Twice is Nice at Smiling Elephant

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Pad Thai at Smiling Elephant
  • Pad Thai at Smiling Elephant
It's an infrequent treat to have lunch with my dad. He tells good stories and is an omnivore. Dad's from the old Nashville (Representin' E Nashville and Madison!), but he loves to eat in the new Nashville, and since he hadn't eaten pad Thai in ages, we chose The Smiling Elephant on Eighth Avenue for our lunch date.

Look at the mound of pad thai—it looked like too much food, but it was surprisingly light and sooo good. Pops finished it off.

I was so torn between pad woonsen and lettuce wraps. In a game-time decision, I got pad woonsen, a steaming hot, well-made heap of Thai satisfaction, wafting garlic in every direction.

Still, I couldn't ignore the lure of the lettuce wraps and returned to try them a few days later.

Nam sod aka lettuce wraps from Smiling Elephant
  • Nam sod aka lettuce wraps from Smiling Elephant
Turns out, lettuce wraps are the same thing as nam sod. Thanks to Pei Wei, everyone knows more or less what's involved in a lettuce wrap. It's a smart bit of marketing to give the less familiar "nam sod" a more familiar moniker.

Another stroke of genius: send it out with rice, so diners can opt for a fork meal, or use the lettucec leaves for a carb-free wrap meal.

In fact it was all pretty well-thought-out but for one aspect: romaine lettuce. With the big rib in the center, it doesn't wrap as well as soft leaf lettuces or butter lettuce.

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