Elephants are everywhere at the new Elephant Lounge restaurant and bar in Clovis — as decor on the walls, holding a bowl of mints and in the form of fountains shooting water from their trunks out front.
Not to be confused with the Elephant Bar chain restaurant in north Fresno, the Elephant Lounge opened about a month ago at 80 W. Shaw Ave.
Although the influx of elephants might be one of the more eye-catching changes to the restaurant once occupied by North India Bar & Grill, a lot more has changed.
Owner and chef Ranjit "Junior" Singh moved here from the Bay Area and spent six months revamping the space. He brought in a giant chandelier from Czechoslovakia, redid the floors and added all new furnishings.
The elephants symbolize Asia, which includes India, and the restaurant serves Indian food. It also serves American and Italian food.
The menu is huge — and that's deliberate.
"When we go out to eat, it's always, 'the son wants this, the daughter wants this," says Singh. "I wanted to create something where everybody could be happy."
So you'll find New York steak, meatloaf and mozzarella sticks on the menu. There's also pasta, such as fettuccine Alfredo and spaghetti and meatballs.
But it's the Indian food that's at the heart of this menu.
The restaurant has 11 "signature sauces" that can be served with eight options, including beef, chicken, lamb, goat and veggies.
Some of the sauces are traditionally Indian. Some aren't.
So there's a tikka masala and Punjabi curry sauce, but also a basil cream with roasted garlic. The pomegranate marsala, Singh describes as "another brilliant sauce that has nothing to do with Indian" food.
The soft-spoken Singh gets excited when he talks about the sauces. And with good reason. This is a man with a degree in electronics who gave up a career in robotics at Apple to become a chef.
Singh, who was born in India, moved to the U.S. at age 10. On a trip back to India in his 20s he discovered he loved to cook, describing it as a "love at first sight" feeling.
He spent six months learning to cook before returning to the East Bay area in California and eventually opening three restaurants and a catering business. He has since sold one of them and turned the others over to his son before moving to Clovis for a slower pace of life.
Elephant Lounge is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
It has a full bar and a patio with lounge seating.
More information is available on the Elephant Lounge Facebook page.
Just down the street is Pad Thai, another new Asian restaurant.
It opened about three months ago at 198 W. Shaw Ave. in Clovis. There is construction happening on the exterior of the restaurant and the rest of the shopping center, but owner Kimi Rang assures me they are open for business.
The restaurant has a chef from Bangkok and sells its namesake, of course, the noodle dish pad thai. The chicken and shrimp pad thai are particularly popular, she tells me.
Also popular are the Panang curry and the mango salad made with red and green onions, cilantro, lime juice and mangos.
The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday and for dinner on Sundays.
Details are at padthaiclovis.com.
Vino & Friends is hosting "The Taste of Vino," a fundraiser benefiting the Make-A-Wish of Central California from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
It's the seventh such fundraiser and the third time at the Save Mart Center. Last year the event raised $30,000 for Make-A-Wish.
The event features wine tasting from 70 wineries and food from five restaurants, along with live music.
Tickets cost $70, or $80 at the door, and are available at Vino & Friends at 1560 E. Champlain Drive or at www.thetasteofvino.com.