It's been a pretentious trattoria, a well-meaning churrascaria, a failed Mexican chain taqueria and now, six years after this Lake Mary space commenced gobbling up and spitting out tenants like yesterday's lunch, a Thai joint has moved in with the hopes of reversing the trend.
Spending a fortune on interior design didn't work very well for Ultra Luce (the space's original tenant), but Blue Elephant's owners clearly aren't too concerned about learning from the past. The wood-accented interior is magnificently modern, yet traditionally Thai, and would befit the Orlando outpost of a Buddha Bar lounge. There's a fountain with lotus blossoms, swish white-leather banquettes, the requisite lounge music – and we took it all in for quite a while before a server noticed our presence and showed us to our table. A menu was presented, but no wine or drink list – surprising, as there's a sizable bar adjacent to the main dining room. When we asked the manager, a wine list was presented with the caveat that they're in the process of changing some items. Our server, while well-meaning and accommodating, was neither an expert on wine nor Thai fare, and was unable to offer any recommendations of worth. So we took our time scouring the bill of fare, after which it was clear that Blue Elephant is making an effort to present a higher class of Thai cuisine than your average neighborhood Siamese sit-down.
The appetizer platter ($12.95), for example, was beautifully presented on an ornately decorated serving tray, but an uninspired offering of salty calamari, ho-hum spring rolls, overly battered crab Rangoon, lifeless shrimp-pork dumplings and dreary chicken wings put the lack into the luster. Getting lettuce wraps with the Thai beef salad ($9) was a bit of a surprise; their inclusion wasn't stated on the menu. The salad was a simple preparation that hardly set it apart from others I've sampled, but little did we know as we were eating it that the dish would signify the high point of our meal. The crispy duck ($18) that was supposed to come "glazed" with a ginger-cranberry sauce was, instead, drowned in adulterating goop. Perhaps it was an attempt to mask the overdone, chewy duck, but any way we sliced it, the dish was an utter failure. The oddly named "crispy whole snapper rock" ($27.95) reflected the restaurant's style-over-substance ethic; the snapper's tail curled upward in a showy display. Our thumbs, however, pointed downward, primarily because the battered fish was so thoroughly moisture-depleted.
Pineapple rice and jasmine rice accompaniments to the duck and snapper were just sad – dry, almost crumbly.
Of the four dessert offerings, none were commendable, not the mango with sticky rice ($6.95) and certainly not the lava crumble ($6.50), which amounted to baked white bread topped with mixed berries, drizzled with honey and served with coconut ice cream. Not sure what the "lava" part of the dessert was here, or the "crumble," for that matter.
As we headed out, trying to comprehend the puzzling notes of our disappointing meal, something caught my eye. I turned around and beheld the imposing enormity of a figure centered in the heart of the dining area. It's time the restaurant's owners do the same and acknowledge that elephant in the room.
951 Market Promenade Ave., Lake Mary