It's old Hollywood: impossibly glossy, slightly coy and resolutely ambitious. Scarlett O'Hara, mascara-laden and pouty, meets Marilyn Monroe blonde and breathy. There are many ways to be seductive. At newly opened 5senses, they choose a combination of old fashioned glamour and contemporary food.
The restaurant is dominated by striking images of Hollywood classics. There's a discreet glass-walled kitchen, a curved mocktail bar and patio seating for those essential movie-star dinners under the spangled sky. The waiters, elegant and attentive, array themselves in precise military-formation. Since there are just two occupied tables in the ten thousand sq. foot restaurant for lunch, it's a little nerve-wracking.
We're given a menu designed like a backpacker's travelogue. (Though of course today's backpackers are more likely to record their travels on Facebook and Twitter.) The menu itself, however, is a lot like those insufferable diamond-dripping socialites you meet at cocktails parties, trilling endlessly about breakfast in Barcelona and lunch in Lyon. (In fact, let's place it on record once and for all that we don't care if you had the ‘most fabulous paella' ever in a ‘darling little café' in Valencia, we're just smiling because we're too polite to biff you in the nose.)
This menu is fascinating, bursting with a wide, wide range of options. But it's also exasperating, since the food is largely unfamiliar. It's a mix of traditional Italy, Spain, France, Lebanon, Greece, Morocco and Turkey. All these cuisines are married with global techniques and flavours. Which is how you get dishes like ‘Crunchy calamari glass, loomi drizzled, Creole mayo.' Huh, huh and huh? My feelings exactly. A loomi, as it turns out is black lime, Creole just refers to a mix, which makes it ‘lemon-mayo'? You have to admit that sounds far less exciting.
While 5senses is bringing fun and mystery into dining, it would be helpful to have the dishes explained, right on the menu. I'd hate to be on a date and unable to pronounce or understand ‘Spanakopita, escalivada puree' (A Greek Spinach pie with feta, grilled vegetables). Or tussle with escabeche, avgolemono and casik. (Respectively Spanish seared and pickled meat/fish; soup made with stock, lemon juice and egg yolks; and if you find out, please write and tell me.) And let's be honest, isn't it a wee bit pretentious to call sliced apples a ‘Granny Smith carpaccio'?
Nevertheless, I soldiered on, ordering a ‘Roasted summer vegetable layered fine cornmeal lasagna.' Delicious.
While blending cuisines and ideas is an ever popular theme with global restaurants, it's often a recipe for disaster, since many chefs simply jam together ideas and hope for the best. At 5senses, judging by the food I tried, Executive Chef Jiten Singh and his team have worked with dedication and sincerity, intelligently blending ideas to create dishes that are respectful to their roots.
Our lasagna, is a tower of molten cheese and pasta, crunchy with grilled vegetables. We also try a moussaka, a bright blend of various textures and flavours, juicy mincemeat against mushy aubergine encased in a crisp tempura crust. (Though the crust gets soggy very quickly, losing its character.) The tomato is tart, the herbs aromatic, the cheese sharply flavoursome. Quality ingredients lift the simplest dish: here, they explode like fireworks.
We try the — deep breath — ‘Candy prawn tempura battered pineapple and gari tabouleh tamarind and palm sugar reduction,' since it's a signature dish. Four prawns, each set in a shot glass and bed of tabouleh arrive with fanfare. At more than Rs. 100 per prawn, I half expect them to get up and deliver the ‘Best of Broadway' for me. However, they just sit there solidly, and taste like, well fried prawns with tamarind sauce.
As I wait for my ‘Callebaut crostata, strawberry coulis and Bailey's Irish cream gelato,' I sip on the restaurant's complementary cucumber, orange and mint infused water. The gelato is rich and heady, and the buttery tart oozes with scalding dark chocolate. Just writing about it makes me want to go right back and order one more. In fact, I think I will. Bye!
5senses is at No. 9, Khader Nawaz Khan Road. A meal for two is approximately Rs. 2,000. For reservations, call 3006 2010.