People go to Elephant Garden (象園咖啡) for the waffles. The pudding waffle set (NT$160) includes fresh strawberries, strawberry ice cream, a giant egg pudding, a cup of whipped cream, a mound of cocoa powder and a waffle served in quarters. But don’t expect a Belgian waffle — this is the chewy and cakey streetstall variety, made fresh. If you drench a bit in cream and ice cream, and eat that with a jiggling blob of pudding and side order of hot popcorn chicken (NT$120), it’s a complete meal in itself. Nothing fancy, but it hits all the right bases.
Others go to this American-style family restaurant because it’s among the few in Taipei that makes a direct overture to families. Even pets are welcome. Small ones can sit indoors, while medium to large-sized dogs and their owners eat out on the covered patio. And, every pet gets a party-colored water dish.
The restaurant, which is named after a nearby rock formation shaped like an elephant’s trunk, has thoughtful touches for children, too. The bathrooms, for example, feature diaper-changing tables and toilet seats close to the ground. There is also a large outdoor seating area. After their meals, children break off from their families in the covered patio tables to congregate at an elephant-themed park at the back, while adults can relax and watch local fishermen at work at the lake across the street in Bihu Park (碧湖公園), close to Gangqian MRT Station (港墘站) in Neihu.
With the exception of the waffle sets, the restaurant’s menu is mediocre. Our server recommended clams with white wine and pesto (NT$280), which came in a portion big enough for three or four to share. It’s a bland dish ringed with salty clams and glazed in a thick, salty pesto and finished with wafer-thin seaweed strips. The flavor is too strong and one-note, but the rough-chopped vegetables and seaweed give the dish a fun party look.
Address: 192, Neihu Rd Sec 2, Taipei City (台北市內湖路二段192號)
Telephone: (02) 2792-6080
Open: Daily from 11am to 9pm
Average meal: NT$300
Details: Chinese and English menu; credit cards accepted; 10 percent service charge
The kids’ meals are similarly unremarkable 15-minute dishes. But they may appeal to children because of the presentation. There are two NT$198 set meals for guests twelve and under — meat sauce spaghetti and shrimp rice omelet — labeled with the Zhuyin Fuhao (注音符號, commonly known as Bopomofo) system. Entrees are served with battered fries, a small lettuce and fruit salad, choice of drink and a creamy flan-like dessert dressed with an intensely sweet peach glaze. Each side has its own container — the salad comes in a cute garden bucket — and items are delivered in a wooden stenciled box, with an elephant-printed bib. Drinks arrive in a flash and look fun, too. The fruit tea (NT$150), with enough fresh fruit to make it look like a salad, comes with a tall spoon and a rolled black straw.
On weekends, seating is typically at capacity with families attracted by the novel format. Due to the summer heat and the mosquitos, indoor seating is more popular and requires a reservation.