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.
The food, which touches various regions of India with perhaps a touch more from Goa, is well done. After nibbling on complimentary pappadum with the usual triumverate of chutneys — onion, tamarind and mint —I started with an appetizer of Cut Mirchi, chili peppers coated in a chickpea batter, deep fried and then cut into bite-sized pieces. Nice and spicy.
Chicken Pakora was mild and unexciting in comparison.
My dinner companion chose the Rogan Josh for an appetizer, a dark and moody curry with generous hunks of lamb. The gravy was especially good with the fragrant jasmine rice.
(One of the things that has always annoyed me about Indian restaurants in the U.K. is that curries don’t automatically come with rice; one has to order it separately — and pay extra for it, as well.)
For my entree I chose the Masala Dosa, the impossibly large rice crepe filled with seasoned potatoes and onions. It’s a nice vegetarian option, though there are plenty of others.
My friend and I also shared an order of Onion Kulcha, the doughy naan with bits of chopped onions inside. Also good for scooping up the curry.
Service was spotty at first. One young man fairly snarled as he poured water. But then he turned out to be friendly and charming after we asked him about a couple of dishes.
The Sanford 5thElement is a fourth for a Palm Coast operation.
It’s a strange name, and depending on where you look, it’s either 5th Element, 5thElement or My 5th Element. It refers, apparently, to a need that goes beyond the four essential elements of human life — oxygen, hydrogen, etc. — to include food. I can’t argue with that. And as I’ve said many times, coming up with a good restaurant name is really hard work.
I think we can all agree that food is an essential element of life. Good food and fine dining should be counted, too.
5thElement is at 1133 Rinehart Road, Sanford. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-548-6777.