I was attracted to the restaurant Le Coq et l’Éléphant by a laudatory review that roused my curiosity. A number of French chefs are doing interesting things with Asian food these days, and chef/owner Guy Sellier has not only worked with two top French chefs, Alain Ducasse and Paul Bocuse, but has also attended cooking school in Thailand. Hence the name of this fusional restaurant: the coq (Gallic rooster) is the symbol of France, and the elephant is the national animal of Thailand.
After being warmly welcomed by the chef, who was not in the kitchen but prowling the dining room, I took a seat in the prettily decorated restaurant, with Prussian-blue walls and chairs, an exposed stone wall, and flowers and candles on the tables.
I was a bit surprised when our first glass of wine, a lovely glass of Chitry, was served with a couple of sad breadsticks, which I’m pretty sure were store-bought, instead of the clever amuse-bouches most bistronomic restaurants serve these days.
Instead of Thai dishes with a French twist or vice-versa, the menu offers mainly either/or. The mussels my friend had, for example, could be ordered Thai-style or French-style. She chose French and found the mussels themselves to be lovely and plump but, foodie that she is, disapproved of the use of onions instead of shallots in the marinière sauce.
I started with the Thai sausage, which the chef makes himself, and found it delicious, with the slight sweetness offset by a nicely balanced charge of chili at the end. It was accompanied by a Thai-style salad of sprouts and carrots, and topped with ground peanuts.
For her main course, my friend had the fresh tuna special, which came in a classic Thai sauce flavored with lemongrass and coconut milk, with vegetables and red bell peppers. The tuna was wonderfully tender.
My wok-fried beef with basil was also nicely tender and Thai-flavored, but offered no exciting twists.
Dessert for my friend was a bit of a disaster. The roasted figs she was looking forward to were flavor-challenged, and underneath them was a tasteless, unidentifiable brownish substance that we were told was ricotta but that bore no resemblance to the Italian whey cheese. When my friend mentioned her doubts about the ricotta to the chef, he graciously apologized and thanked her for telling him (the right reaction, but not always the one you will get in a French restaurant, where you will sometimes be rudely told that you are all wrong if you criticize anything).
I was luckier with my dessert: coconut-flavored rice with mangoes, which I found to be really tasty.
Le Coq et l’Éléphant could be a great spot if a little more effort were put into creating more original dishes from the two great cuisines referenced and to avoiding the faux pas mentioned above, i.e., the breadsticks, figs and “ricotta.” With those exceptions, most of the ingredients were fresh, of good quality and nicely prepared.
As it is, this is not really a destination restaurant, but if you are in the neighborhood, you can have a pleasant meal in agreeable surroundings.Favorite