This sunny restaurant wears its idiosyncracies with a smile: Ian Dury b-sides on the stereo; a wall-mounted display handmade jewelry for sale; the take-a-book, leave-a-book collection on the mantel; memorabilia lacquered under the tabletops. And someone had a fun time writing up the menu; the children's section is especially enticing. (On a carefree day I'd like to take on the "Peanut Butter Monster," a grilled triple-decker that also sports jelly, chocolate Nutella, and Marshmallow Fluff.)
Off-menu, Blue Elephant is one of the few U.S. restaurants to make wide use of insects in the kitchen, according to my lunch companion, the entomophagy (insect-eating) proponent David Gracer. On a kebab platter with tomatoes, onions, and apples, farmed American crickets were fuller-figured than dried Oaxacan chapulines, and more chewy than crunchy; little flavor of their own, but nice on a slice of Granny Smith.
In a New England "clam" chowder (without clams) and a Philly cheese "steak" (without steak), silkworm pupae complemented their fellow ingredients, even when drawn out of hiding. Someday, perhaps someday soon, they might offer a sustainable alternative to other sources of protein, though as I found in Cambodia, they don't stand well on their own. Silkworm pupae, though not squishy, are disquietingly mushy. By contrast, despite the eerie possibilities in a sandwich named for H.P. Lovecraft, his namesake proved to be an extra-bacony BLT enhanced with avocado, onion, blue cheese, hot sauce, and balsamic vinegar. (Even David, who ordered it, sometimes needs to go insect-free.)
If no one told you, you'd never guess that the creme brulee was flavored with the (artificial) essence of Thai water bug. You must try the real thing, if you ever have the opportunity; pry open the exoskeleton to free the small "filet," and you'll discover a fragrance and a flavor that may remind you of anise, or apples, or even preserved pears!
312 Wickenden St., Providence, Rhode Island