Sunday, January 27, 2013

No Hiding the Elephant in the Room with this Restaurant

Elephant Bar
24155 Laguna Hills Mall #1055
Laguna Hills, CA 

I love getting gift cards. I know some of you out there might like to have a more personal gift, but I like that I can get exactly what I want. No returns, and no getting stuck with junk that immediately gets jettisoned to the back of my closet. Predictably, since I am so into restaurants, I get a lot of gift cards for food places. Sure, a lot of these are for chain restaurants, but I am not averse to chain restaurants. I know this is shocking to hear from a food blogger, but I have my reasons.

Chain restaurants equate to a night off for my food blogging efforts. Sure there are some exceptions, like this nights meal, but for the most part I have already written up many of the chain restaurants that we frequent. Back to the reason that I brought up gift cards at the start of this review. A coworker of Katie's had given her an Elephant Bar gift card as a Christmas present. I had written about Elephant Bar once before on this blog, but that was to review their happy hour. You can read that post here.  We were not thrilled with our happy hour experience, but decided to give Elephant Bar another shot for dinner.

Elephant Bar opened their doors in 1980, and in those thirty plus years they now have 45 locations in nine states, including two here in OC, this Laguna Hills location and another in Irvine. We got to the Laguna Hills locale at about six thirty on a Wednesday night. The bar was packed, but we got a seat right away in the large dining room. The only thing larger than the dining room at Elephant Bar is their menu. This menu rivals the menu at Cheesecake Factory. They have a lot of everything in here; Appetizers, Soups and Salads, Sandwiches and Burgers, Global food, Wok-Fired Specialties, Fish, Rice Bowls, and of course Desserts. After awhile of perusing the menu, we settled on our selections for this evening.

We decided to start off with the Three Cheese Macaroni ($3.95). This had lots of cheese on it, which is usually a pretty good sign, but this was one of the blandest mac and cheese dishes we have had. Katie even thought this might have been microwaved. Not so sure about that, but it did not taste like anything. The noodles were cooked fine, but the bread topping that came with this tasted more like under seasoned dry stuffing mix. It added texture to this dish, but not much else. Pass on this on future visits.

Salad time at Elephant Bar, and Katie selected a Garden Side Salad ($3.95). Besides the serving size of this salad, Katie did not have much in the way of praise for this salad. She called this salad mediocre tasting, and not quite as fresh as she would have liked. I opted for the Caesar Side Salad ($3.95). I was in agreement with Katie about this salad being very average. For me, a Caesar is all about the dressing, and this dressing lacked flavor and was very watery. It did not cling to the produce in any way. The Parmesan cheese was probably the highlight of this salad for me.

Katie surprised me with her choice for dinner, the Parmesan Crusted Chicken with Tuscan Style Shrimp ($14.95). This meal had a lot going on with it. It was kind of like three meals in one. It of course had the Parmesan crusted chicken, placed on top of pasta with shrimp added to the sauce. Katie thought this dish was good, but it did have its faults. The pasta was a little under cooked, while the chicken was a tad on the dry side. She really liked the plate's heavy garlic presence, and felt that the shrimp was small, but flavorful.

I really had a hard time deciding what to get here. I kind of stepped out of my usual ordering style, by getting the Macadamia Crusted Mahi-Mahi ($16.50). I assume that this really was Mahi, but with this very heavy breading it could have been anything. The fish inside was not very tender, and I did not get any of the so called macadamia taste. This was served with two sauces, the green I believe was a pesto type sauce, and the white was maybe a coconut sauce. The sauces were good, but too watery and not enough of them to save this dish from being anything above average. The diced up veggies were okay, but an odd assortment. I did think that the portion size of this was very generous.

I am sorry to say that our second trip to Elephant Bar was not much better than our first. Nothing that we ate would be worth ordering again. Much like their menu, the food was all over the place. I wonder why they do not shrink their menu a bit to focus on just a couple of kinds of food. They could easily do away with half of their menu, and still have enough variety for almost everyone. Focus on a few items and make them great, instead of making a great many mediocre entrees. The service on the night we were here was pretty solid. Our server took good care of us, even though he had a party of sixteen sit down about ten minutes after us. Prices were pretty decent at Elephant Bar. We got all of our food for $47, and with the $50 gift card that Katie got we did not have to shell out any money for this meal. Unfortunately, I do not think we will go back to use the extra two dollars that was left on the card.

Out of five mice, (because even though elephants are said to be afraid of mice, one of the most famous elephants ever, Dumbo, had a best friend that was a mouse), five being best to zero being worst, Elephant Bar gets 2 mice.

For more information on Elephant Bar, click here:

Elephant Bar Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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