menu as well as extensive vegetarian and vegan options add to its popularity.
Now, three restaurant locations - Beacon Street near Boston University in Boston's Fenway neighborhood, Mass Ave near Porter Square in Cambridge, and Waltham's Moody Street restaurant row - continue to give you the chance to journey through the mouth-watering cuisines of Cambodia and France.
And what a journey it is! Elephant Walk's chef-owners, Longteine "Nyep" de Monteiro, originally from Cambodia, her daughter Nadsa de Monteiro, and her French-Spanish son-in-law, Gérard Lopez, bring together traditional and contemporary flavors from 2 continents.
The menu, which changes periodically, features traditional Cambodian classics, as well as "original" Cambodian and French dishes created by the talented chefs. Although the French offerings maintain traditional roots, they are updated and contemporary versions of classics.
The chefs cater to Cambodian diners' demands for authenticity with the traditional dishes - so if you're not Cambodian, you may want to request "mild" versions and ask for the hot pepper seasonings on the side.
So, how do you order from a menu that features two fairly different cuisines?
That's easy - mix and match from all parts of the menu. Here's a tip: don't overlook the yummy vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free choices even if you're not specifically seeking them out.
If you still can't decide, try one of the 3- or 4-course prix-fixe tasting menus. They give you plenty of choices from the regular menus as well as special options.
For a first course from the regular menus, you might order the light and crispy Cambodian spring rolls, one of the fabulous (and filling) Cambodian soups, or a French-style green salad with roasted pears and blue cheese, or duck-filled crepes, or the fabulous red beet and endive salad with chevre and roasted peppers.
For a main course . . . well, this is where deciding on just one thing gets really difficult. If possible, go with friends who won't mind providing bites from their plates.
On the Cambodian side of the menu, you'll find traditional Cambodian specialties such as Mee Siem au Poulet (similar to the more familiar Pad Thai but tastier, in my opinion) and Amok Royal (fish and shellfish prepared with coconut milk and complex spices, and wrapped in a banana leaf, which imparts an additional subtle flavor).
"Original" Cambodian dishes created by the chefs feature several fabulous shrimp and pork dishes. My own favorite is the Napoleon de Tofu et Légumes au Curry, layers of tofu and veggies flavored with mouth-watering spices.
Plus, you have lots of French choices: pan-roasted haddock with lime rice, spinach, and a mushroom and shallot cream sauce. . . flank steak with gratin potatoes and Gorgonzola salad . . . grilled garlic and cheese sausage with edame and a jasmine rice and mushroom galette.
Desserts lean toward French classics but many have Asian flavors. For example, you can savor creme caramel flavored with Asian pandan leaf, or passion fruit mousse garnished with rum-laced pineapple.
Or stay traditionally French with chocolate truffle cake paired with raspberry coulis, or a passion-fruit mousse with rum-soaked pineapple in a lacy almond "cup."
The Elephant Walk's well-chosen and fairly extenstive wine list offers selections that work well with both the Cambodian and the French dishes. Wine is available by the glass or by the bottle, with many selections quite reasonably priced.
Cost range: $$
Meals served: Sunday Brunch, weekday Lunch, and Dinner. Hours and options vary at each location, so check Elephant Walk's website for details.
Boston: 900 Beacon Street, Fenway neighborhood; Nearest T station: Green Line E/St. Mary's Station; 617-247-1500
Cambridge:2067 Mass Ave; Nearest T station: Red Line/Porter Square
Waltham: 663 Moody St
Parking: All locations have ample nearby parking (modest fee at times in Boston and Waltham locations; parking lot behind the Cambridge restaurant is free but only available after 5pm, although you can usually find metered parking along Mass Ave at other times)
For more information and menus: website
Get Our Free Newsletter