An adventurous new pan-Asian concept is landing in the Harwood District. Elephant East will open its doors later this fall and will be spearheaded by chef Thomas Griffin.
Hailing from Cape Cod, Griffin spent years working as a chef in Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Washington. After chats with Harwood International director of operations Stan Rodrigues, he moved to Dallas last year where he was Dolce Riviera’s executive chef.
“Opportunity arose in Dallas and I wanted to jump out,” Griffin says. “I knew I wanted to come out toward the west. I believe in the food scene out here, and I knew I’d love to be a part of it.”
Griffin’s father is from northern Europe and his mother is from Singapore; Elephant East’s menu is mostly inspired by the latter’s roots. Griffin says the cuisine will be influenced by Bangkok’s nightlife scene, all the way down to Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore.
“When it comes to the menu, it’s opened up a lot,” Griffin says. “That allows me to have fun and do street food, just as much as that allows me to do noodles and pasta. It’s a good blend of street food and composed dishes all in one menu.”
Some of these dishes include the Singapore noodles with in-house cured ham, which sounds like it will pair well with their Asian old fashion or their “playful” mai-tai. Utilizing his Italian bread-making skills, Griffin also plans to implement a robust bread program for some of the smaller bites, including the pork belly bao.
“We’re doing a northern Chinese steamed bread called mantou, something that took me a very long time to learn. And to do it in our own way at Elephant East is something that is incredibly special to me,” Griffin says.
Other items include spring rolls, lettuce wraps, a fried and deboned whole trout and dishes “designed to make people curious about the menu,” and try something new on each visit.
For dessert, Elephant East will offer items like a goma dango — a sesame-fried mochi-style doughnut, as well as a waffle inspired by Asian street desserts.
You can walk around the streets of Hong Kong or Taipei and get this waffle with custard, and it’s the polar opposite of your typical American or French waffle,” Griffin says. “It’s softer and it rolls into a cone, but it’s not crispy.”
Elephant East is joining the ranks of several Harwood nightlife destinations, including Harwood Arms, Happiest Hour and Te Deseo.
“The biggest thing that I’ve learned about Dallas is there’s fierce competition within the food scene,” Griffin says. “And it’s a challenge that I gladly take on. These restaurants make great food, and they don’t try to be something they’re not.”
Elephant East. 2850 N. Harwood St. #120 (Uptown). Opening fall 2021