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Lemon Grass & Bistro Èlèphant: Behind the Scenes

11 Feb

The paneling in Bistro Èlèphant is made from antique doors from a military building in Southeast Asia.

Max Chutinthranond, Chef and Owner of Lemon Grass and Bistro Èlèphant

Native of Thailand

On how supplier prices and selection affect the menu at Lemon Grass and Bistro Èlèphant

Restaurants involve a lot of shopping.  In a big city, I would go to the market daily to select the ingredients for my meals, but in Upstate New York, you have to trust other people [suppliers] to pick for you.

Sushi will be featured on Lemon Grass' and Bistro Èlèphant's Dining Week menus for the first time this year.

Sometimes world events, like global warming, can make some of your ingredients unavailable or more expensive.  I prefer to always get red Alaskan King Crab since it is the best quality.  In mid-November, the U.S. military bought 2-3 million pounds of red Alaskan King Crab for the troops in the Middle East.  The next day, the price of red King Crab went up 22-25%.  I have a few cases of crab left that I had bought at the old price, but I may have to discontinue that menu item once I run out.

On how Lemon Grass and Bistro Èlèphant prepare for Dining Week

We begin our ordering way in advance to prepare for Dining Week.  We serve between 3,300 and 3,500 meals during Dining Week, so we have to be ready.  We will be offering sushi on our Dining Week menu this year to let people know we have it.  The ultimate veggie sushi is a good vegetarian option.

Lemon Grass and Bistro Èlèphant offer a wide array of desserts hand-made daily (including handmade ice cream.)

We have to experiment before a dish is complete – the recipe has to be nailed down, the taste and smell have to good, the price has to be right.  Some dishes take 10 weeks to finalize.  2 weeks would be quick to complete a dish.  We always have 2 menus for Dining Week, a week 1 and a week 2 menu.  During Dining Week, we also offer a small selection of wines at a discounted price.  Dining Week gives us a chance to reduce our inventory of red wines and make room for the white wines we will purchase for spring.

On other aspects of running Lemon Grass and Bistro Èlèphant

We have been open in Syracuse for 21 years.  Some of our staff have worked with us for a very long time, some have even worked here for 20 years.  It’s hard to have a lot of fluctuating staff at a restaurant.  We try to cook things that the public will enjoy.

The artwork and decor in Lemon Grass and Bistro Èlèphant comes from Max and Pook's travels.

We might have someone come in and have steak their first time here, but maybe they might get more adventurous with the menu the next time they’re here.  Our food is a blend of different cuisines – Pacific Rim, Euro-Asian, French-Asian.  My wife, Pook [co-owner and pastry chef at Lemon Grass and Bistro Èlèphant,] and I traveled around the word last year and saw what kinds of food everyone’s doing right now.  This year we plan to visit several more countries.

Lemon Grass and Bistro Èlèphant are two of the 22 restaurants participating in AmeriCU Dining Week.  Visit the restaurants at 238 West Jefferson Street, call 475-1111 for information or reservations or visit or for more information.