Fifth Element’s Indian Food Hits Close To The Mark

After having lived in Bangkok for 20 years and experiencing Indian food at many restaurants in the area of the city where we lived (23 were within walking distance) we became somewhat familiar with the many flavors of Indian cuisine. Also, reviewing many Indian restaurants over the years there allowed us to meet and talk with many owners and chefs so our education was furthered even more.
So we looked forward to visiting what appears to be the only real Indian restaurant in the immediate area. Afterwards, we were a bit disappointed in some aspects of the restaurant but other things were more encouraging.
One of the biggest challenges in cooking Indian food is finding the correct ingredients because they may not always be available and having the right ones is critical to the taste of the dish. Substitutes can be used but it’s difficult to reproduce the right flavors without the exact ingredients needed. Also important is the order theat the ingredients are added to a dish so the chefs must also be on the ball.
And it’s actually the flavors they produce here that we thought were done well. Instead it was the cooking processs that really created the problems here.
Some of the best Indian food we’ve ever had came from the tandoor, an upright cylindrical oven that is used to cook a wide variety of ingredients. When used properly the tandoor can create some incredible flavors and textures using ingredients as diverse as lamb or shrimp. If, however, any ingredient is left in the oven for too long, and that could mean mere seconds in some cases, then the food is overcooked and dry. This was the case at Fifth Element.
Fortunately, for the restaurant, it’s a minor fix — just take the food out of the oven a minute earlier and you’re fine. Inexperience in the kitchen may be a factor here and we’re quite willing to give them a bit of a pass here since there probably isn’t a restaurant in the county that isn’t suffering from some sort of staff shortage. It’s still not right but at least there’s a simple solution.
And the same goes for the only other problem we encountered here and that’s lackadaisacal service. This is probably a function of the fact hat we could not see any management people here, the same as it is in most places nowadays.
It’s not only a lack of servers that impacts service, it’s also a lack of supervisory or management staff that causes problems with service. This is almost certainly a cost-cutting measure but unfortunately it impacts service in a negative way.
The service here wasn’t terrible, it just wasn’t as attemtive as it could have been. It was also easy to see that the servers had never been trained well right from the beginning and that’s the fault of management.
Anyway, the flavors here are good and are very comparable to what we used to eat in Bangkok, and the prices are definitely reasonable based on portion size and quality so don’t stay away from here because of our minor criticisms. Based on our experience with Indian food, both here and in Asia, Fifth Element is worth your time and money.
Fifth Element, European Village, 386-302-0202