Opening of a new Thai restaurant Thai Elephant in Ormond Beach
ORMOND BEACH — For 14 years, the Thai Elephant restaurant was a stable New York business for Effy Irawati and her husband, Budi. Then the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to close in 2020.
Fortunately, the couple moved to Ormond Beach. They recently opened a restaurant of the same name, offering unique and authentic flavors. The restaurant is located next to the Publix supermarket in Halifax Plantation Village, just off the Old Dixie Highway.
“It’s all at once,” Irawati said of Thai Elephant’s cuisine. “Spicy, salty, sweet, all at once.”
Irawati and her family are from Indonesia. Due to the country’s proximity to Thailand, eating habits are “99% alike”, she said.
The menu at Thai Elephant is the same as they previously offered at their New York location. It includes a wide variety of dishes that those familiar with the cuisine of the Asian country might recognize.
Appetizers range from $5 to $10 and include spring rolls, which can be filled with pork or shrimp; Thai Shumai, consisting of steamed ground chicken with shrimp, water chestnut, cilantro, and sweet chili sauce; and the Thai steamed mussels, which are served with several vegetables.
But curry, fried rice and noodle dishes have been the favorites so far, Irawati said. The restaurant’s Pad Thai (stir-fried rice noodles with eggs, peanuts, scallions, and bean sprouts) has earned Thai Elephant several GrubHub awards for best Pad Thai in the past.
All of the noodle, fried rice, and curry dishes (which include the Panang Curry with Coconut Milk and Lime Leaves and the Spicy Basil Fried Rice) cost between $13 and $20, depending on the protein the customer chooses for the dish, which can include chicken, duck, pork, beef, shrimp and calamari.
“Thai food here is very fresh”
Ormond Beach resident Marsha Moskowitz said she visited the restaurant on its opening weekend and found it “phenomenal”.
“We weren’t disappointed,” Moskowitz said. “I had the mango sticky rice (for dessert), my absolute favorite.”
The dessert, Moskowitz pointed out, uses black sticky rice instead of the typical Japanese white sticky rice.
Moskowitz and her husband have traveled to Thailand in the past and fell in love with the new flavors they discovered there. The country’s agricultural culture paired with the usual freshness of ingredients is something Moskowitz loved about Thai cooking and is replicated in Irawati food.
“The difference here is that Thai food is very fresh,” she said. “The attention to detail is amazing.”
The Ormond Beach resident said she met and spoke with Irawati about the restaurant and her passion for Thai cuisine.
“I’m very lucky they moved here, almost to my backyard,” Moskowitz added.
Irawati said when the restaurant soft-opened on Saturday, December 11, she was inundated with customers at the door waiting for one of the few tables inside. They also received many take-out orders over the phone.
“I said to a customer, ‘I can’t take any more orders,'” Irawati said.
“I have my experience and I can do it”
Irawati has done everything at the restaurant: taking orders over the phone, serving customers and even helping her husband prepare the food.
Budi learned her way in the kitchen working in Thai restaurants in New York, which gave the couple the chance to start their original restaurant.
Irawati said she decided to open the new Thai Elephant after moving to Florida to live with her son.
“I said ‘why not?’ I have my experience and I can do it, so I tried to find a place and finally we found the place here,” Irawati said.
Three years after opening their New York location, they opened Thai Elephant 2 in Patterson, New York, which remains open and is run by Irawati’s brother.
For her new Ormond Beach restaurant, Irawati hopes to eventually hire some help. But she plans to continue to favor the restoration formula that has worked in the past.
“We manage the quality, the taste, everything,” she said. “That will never change.”
IF YOU ARE GOING TO
WHAT: Thai Elephant
WHERE: 3768 Roscommon Dr., Ormond Beach
HOURS: Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.
INFO: www.facebook.com/ThaiElephantOrmondBeach, or 386-675-6696