Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Elephant Walk

(Originally posted 4/19/06)

On April 18, 2006, we attended a special event at the Elephant Walk in Boston. The Elephant Walk hosted a special “dinner theatre” in celebration of Cambodian New Year. This unique and exclusive evening featurec a performance by the Angkor Dance Troupe followed by an exquisite four course Cambodian meal of rare and wonderful dishes not regularly served by The Elephant Walk.

The Angkor Dance Troupe was founded in 1986 in Lowell, Massachusetts and, today, is recognized as one of the foremost Cambodian folk and classical dance troupes in the United States. The troupe has over 40 members, including both master performers and students, and an extensive collection of authentic costumes and props. The meaning of Cambodian dance comes from the totality of the movement and positioning of every part of the body, together with classical Cambodian music and lyrics. Cambodian folk dances evoke the geography of and daily life in Cambodia; classical and court dances bring to life ancient legends and traditions. Both will be featured in this performance.

Admission to this event was limited to 50 people. The full cost of this dance and dinner event is $95, including wine paired with dinner, tax, and gratuity.

This was the Menu:
Hors d’Oeuvres
Bai Domnap Muk B’kong: Turmeric sticky rice topped with minced shrimp
Meang Nem: Miniature fresh spring rolls filled with minced shitake mushroom, fried garlic and shallot, tamarind and crushed peanuts.
Nom Kriep: Crispy miniature spring rolls filled with minced pork and crushed peanuts
Paired with a 2005 Hill & Dale Sauvignon Blanc (Stellenbosh, South Africa). Fresh, ripe fruit flavors balanced by clean, crisp acidity; classic cool climate Sauvignon Blanc.

First Course (please choose one):
Pleah Trey: Salad of thinly-sliced Asian grouper marinated in lime juice, galangal, shallot, garlic, fish sauce and prahok juice; tossed with julienned jicama, English cucumber, bean sprouts, mint, Asian basil, onion, red bell pepper, very thinly-sliced lemongrass and lettuce
Troap Saik Chrouk: Pan-fried eggplant topped with minced pork and crushed peanuts; served with a small side of tangy and spicy green mango salad
Paired with a 2004 G. Simon “Ayler Kupp”Riesling Kabinett (Mosel-Saar-Ruhr, Germany). Vividly rich and slightly off-dry, with concentrated peach and apple flavors, clean texture and smooth, bright finish.

Main Course (please choose one):
Saramann Braised beef in a rich red curry with cardamom seeds, cinnamon, star anise, lemongrass, coconut milk, tamarind, shrimp paste and whole roasted peanuts; garnished with English cucumber slices, cilantro and served with wild lime rice.
Kari Mouan Chicken braised in yellow curry with lemongrass, cardamom, coriander, fennel, turmeric, coconut milk, shrimp paste, onion and Yukon gold potatoes; served with wild lime rice. Paired with a 2003 Altos “Las Hormigas” Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina). The pride of Argentina’s wine growers, Malbec is both gutsy and balanced and thus perfect with food, with berry fruit, hints of vanilla and cinnamon, and a long, lingering finish.

Dessert (please choose one):
Sankiah L’poh: Buttercup squash filled with coconut milk custard
Gateau de Mousse au Citron au Noix de Coco: Lemon mousse over a light coconut génoise; garnished with mango coulis

What a wonderful evening! All of us thoroughly enjoyed this exotic event. We arrived early and sat in the bar to have a drink before we could be seated for the show. While there, a server came around several times with a special treat, crunchy rice topped with a coconut milk sauce. Very yummy!

About 6:30pm, we got seated for the dance show. For the next hour, we were entertained by a troupe of Cambodian dancers. They probably performed about six dances in all, each dance described and announced prior to its performance. The dancers were young Cambodian men and women, proudly protecting their cultural traditions by learning these dances. Their costumes were intricate, colorful and amazing. The dancers showed such poise and skill, especially with their hand and arm movements, a staple of such dance. There was a coconut dance that reminded me of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, as the dancers did clop coconut shells together while dancing. Overall, these dances were superb to watch.

Then on to dinner: We began with the Hors d’Oeuvres. We received a plate with a generous sized square of the Bai Domnap Muk B’kong (Turmeric sticky rice topped with minced shrimp). This was very tasty, the turmeric being an intriguing spice that we often do not get to experience. The plate also contained two Meang Nem and two Nom Kriep, two types of spring rolls. The Nom Kriep was fried, like a tiny egg roll, and was delicious with a strong peanut flavor. I did not care for the Meang Nem (too many veggies for me) though everyone else very much enjoyed it. The Hill & Dale was a good wine with a nice, crisp taste, a hint of grapefruit and other citrus.

For the next course, I had the Pleah Trey, the grouper salad. I mainly ate the grouper off the salad as the veggies did not appeal to me. The grouper was very good, tiny shredded pieces. They brought a hot sauce for dipping and it went well with the group. At our table, two others got the Troap Saik Chrouk, the eggplant. I dislike eggplant but it came encrusted in a minced pork covering. I did try that and it was fabulous. The Riesling was an ok wine, but there was nothing distinctive about it. It was mildly sweet, which helped defuse some of the fire of the hot sauce. But not a wine I would normally buy or drink.

Our table got both main courses, the braised beef and chicken, so we could all share. Both meats were excellent, very tender, juicy, and with excellent sauces. Neither curry was particularly spicy, more just flavorful with exotic spices. I would highly recommend either of these two dishes. The Malbec was a very good red wine, with nice berry and a decent finish. It had some complexity and paired well with both the beef and chicken.

For dessert, we got both of them. The Sankiah L’poh was ok though we all just ate the coconut milk custard and left the squash, which just did not go with dessert. The Gateau de Mousse was very good, a light and flavorful dessert in which no flavor really overpowered any other.

Overall, this was a great evening!

The Elephant Walk
900 Beacon Street
Boston, MA
Phone: (617) 247-1500

Elephant Walk in Boston

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