Blue Elephant, Pottstown, PA – A Review

by artfuldiner on August 2, 2021

in Artful Diner Review, Breaking News, Opinion, Pennsylvania, Review, Wining and Dining

Blue Elephant

152 East High Street

Pottstown, Pennsylvania

(484) 949-9084

Ensconced in the stately bank building at the corner of High and Hanover Streets, former home of the Brick House restaurant, the Blue Elephant is the newest entry in the Win Signature stable, a restaurant group owned by Win and Sutida Somboonsong. Their other four culinary outposts include Mikado Thai Pepper in Ardmore, Teikoku in Newtown Square, and Azie, which boasts locations in both Villanova and Media.

Blue Elephant - InteriorThe creation of the Pottstown restaurant, however, was completely overseen by the couple’s daughter, Pearl Somboonsong, a graduate of Cornell University’s hospitality program. Ms. Somboonsong was responsible for all aspects of the new venture, including design, tile selections, colors, renovations, decorations, and hiring.

… And the room is striking… The high ceiling accentuated with long draperies, gold mirrors, various plants & greenery, a 30-foot-long quartz bar, and a series of comfortable velvet & leather booths filling the large open space… There is even a flowing marble fountain. As I said, striking.

After a recent visit, however, the members of our party of five – this writer included – are wishing Ms. Somboonsong had paid a bit more attention to the food and a little less to the décor. Their mission statement promises “a refreshingly innovative twist on Asian fusion dishes,” which is basically Italian-Thai with some Japanese influences thrown in for good measure. That all sounds good, and a number of the menu items look quite intriguing…but the execution – of even some of the simpler straightforward Thai dishes – leaves a great deal to be desired, with entrées as the chief culprits.

Blue Elephant - BarBut let’s begin on a positive note… My permanent dining partner and I arrived about a half-hour ahead of the rest of our party to enjoy a preprandial libation at the bar. And the list of innovative cocktails is very much on the exotic side. The Tokyo Twist Cosmo, for example, a combo of “8000 Generation” Japanese Shochu (a distilled Japanese spirit in place of the usual vodka), triple sec, lime, and cranberry juice… or the Himalayan Heat, Cazadores Blanco Thai chili-infused Tequila, ginger, crème of coconut, lemongrass, and roasted coconut.

We decided on a slightly more conservative approach concoction-wise… Pearl’s Punch was my partner’s choice: raspberry vodka, triple sec, pomegranate, cranberry, cinnamon, orange/pineapple juice, and citrus soda. Quite refreshing in the heat of summer. Ditto My Ginger Bourbon Old-Fashioned: Bulleit Bourbon, muddled ginger, ginger ale, and lemon.

I should add that the bar area is very comfortable, the bartender exceedingly pleasant (as was the young woman who was our server during dinner), and the cocktails well mixed. During “Happy Hour” – Monday to Friday, 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. – a number of cocktails are reduced in price, as are “small bites”; house wines are $5.00 per glass, as are well liquors and mixers; and draft beers are $2.00 off. Something to keep in mind.

Blue Elephant - Steamed Pork DumplingsOnce our party was seated at table, appetizers proved to be the high point of the evening… Naturally, many of the usual suspects are present and accounted for – through often treated to a number of creative twists & turns: Rock Shrimp, for instance, encased in a crispy tempura batter and served with spicy aioli; Duck Confit Arancini (risotto balls) companioned by green curry remoulade; and the ubiquitous Cheesesteak Spring Rolls teamed with cheddar and pepper jack cheeses. Interestingly enough, it was the old-fashioned, unadorned Dumplings (pictured) – stuffed with pork & scallions, gently steamed, and accompanied by a first-rate soy vinaigrette – that proved to be the table favorite.

Blue Elephant - Zucchini FrittersComing in a very close second, however, were the Zucchini Fritters (pictured). That may not sound terribly exciting, but these were tempura battered and seasoned with shichimi togarashi, a zippy blend of seven Japanese spices. But the pièce de résistance was delivered courtesy of an incredibly irresistible melted Gorgonzola dipping sauce, which succeeded in propelling what could have been just another unexciting appetizer into gastronomic orbit.

And though technically not a starter, the Potts Bread – which arrived in an actual flower pot – makes a first-rate accompaniment to any meal, especially when teamed up with a ramekin of miso honey butter.

Up until this point, everything had been absolutely spot-on… Once the entrées arrived, however, disappointment followed not far behind. And, ironically, the faux pas were most evident, not with the complex fusion dishes, as one might have expected, but with more traditional Thai favorites that certainly should have been “no-brainers” for owners with over thirty years in the business and an experienced kitchen staff even remotely familiar with Thai cuisine.

Blue Elephant - Drunken Noods w ChickenTake my Drunken Noodles (pictured), for example… a relatively simple presentation basically consisting of stir-fried wide noodles, egg, chicken, and spicy Thai basil chili sauce. This is such a popular dish that many different stories grew up around it – most of them undoubtedly apocryphal – as to how it became known as Drunken Noodles since there is no alcohol in the recipe. One such tale is that the noodles are so spicy that those partaking get drunk in the process of attempting to quench their thirst.

And here I freely give credit where credit is due… The infusion of spices was perfect for my palate. There was just enough heat to prompt an exhilarating “after burn” without causing irreparable damage to one’s delicate nether regions… But… even after all this good work, the kitchen still somehow managed to mess up the chicken, which was woefully overcooked. As tough as Clint Eastwood’s Rawhide saddle and twice as chewy.

Blue Elephant - Crab Fried Rice 2The Crab Fried Rice (pictured), another extremely popular Thai dish, also fell short. In addition to the crab, the other constituents included carrots, onions, scallions, eggs, and garlic soy sauce. Regrettably, the latter ingredient was conspicuous by its absence. Without the all-important sauce, the rice was the-bland-leading-the- bland. So bland, in fact, that the gentleman who ordered it declared it inedible and left it completely untouched.

Blue Elphant - Flounder stuffed w CrabmeatMy permanent dining partner was the only one in our party who chose what would be considered an innovative fusion presentation, the Stuffed Flounder (pictured). The filet was stuffed with crabmeat, smothered in cream of Parmigiano Reggiano and finished with a tiny tiara of Japanese tobiko (flying fish roe). The accompaniment was listed as a lemon asparagus salad, which turned out to be arugula. In her considered opinion – and my concurrence – the flounder was merely “OK” but not exceptional. In addition, the filet contained a surfeit of bones. With any fish, it is not unusual for an occasional bone to put in an unwelcome appearance… But there seemed to be an inordinate number of them here, as if this particular piscatorial representative had been haphazardly filleted and/or improperly checked over before preparation.

Our group passed on dessert. It is, however, worth mentioning, as unlike most Asian restaurants, the Blue Elephant offers an assortment of sweet endings. Not only the usual suspects like Triple Chocolate Cake, Crème Brûlée, and Carrot Cake, but also more intriguing options such as Green Tea Tiramisu and Japanese Mochi Ice Cream (a soft pounded sticky rice dumpling formed around an ice cream filling), which might be worth trying.

There is no question in my mind that the Blue Elephant has the desire – and the potential – to be an excellent restaurant. However… given the rather odd missteps with regard to the entrées, one cannot help but wonder what strange culinary machinations may or may not be transpiring in the bowels of the kitchen. And until that problem is properly addressed, the restaurant’s reach will continue to exceed its grasp.

Bon Appétit!

Be Safe & Stay Well


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