When you think of Murrells Inlet, seafood, hush puppies, and strolls on the Marshwalk probably come to mind. But tucked along the main strip is Blue Elephant, an authentic Thai experience in a conspicuously blue building.
In Thailand, traditional fare revolves around a balance of four core flavors – spicy, subtle, sweet, and sour. The menu here, written and prepared by Executive Chef Dr. Paul Byington, touches them all over the course of seven sections – Appetizers, Soups, Salads, Thai Curries, Chef Specialties & Seafood, Entrees, and Noodles & Rice. Everything Dr. Paul sends out of the kitchen is made to order using fresh ingredients, spices imported from Thailand, and presented as edible art.
For Appetizers, start with standards like Po Pia Tod (Spring Rolls) or Pra Muk Tod (Calamari), or choose a unique dish like Kanom Jeab (Steamed Dumplings), a mixed ground chicken and Thai herb-stuff wonton served with homemade dipping sauce. Or check out the Peak Gai Yatsai (Chicken Wings), which are stuffed with grass noodles, mushrooms and carrots and served up with a cucumber dipping sauce.
The Soup options are the world-famous Tom Yum Goong, a brothy-blend with shrimp, lemon grass, tomato, mushroom, and lime leaf. It’s a complex dish that’s a little spicy and a little sour, and opens up the taste buds for the flavors of following courses. The other soup offering is Tom Kha Gai (Coconut Chicken Soup), which is a more delicate mix of mushrooms, lemon grass, lime juice, onion, and cilantro.
The Salad section provides two options that can be used as transitions into the main course. Som Tum (Papaya Salad), is a fresh mix of papaya, carrots, tomatoes, ground peanuts, and chili peppers, and Yum Nua (Spicy Bean or Fresh Tuna Salad) combines sliced beef or tuna with tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, and lime.
Curry is a staple ingredient of cuisines in Thailand, and Blue Elephant offers the unique spice in four different varieties – Spicy Red, Spicy Green, Spicy Yellow, and Musaman, each served with choice of chicken, beef, or pork, accompanied by a variety of fresh vegetables.
Standouts on the list of Dr. Paul’s Specialties & Seafood include the Thai Elephant Seafood, which is glass noodles dish mixed with shrimp, scallops, calamari, salmon, and New Zealand mussels tossed with baby corn, ginger, black mushrooms, carrots, and peas in a special house sauce. There’s also the Pad Goong Gra Tiem (Garlic Shrimp), with mushrooms, baby corn, onions, and carrots sautéed in an oyster sauce.
The Entrée list includes standards like Gai Pad Met Ma-Muang (Chicken with Cashew Nuts), Pad Prew Wan (Sweet and Sour), and Pad Ka-Prow (Thai Basil). All entrees are available with choice of chicken, beef, pork, or fried tofu, except for the Gai Pad Met Ma-Muang, which is a chicken-only dish.
And, of course, no Thai menu would be complete without Pad Thai (rice noodles, shrimp, chicken, bean sprouts, egg, peanuts) or Pad Kee Mow a.k.a. Drunken Noodles (rice noodles with chicken, shrimp, basil, bamboo shoots, baby corn and broccoli. Blue Elephant also offers Khao Pad (Thai Fried Rice) and Khao Pad Sa-Pa-Rot (Pineapple Fried Rice).
Whatever the restaurant lacks in terms of appearance from the outside, it makes up for with fancy settings and décor on the inside. The dining room is an intimate space, tables are lined with crisp white cloths, and intricate Thai art hangs from the walls. It all comes together to provide a little escape from the standard Murrells Inlet night out, transporting diners to the ancient culture of Thailand in the most delicious way.