Is Blue Elephant The Best Thai Restaurant In The World? -- Bangkok, Thailand
Her career started outside of Bangkok when she and her husband Karl, a native Belgian, opened a Thai restaurant in Brussels 28 years ago. It was a great success (and still is) so they expanded to London, Paris, Copenhagen, Moscow and several other cities over the years and are still expanding with new restaurants continuing to open. They are also now providing food on a daily basis for a small European airline based out of Brussels and have a total of about 800 people working for them worldwide. So this is not a small "mom and pop" operation anymore even though mom and pop are still running the show.
It was only in 2002 that a Blue Elephant was opened in Bangkok in a 100-year old building in front of the Thai-Chinese Chamber of Commerce Building on lower Sathorn Road. This three-story building has been beautifully restored to its colonial magnificence and walking through the front door is like going back through time. Although, it must be said that few buildings had interiors this interesting and immaculately planned back then. With beautiful, big flower arrangements and numerous Thai artifacts, the dining spaces on the first floor provide a relaxing and wonderful atmosphere to experience Nooror's various styles of Thai cuisine.
They even have labels for the three types of dishes that are served here: Forgotten Recipes, Blue Elephant Classics and Our Chef's Creations. We've had the good fortune to experience dishes in each of these categories and while the styles and ingredients differ, sometimes greatly, one thing remains the same in all of them -- quality. The same attention to detail that was bestowed on the interior design here is also practiced daily in the preparation of the food. That attention to quality is one of the company's basic tenets along with the presentation of true Thai culture and the two go hand in hand here.
The three types of cooking styles mentioned above need some explaining so let's start with Forgotten Recipes which was the first food we had here over a year ago. For a more detailed explanation see the other Blue Elephant article on this site. The basic premise of these recipes, which were featured in a special promotion last year called "Back to the Past," is to present dishes that were first developed several hundred years ago, mostly for royal family members here. The dishes provide a fascinating look at how Thai food had developed to that point and the recipes were created, or re-created may be more accurate, by Nooror and a leading expert on Thai cuisine, Ajarn (professor) Srisamom Khongphan. There are still a few of these dishes on the regular menu now.
The second style, Blue Elephant Classics makes up, from what we can tell anyway, the largest part of the menu and is basically contemporary and traditional Thai food. You might find a number of these dishes in many other Thai restaurants in the city, so their names would be familiar but they probably aren't going to taste quite as good, or authentic, as they do at Blue Elephant. Again, the attention to detail here is great with even the way the dishes are presented, as well as the serving utensils and dishes themselves, playing a part in offering up an authentic dining experience. It's all very impressive and the food is delicious.
The third style, Our Chefs' Creations, is maybe even more interesting than the first two categories, especially if you like it when chefs push the envelope and try things that are just a bit (or maybe more than a bit) out of the range of normal expectations. Nooror, to give you just a few examples, has managed to find a way to incorporate ingredients such as foie gras and salmon into Thai dishes. These are both ingredients that certainly have no history in Thai cuisine and yet she manages to make them bridge the culinary culture gap quite easily. She also takes traditional Thai ingredients, durian in this case, and puts them into western recipes, in this case, cheesecake. As for the salmon and foie gras, try the salmon laab and the foie gras in tamarind sauce and you'll see how successful she is at this.
We haven't even gotten into the cooking school here; that's the subject of another article. And we could write a lot more about the details of the food here but you won't really have an idea of the true scope of what Blue Elephants around the world have to offer until you visit one. The list of cities where they are located is below so if your city is on the list, or even if it isn't, check out a Blue Elephant and see what the face of Thai cuisine really is, from ancient to modern and beyond.
Bangkok, Brussels, London, Paris, Moscow, Abu Dhabi, Jeddah, Copenhagen, Lyon, Dubai, Kuwait, Bahrain, Malta, Beirut, Jakarta
See http://bangkokdining.ning.profiles/list/blogs.com for more information about Bangkok restaurants.