Jan 29, 2007

Le Bistro Elephant

One evening, the two Jennifers went on an adventure with members of a certain committee of a certain food-related club. Their mission was to convince the unsuspecting head chef to open up his newborn restaurant to public scrutiny and hungry club members. But it just didn't work out that way. Le Bistro Elephant was meant to gain recognition quietly, attracting curious customers on their way out of a performance at Zellerbach Hall or after doing some shopping.
The atmosphere of the tiny space is very cozy, with a few suprises thrown in (an enormous elephant-deity mounted on the wall is inevitably thrown into dinner conversation at some point during the evening). The seeming non sequiturs in the decor and aromas are mostly attributable to the fact that Elephant is attached by not much more than a fabric wall to another restaurant, Khana Peena. Still, it's a pretty classy, quiet little place.

There was quite the tussle over the way in which we would tackle the appetizers. Some club members declared "Fries! Fries for everyone!," one lone fellow vouched for olives, and we wondered why we needed to prolong dinner any longer than was necessary. Finally the choice was made to order the pommes frites and the herbed goat cheese with crostini. The olive fan was left to fend for himself in that department. It was declared that the expenses would be shared by all. The Jennifers fretted over the impact this decision would have on their piggy banks, then said what the heck and ate some fries.
The pommes frites weren't anything special. You could do the same thing at home with some potatoes and a crapload of garlic salt. The ketchup claimed to be special, with chipotle or something. But honestly, it just tasted like ketchup. The goat cheese, however, was amazing - creamy and full of fresh herb flavor. This is only according to me- Jenn refrains from eating things or stuff from things that go "baaaa" or "bleeeaatt" or "hey don't eat me k". Regardless, again, we were left thinking, why are we forking over our precious monies for cheese and potatoes, when they could be made or even better, combined, so much more deliciously?

I wasn't very hungry that night, so I decided to order something light and basic, in the hopes that the quality of the ingredients in the dish would show through in place of its lack of complexity. So, the heirloom tomato salad with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and smoked sea salt it was. And I have to admit, though it was pretty yummy and clearly fresh, I was a fool for paying so much for it. Lesson learned.
As the Unbalanced One was craving something toasty and satisfying, she decided to through all sophistication out the door and to order a panini. In addition to being pleasantly surprised by the generous portions, she was glad to see that the sandwich was piping hot--literally, the top layer of her mouth was still recovering after the meal. However, once the awesomeness of the heat went away, the sandwich--which consisted of a mild cheese and various roasted peppers--had a flavor that could be best described as "meh."

Conquering the world, one calorie at a time.

In retrospect, I don't think that particular club was prepared for the level of food love we exhibited that night. After thoroughly wierding out everyone present in the restaurant and in our party with our pouncing upon everyone's dishes for photos (which didn't turn out so well, sorry), we all ordered dessert. We got the quince crème brûlée, which was kind of a disappointment, as it was very, very sweet, owing largely to the layer of quince preserves in the bottom of the ramekin. The highlight of crème brûlée in my opinion is that rich, cool, creamy custard, and this was just not satisfying enough in that respect. The waferlike cookies were tasty and light; probably the best part of what could have been a much yummier dessert.

Apple crumble. Always a yummy choice, but this time, not so memorable, either.

This, however, was suprisingly delicious! Durian's huckleberry cake, a little, dense, rustic cake filled with dried huckleberries and covered in whipped cream and fresh huckleberries. The bites were satisfying and so dense as to be ever-so-slightly chewy.

Le Bistro Elephant
2136 Oxford StBerkeley, CA 94704
(510) 849-1423

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