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Friday, September 20, 2013

Nashville Food Friday: Smiling Elephant

The Smiling Elephant Thai Restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
The Smiling Elephant has been on my radar for a while, but for one reason or another I just never made it there until recently when a sweet friend of mine wanted to have her birthday dinner there. Good food and good birthday celebration = win-win! This was really a kick in pants for me that made me re-evaluate everything. What have I been doing wrong for the last five years that caused me to miss eating at the best Thai place in Nashville? WHY DIDN'T Y'ALL TELL ME I WAS WRONG!? Smiling Elephant is, in my humble opinion, the best Thai food I have had in the south.
The Smiling Elephant Thai Restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
Located on 8th Ave South, the Smiling Elephant feels like a retreat. The front is adorable and there's a little patio where you can enjoy your curry al fresco. Inside, the dining room is small and heavily decorated with wood. I was surprised by how small this place truly is. We were there pretty early, about 5:30pm and the place filled up quickly, and it was just a Tuesday. This is a sign that you are on the right track for a good meal.
Fresh rolls at The Smiling Elephant Thai Restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
To start, we ordered the fresh rolls. I love these things, but you would be surprised how many places mess them up. These rolls were great; sticky on the outside but crunchy and fresh on the inside. The chili sauce gave a nice little spice to balance out the mild vegetables.
Tom Yum soup at The Smiling Elephant Thai Restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
For my meal I ordered the "set" which comes with soup and dessert. I chose the Tom Yum lemongrass soup and I was impressed by its mild and pleasing taste. It was full of fresh vegetables that were still crunchy. I love that they threw the spinach in at the last minute so it was just barely cooked.
Pad thai at The Smiling Elephant Thai Restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
For my entree I ordered tofu pad thai. I know it's boring and the typical Thai food go-to but hey, it's a good way to find out if a Thai place is solid. They warn you in the menu that this is not the sweet/sticky "Americanized" pad thai that you are are used to, so I was intrigued. Their pad thai is prepared how true pad thai is supposed to be. It was filled to the brim with bean sprouts and egg and I could taste the vinegar in it. The best part was the wider-than-average green bean noodles. The texture of these was sublime and makes me never want to go back to regular rice noodles.
Curry at The Smiling Elephant Thai Restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
Steve ordered the Karee curry, which was the curry of the day. The Smiling Elephant only does one type of curry a day to ensure the freshest and best taste. This is an idea I can get totally behind. The Karee was a variation on a red coconut curry and it was delightful. The sauce was smooth and the vegetables once again were crisp- not soggy and overcooked. I really enjoyed the pickled cucumber and red onions that accompanied the spicy curry.
Coconut custard dessert at The Smiling Elephant Thai Restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
For dessert we both had coconut custard. At first I was surprised because it was really tiny, but it was so rich I don't think I could have eaten more than one. It was full of coconut flavor and very creamy and sticky- the perfect consistency where it sticks to the spoon and your tongue.

Overall, I was very impressed with the Smiling Elephant. The staff was friendly and the food came out super fast. Everything that we had was delicious, the best Thai I've had in Nashville. I can tell that this is the beginning of a long love affair with the Smiling Elephant.

The Smiling Elephant on Urbanspoon


  1. I love this place. And I have a feeling they've feng shui'd the heck out of it, too, in a very good way. Did you notice anything unusual about the inside of the restaurant? I can't put my finger on it, but something about their dining room FEELS good. As soon as I walk in there, I'm in a great mood--and I'm pretty sure it's not just the delicious smells!

  2. Oh my gosh, it's sooooooo good. I wish that they were open all day. It seems like I always end up near it when it's closed.

  3. This is got to be the Best Pad Thai in Nashville. Well I know it was voted the Best. We had a really good experience and dinner there on September 27th and love the atmosphere and many choices on the menu to choose from. Love the Hibiscus Tea. It is so refreshing and delicious. The menu offers vegan and gluten free as well so it worked well for my family to eat there with friends. I recommend The Smiling Elephant!


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