Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Smiling Elephant: Best Pad Thai, Indeed.

One of my favorite local spots in Nashville- The Smiling Elephant -A charming little restaurant with delicious food that will have you hooked after taking your first bite. Voted best Pad Thai food in Nashville and featured in newspapers on a regular basis, friendly staff greet you like family upon your arrival and treat you to some of the best food you'll have in your LIFE. Healthy food that'll make your tastebuds tingle!

Peaceful exterior landscaping and trickling fountains will make you forget you're in the city. Such a peaceful spot to take a break from a busy work week. If you show up at lunchtime, a line of people will be waiting outside. No worries, it's worth the wait!

My husband, Josh. Don't ask him where he wants to eat- It's a given. He's a good sport lately when I take pictures of everything, but normally makes weird faces when I point the camera in his direction. After a long week, we decided to treat ourselves to some awesome Pad Thai. We pulled in the parking lot before 5:00pm so we could get a jump on the evening restaurant rush. Being the first customers at Smiling Elephant is a rarity and we enjoyed the quiet atmosphere as we proudly took our seat as the first customers for dinner! Not sure why this felt like an accomplishment, but we had looked forward to this meal all week and were thrilled that we didn't have to wait.

I'm not sure what these mysterious little plants are called, but I just love 'em. They look like tiny peppers of some sort and charmingly line the window sills all around the restaurant's interior. I snapped pictures after our waiter greeted us and took our order. I decided I'd pretend I was a food critic if anyone asked why I was taking pictures of everything, but explained my "odd" behavior to our waiter truthfully. Me:"Uh, yeah..I know this may seem really weird that I'm taking pictures of all my food and around the restaurant, but it's because I write a blog and want to put them on it." Waiter: "No, not weird at all. You'd be surprised how many people come here and do that." Reassured by confirmation that my behavior was completely acceptable, I had the confidence to snap away unashamedly. My poor husband may not have been as thrilled about this affirmation, but was too tired and hungry to disapprove. He seemed relieved that I would not be taking any more pictures of him and laughed at my child-like excitement.

Normally jam-packed with people, we loved having the whole place to ourselves for a short while. You can watch the chefs as they prepare dishes and take in the delicious aroma that fills the air when fresh ingredients are added to their skillets.

Tom Kha Kai (Coconut Soup)- I tried my first bowl of coconut soup a few weeks ago here. I wasn't too sure about my decision to taste soup that, by name alone, did not sound very appetizing. I WAS SO VERY WRONG. It was delicious...Scrum-diddily-ump-tous, in fact. I loved it at first bite and am always tempted to pick up the dish and drink the last bit like a kid with left-over Lucky Charms-flavored cereal milk. I resisted this urge reluctantly and used my spoon like a big girl. However, I joyously permit myself to indulge when I order a take-out bowl and am not in a public setting. Slllllluuuuuuuurrrrrp! Delicious and Nutritious.

Daily Curry with Jasmine Rice: My husband can't resist ordering this every time.

Pad Kra Pao
Spicy Pork Stir Fry with Holy Basil, Garlic, and Chili Peppers served with a Fried Egg and Jasmine Rice. This is my FAVORITE dish, quite possibly, in the world. Definitely my favorite dish in Nashville...also Tennessee...and the USA. I had some good food in Rome, Italy once but I'm not sure it compared to my beloved Pad Kra Pao. I have no idea how to pronounce it's name, but that's okay...we're in love and details don't matter. I point to it on the menu and tell the server, "I really like this. (plops stubby finger on awesome menu selection) Can I please have this?" This dish was recently featured in a local paper as one of the best egg dishes in the world. Actually, I don't know if the article said it was the best in the world. I didn't read it and can't remember what our server said pertaining to the geographical radius of best egg dish popularity. All that matters is that it's freakin' gooood!

A tiny little sign was taped on the wall nearest to our table. A good reminder to be happy in the moment...and so we were.

It may not look very appetizing, but this little dessert was a great finish to a perfect meal. Sticky rice and banana leaf...with some sort of beans. I wasn't going to try this at first, but am glad I did. I don't care for desserrts that are too sweet or heavy so this was just right for me.

Coconut Custard is my dessert  of choice. It is a small portion, which is what I prefer. Tastes AWESOME.

Orchids are the most beautiful me, anyway. All sorts of little plants decorate the window sills.

This little guy was an unexpected surprise. He's a little bit random and sits outside the restaurant to welcome guests.

A quaint irrigation system that appears to have been hand-made is in the parking lot, where plants grow in perfectly constructed wooden boxes/crates. I want to ask next time if these plants are used as decoration or as spices for the incredible food. This would also give me an excuse to go back again in the very near future! The Smiling gotta try it!

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