My 5th Element

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Fifth Element exterior

As I write this I’m in London, which, I’m told, has more Indian restaurants than Mumbai. I don’t know if that’s true, and frankly, I’d be more impressed if Mumbai has more fish and chips joints than London.

I do know that every time I’ve visited London in the past, I’ve been disappointed with the Indian restaurants here. I suppose that’s because my concept of what good Indian food should be has been shaped by the restaurants I’ve experienced in the U.S. What I know to be good and not so good Indian food is from domestic eating. And based on that, I think 5thElement, a restaurant in Sanford, is good.

Forever Naan

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Forever Naan sign

I don’t know why it’s taken so long for an Indian restaurant to take advantage of the street name Curry Ford, but Forever Naan has finally stepped up with the subname Curry Street Grill.

It’s a little slip of a place near the corner of Conway Road in a strip that holds a pawn shop (once a Blockbuster Video) and a payday loan business. If I remember correctly, the space that Forever Naan occupies was once a Hungry Howie’s Pizza. So we’re not talking the toniest district.

But inside, FN has a pleasantly casual space. Although it seems more suited as a takeout restaurant, it has seating for dining in, albeit on uncomfortable looking metal chairs and backless stools. A bright red wall in the front of the space seems dedicated to Bollywood, with film reel sculptures, movie ticket signs and lobby cards for Indian flicks.

Curry Mantra

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Curry Mantra ext

The young man who greeted us and showed us to the lunch buffet at Curry Mantra, a new Indian restaurant, seemed genuinely interested in making sure my lunch guest and I were pleased with the food.

Unfortunately, we weren't. With the exception of a spicy lentil soup, everything was quite modest and mundane. And even worse, much of it was tepid or, like the mixed pakora, downright cold.

Southern Spice

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Southern Spice gobi

When I wrote about Chutneys, an Indian restaurant in Bay Hill Plaza on Turkey Lake Road, I lamented the loss of Memories of India, which used to be in the same plaza. Chutneys, I said in my 2016 review, was OK, but it was not Memories of India.

Well, you might say that Southern Spice, the restaurant that has taken over Chutneys' space, has brought back good memories.

I shouldn't have been surprised. Southern Spice is from the same owner, Sunny Corda, as Mynt, the Indian restaurant in Winter Park's Hannibal Square, and Rasa, the Asian street food restaurant just down Restaurant Row. Mynt offers an inventive style of Indian food, but Southern Spice stays more traditional, featuring foods of South India (mostly), and presents a few items that might be unfamiliar to you if your only experience with Indian cuisine is from Central Florida restaurants.

Tandoori Bowl

Written by Scott Joseph on .

tandoori bowl interior

Next up in the assemblage line of restaurants: Indian cuisine.

Tandoori Bowl is a new restaurant on Alafaya Trail in Oviedo that employs the “one from column A, one from column B...” style of meal construction. Indian cuisine being what it is, however, you can expect more columns.

Here you start with your carb, either white rice or brown, which is simple enough. (You also have to begin by choosing regular or large size bowls; regular is plenty big.) Next you choose your protein, which might be chicken, lamb, paneer, chickpeas, pork or steak.

Pork or steak? Holy cow, what kind of Indian restaurant is this?

Himas Indian Cuisine

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Himas interior

I must say I rather enjoyed my brief visit to Himas Indian Cuisine, a Punjabi restaurant that opened earlier in the year. Despite its Tourist World location, adjacent to an outlet mall and across the street from the now-defunct Artegon Marketplace, Himas offers a relaxed and pleasant dining experience with welcoming service and very good food.

As with most Indian restaurants in the area, lunch at Himas means a buffet. This one is smaller than most, but it offers a well thought out array.

Ataj Indian Restaurant

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Ataj with bread

I found myself in Kissimmee the other day, which isn’t nearly as sinister as it sounds. I mean, it’s not like I was hit over the head and thrown into a trunk of a car and woke up alongside US 192. There was no trunk involved.

But as I came to, I saw a new restaurant called Ataj Indian Cuisine. I dusted myself off and went inside.

Now, there’s no reason for us to get into a discussion of preconceived notions for restaurants in this part of town. Let’s just say that a disappointing number of businesses seem to ascribe to the theory that they don’t really need to try very hard to impress customers because, being in a tourist-dominated area, a new wave of customers comes in every week. It’s unfortunate, but it happens.

Ahmed Indian Restaurant UCF

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Ahmed exterior

A few years ago, I visited an Indian restaurant in south Orlando, along a stretch of South Orange Blossom Trail that has been seeing a surge in Indian, Middle Eastern and other ethnic cuisines. Some are quite good; others are meh. This one was meh.

In fact it was so blah and so dubious in its authenticity — asking how spicy one wants his korma is a clue — that I decided to walk away from it and not waste your time reviewing it. (That happens more time than you might imagine.) Such restaurants, I figure, will eventually fade away.

That place was called Ahmed Indian Restaurant. And you can imagine my surprise when I learned that not only had the restaurant not faded, it was opening a second location, on the east side of town.


Written by Scott Joseph on .

Chutneys interior

For many years, Central Florida’s best Indian restaurant was housed in Bay Hill Plaza, a grandly named strip mall that was anything but grand, especially as the anchor tenant, Kmart, became drearier and drearier.

But that’s where Memories of India first opened, in 1999, when much of the plaza was a veritable international restaurant destination, with Japanese, Italian and Chinese (1-6-8, also one of the area’s best at that time). Memories faded. The restaurant I mean, and it finally closed just a couple of years ago. There’s a new Indian in the plaza. It isn’t in Memories’ old space — that’s occupied by a Graffiti Junktion now — but it’s nearby at the address that was Lolaillo until recently.

Chutneys is the name, and it does a good enough job with its variations of Northern and Southern Indian cuisines. Ironically, I enjoyed the food more during my lunchtime visit when the restaurant presents, as most area Indian restaurants do, a buffet of various dishes. The dinnertime visit was less enjoyable.

Butter Chicken Indian Cuisine

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Butter Chicken interior

Butter chicken is a popular dish in Indian restaurants, though you might see it listed on menus as Murgh Makhani. Though I suppose if someone was going to name a restaurant after the dish, they’d go with Butter Chicken.

Which is what the owners of Butter Chicken Indian Cuisine in Winter Park did.

Butter Chicken is in a little clump of businesses on Howell Branch Road behind a 7-Eleven. It occupies a space we’ve been in before, including when it was Bravissimo (when Rosario Spagnolo, now of Terramia, was involved with it) and a forgettable restaurant called the Getaway Cafe. (And by forgettable I mean that I had forgotten about it until I did a search on the address — and I still don’t remember much about it.) It was also Chef Henry’s Tip-Top Bistro, an Argentine restaurant that closed before I could get to it, and a restaurant called Saigon, which inexplicably specialized in Chinese cuisine.

But Butter Chicken. It’s still new enough that the signage out front looks temporary. Or maybe they’re just waiting to see if it catches on better than the Argentine restaurant.