Introducing: Fifth Elementt, Bay Street’s Indian fusion restaurant reborn on Queen West
When Bay Street’s Fifth Elementt closed down last May, chef Johnee Savarimuthu knew he wanted to continue the Indian fusion restaurant’s legacy. His culinary career had taken him down many roads—from sommelier to Disney cruise cook to head chef at New York City’s Revival—but he’d never owned his own restaurant before. So he and his sous-chef partnered up and bought the Fifth Elementt brand, taking it to Queen West earlier this month in the space where Bangkok Paradise used to churn out its signature pad see ew.(The Thai joint now operates, rather awkwardly, out of I Love Sushi down the street.) The result is a menu that’s a dead ringer for the old one, but about 30 per cent cheaper, due to lower operating costs.
At 65 seats, Fifth Elementt’s reincarnation is smaller but retains its core of South Asian cuisine, with culinary influences from around the world thrown in. Indian standards include saag paneer ($11.95) and tandoori shrimp ($8.95), while the non-Indian salmon-wrapped scallops ($7.95) are spiced up with a worldly array of garnishes, like salsa, masala and a soy glaze. The braised lamb shank ($17.95), a customer favourite, is served in tomato sauce that’s infused with garam masala. At lunchtime, there’s a three-course prix fixe for $11.99.
Savarimuthu decided to bring his cuisine to Queen and Bathurst after witnessing the influx of new developments in the area: a condo is going up across the street, and, of course, La Palette paved the way by setting up shop last year. Just as in its days as a cheap and cheerful Thai joint, the space is far from devoid of kitschy artwork, but it’s still a step toward the inevitable gentrification of this strip of Queen West. If the trend continues, the surrounding “cesspool of burgers and wings and pizza,” as La Palette’s Shamez Amlani once called it, could be on its way out.
Fifth Elementt, 506 Queen St. W. (at Portland St.), 416-504-3213, 5thelementt.com.