08 April 2008

Elephant Bar: Upscale Dining at Reasonable Prices

When the Elephant Bar restaurant opened its doors in Concord, California at least 8 years ago, we were dubious about having yet another casual dining themed chain restaurant... so I avoided making even the slightest suggestion to my wife that we "test it out". We really should have given it a chance earlier. At our first dining experience at Elephant Bar, we were very pleased indeed; they served up exceptional meals at a very reasonable price.

The decor feels a bit like a Princess Cruises ship blended with the Jungle Cruise attraction at Disneyland, with undulating levels of semi-circular booth seating and theme-parkesque artificial rock fashioned into a freakishly large elephant head hanging from the back wall of the dining room. But it’s not overpowering, and the color choices are rich and pleasing. The restaurant was very clean, and it was refreshing to see an open kitchen in a casual dining environment.

The staff was very attentive, but not so much so as to make a nuisance of themselves. I was openly taking notes in a small steno pad which undoubtedly prompted a mid-meal tableside visit from one of the chefs (Cindy taking photographs with her conspicuous camera probably was a tip-off as well). At the end of our little chat with the chef, we identified ourselves as foodies, reviewers, and featured publishers for FoodBuzz. He later came back to our table with his business card, and happily informed us that he was about to open up another more upscale version of the Elephant Bar just down the road about 30 miles in Dublin, California.

This restaurant has the most varied menu of any casual dining restaurant I’ve ever encountered--from Pacific Rim Specialties like Bangkok Pad Thai with Vegetables & Tofu to American standards like their Classic Hamburger. Wow!

Our selections were easy. My wife had the Roasted French Dip with Swiss Sandwich (she had the chef had carmelized onions). I had the Crispy Teriyaki Chicken (off the Pacific Rim Specialties menu).

My wife reported that the French Dip featured a roll with a good crumb filled with tender, thinly sliced beef with just the right amount of caramelized onion and Swiss cheese. The au jus for dipping the sandwich wasn’t too salty (that can make or break a French Dip). She was also very pleased that the sandwich wasn't over-sized in its proportions. Often restaurants make the mistake of making a French Dip too large to bite or handle. This sandwich also had the right ratio of meat to bread (another deal breaker if done wrong).

I snuck some of her fries from the ample serving served to the side of the sandwich. I was very pleased that the fries weren’t at all greasy or overcooked, but light and fluffy with a crispy exterior. Good!

My Crispy Teriyaki Chicken was an ample portion, but I would have liked a bit more. The dinner was served with steamed rice and featured a mushroom soy-ginger sauce that I could have everyday of the week. I usually have to go to my local "mom & pop" Chinese restaurant for this level of wok cookery, but here it was at a chain… hmmm. I don’t quite know what to think about that, but I was pleased that I could get this type of meal here with my wife having one of her favorites and the two of us sitting at the same booth instead of in our living room with take-out from two different restaurants (trust me, it happens).

Overall, we enjoyed our dining experience at Elephant Bar and will plan another visit in the near future. They also offer take-out for when we just don’t have the time for the full dining experience, and I won’t have to drive to two separate establishments to get what we want!

1 comment:

Holly said...

Your pictures are making me hungry!!!

We have definitely got to try the Elephant Bar the next time we're in California. I checked and they don't have one in Idaho... ;( Can you imagine J's reaction when we tell him he's going to eat at an "elephant" restaurant?

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