BITE-SIZED

Dharma YUMS

Expand your flavor horizons at this Baymeadows institution

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5th Element Indian Restaurant is a local staple among the many restaurants serving that particular cuisine. It’s the perfect place to try unfamiliar dishes and explore new tastes. A word from the wise: Enjoy responsibly and don’t plan any exciting activities for the rest of the day. After this buffet experience, you’re going to want a nap!

First, a little breakdown of the types of food indigenous to the Indian subcontinent: Northern and Southern Indian food are as different as night and day. Northern dishes are saucier and much creamier than Southern. There are also more vegetable-heavy dishes in Southern Indian food. 5th Element offers the best of both worlds, stocking enough examples of both cuisines in its buffet to make anyone happy. You’ll also see a whole section of Southern Indian specialties on the regular menu.

There’s a giant selection of veg-friendly options. Fill your plate with beautiful yellow lentil curry (or dal, as it’s called), coconut okra, vegetable korma (veggies in curry sauce made creamy with yogurt), curried cauliflower and more. The vegetarian selection changes daily, and you’ll always find a variety of fresh, interesting dishes.

There are plenty of dishes to keep meat-eaters happy, too. Think curry goat in rich, delightfully gamey sauce, creamy tikka masala, tandoori chicken (which gets its name from the bell-shaped tandoor clay oven it’s made in) and more.

There’s a salad bar, which I personally believe is a waste of prime plate space, but the variety of pickled goodies is interesting enough to warrant a taste.

Your plate must include naan or rice to help soak up the delicious sauces. Naan is made by sticking rounds of the raw dough to the walls of a ultra-hot clay oven/dome. It’s a cool process to watch. Traditionally, naan is used in the North and chapati, or roti, an unleavened flatbread, is used in the South. At 5th Element, there’s plenty of naan.

The buffet is available only for lunch ($8.99 weekdays, $11.99 weekends). On weekends, more specialty options are added and a soft drink is included in the buffet price. For dinner, go to the full menu.

End your meal with a cup or cone of soft-serve mango ice cream. Achieving the perfect swirl is a fun challenge—if you don’t get it the first time, try, try again. For practice, of course.

After your meal, linger over a tiny cup of chai tea. Take it from me: The strong, spicy brew mixed with a healthy pour of milk is a great way to help digest the giant meal you’ve just enjoyed.

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