It didn’t need too much coaxing for me to step out and check out the new addition to the 5 Spice family – 5 Spice Wok. Firstly it’s just 5 minutes away from home and most importantly it’s stir fry Chinese! I love the smoky, singed flavour of stir fry and also the healthy way of cooking vegetables and meat for short periods over high heat that retains their natural vitamins.
5 Spice Wok is a no frills QSR (Quick Service Restaurant) with a DIY concept. Here’s the deal: You choose your base – rice/noodle, then add your protein (fish, chicken, prawns or veggies) and then proceed to choose from over eight sauces. Your food is tossed up in a wok and served too in a wok. There are no plates and you are encouraged to eat off the wok.
Situated in a crowded lane and surrounded by other restaurants in Thakur Complex, the setting for 5 Spice Wok is hardly uplifting. But walk in and you are greeted by a cheery, well lit and cosy restaurant perked up with colourful window panes and tongue in cheek posters. Lights in cages and naked filament bulbs add warmth to the quirky ambiance.
What’s Hot: Exotic veggies in Kung Pao sauce was perfect. The veggies had a nice crunch and were perked up with just the right amount of heat which doesn’t blow out your taste buds.
There’s nothing worse than wok-cooked vegetables that die on the way from the wok to the table. The fish in Thai Basil sauce had moist diced bites of rawas tossed with bell peppers, garlic slivers and red chillies. Each mouthful is a salty, smoky joy. But the winner for me was the prawns in Mongolian sauce. Bold with soy, it had plenty of fire from the garlic, ginger and chilies.
Flavours at 5 Spice wok are big and brassy. Yet the heat isn’t so searing that you can’t appreciate the nuances of everything else that has gone into the dish. Vegetables emerge crisp and bright. Meats are flavourful, tender, and well seared. Though there is a limited selection in desserts the strawberry cheese cake is spot on. Topped with strawberry compote it has the perfect balance between dense and fluffy, sweet and tart – everything a cheesecake should be.
What’s Not: While the starters at 5 Spice Wok win you over with their simplicity and robust flavours the quantity is a letdown. Let’s get this right – we Indians love to share (remember Manchow soup one by two?) But the portions here are so small that I went back to the menu just to check the price. It’s Rs 250 for non-veg starters and Rs 230 for vegetarian. For that price I would definitely expect it to be good to share between two people. But sadly it’s not.
Secondly the noodles here are drowned in the sauce. That’s a pity since it completely over powers the base. There is just one choice of noodles – hakka. How about adding wheat and flat noodles? Some soup would be great too for days when you don’t want to fill up on the mains.
Since it’s wok style cooking I expected to see an open kitchen as against the food magically appearing out from closed doors. There is something magical about watching chefs who have mastered the art of showmanship toss up the food step-by-step. The sounds, the smells, and the sights of cooking can really help you work up an appetite. Think about it 5 Spice Wok!
Address: Shop no 6, Maruti Tower, Thakur complex, Kandivali east, Near western express Highway. Tel: 022-28542406 / 405 / 451
NIVEDITA JAYARAM PAWAR