I’ll have been living in Ubud for one year as of the beginning of November. Wow, it’s pretty crazy to write that. What a year it has been. Anyhow, until yesterday, I hadn’t been to the legendary Fivelements Sakti Dining Room, which many people consider to be one of the best Raw Food Restaurants on the Island. I’d been to the complex once before for a Kirtan (my first, and likely last – I prefer rapping to chanting) but didn’t get the chance to sample the cuisine. I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have had the opportunity to dine at their restaurant, and pretty much every one of them had nothing but praise for the place. So as you might expect, the hype had built up some pretty lofty expectations. Unfortunately, they weren’t quite met. Fortunately, I did find a pretty tasty Durian on the way there (My First of the Season!) so the trip was still a monumental success 😉
And it reminded me of an idea my friend and I had when we were designing the site to rate all the restaurants using Durians instead of the traditional Stars. I decided that didn’t fit my plan for the site, but it definitely fits the format of this post, so I’m quite excited to review and rate this restaurant using the Jonny Freesh 5 Durian Ranking System.
Raw Food Restaurant Review Fivelements
I’ll start off with some of the more impressive aspects of the place – the setting and the service.
The Service –
The staff was well trained, interacted with a lovely balance of formality and friendliness, was attentive without being too overbearing (I really dislike it when waiters stand over me while I look at a menu and wait for me to order – something I encounter quite often in Bali), and knew just enough about the menu. Oh and the food arrived quite promptly.
The Setting –
Stunning. Serene. Comfortable. Complete with a small Traditional Balinese Temple and a Jackfruit Tree. Couldn’t ask for a nicer place to eat.
My Photography Skills don’t extend far outside the domain of Food – I’m not doing this place justice
Now onto the important stuff
The Freesh. Or the food, as one might otherwise call it. I ordered the Jumbo Sampler for my main course, and the Strawberry Creem Freesh for dessert (They incorrectly spelled it Creme Fraiche, but I’ll forgive them for that). I didn’t get a drink because the prices were a joke. As pictured below.
I’m pretty sure you could get Coconut Water for less in Siberia
I’m going to give a rating and a brief review of the Jumbo Sampler as a whole and each dish on it, then the Strawberry Creem Freesh, as well as the overall dining experience at the end.
The Jumbo Sampler –
This consisted of a small portion of 7 different Raw dishes they served, and was excellently sized. It was just the right amount of food for me, leaving enough space for a small dessert afterwards. The price was 155,000 Rupiah, which I thought was pretty reasonable, especially compared to the drinks. Overall I was satisfied by the meal and the only thing that was missing for me was a palate cleanser. At such a high-end gourmet restaurant, I expect that a multiple course meal or sampler comes with palate cleansers so that I can properly taste each individual dish. It did actually come with a very bland mixed green salad that unintentionally played that role. Every dish was passable, though only two really impressed me.
Presentation was nice enough
Cashew Cheese on Onion Bread –
This was the appetizer and was in competition for my favorite dish with the Zucchini Pappardelle Alfredo. The cashew cheese was strong, cheesy and creamy. Cashew cheese is easy though. You gotta get that one right. Raw bread on the other hand, is something I’ve generally been disappointed with at Raw Food Restaurants. This one was Freeshin’ amazing. Most Raw “Breads” are simply impostors; flatbreads or crackers gallivanting as one of the world’s favorite foods. Fivelements has a proper bread. It has the texture of a real bread, which is what is most important to me. The only aspect of it that prevented it from getting a full on Five Durian rating was that the onion taste was too strong.
I love it when my cheese is piped 🙂
Raw Lasagna Bite –
The Raw Lasagna is easily the most served main course in Raw Food Restaurants. So for me, if a unique gourmet restaurant like this serves it, they better do something special with it. They didn’t. The only somewhat original aspect of it was that it was circular instead of the traditional square or rectangular shape that most restaurants offer. Still, it was pretty tasty despite lacking any distinct flavor, but it really earned a 3.5 because it did boast one trait that many Raw Lasagnas I’ve eaten don’t – it was a perfect size for a single bite. Most Raw Lasagnas I’ve had are too big for a single bite, and then when I cut into it all the sauces squish out and it becomes a pile of mush and zucchini pieces. This ruins the mouth feel of the dish, and that is incredibly important for me.
What a cute little Raw Lasagna Bite this is
Lo Mein –
Easily the worst dish in the sampler. The sauce completely lacked flavor and the “noodles” were made out of daikon, which became the overpowering main flavor. If you like eating straight raw daikon, then you’ll love this. I’ll take the daikon shot at Soma over this anyday. At least that is an entertaining experience. Well, for the people watching.
That’s a lot of Daikon
Gado Gado –
This dish probably deserved more than a 2 out of 5 based purely on taste, but when a Raw dish is named after a cooked one, it creates certain expectations. Being that Gado Gado is traditionally served with a cooked peanut sauce, and peanuts don’t taste very nice raw, the expectations are inherently difficult to meet. But using almonds to replace peanuts isn’t much of a step down, which, to me, is the obvious replacement in any peanut recipe. Fivelements used cashews. Big no-no. The sauce was tasty, but it had very little nuttiness to it, and instead was characterized mainly by spiciness. On top of that, they used a lot of cabbage in the bulk, which, in my experience, is traditionally found in Sayur Urap (I know, there’s no cabbage in my Sayur Urap recipe, but that was only because I thought I had cabbage on hand and I had actually finished it. For a more traditional Sayur Urap, replace the bell peppers with purple cabbage.), not Gado Gado.
Mini Pizza –
This again comes back to expectations. Particularly with dishes that are so popular, naming a recipe after something that it clearly isn’t (by traditional standards) is a risky move. Overall on taste I would probably give it a 3/5, but as a Pizza, it barely earned the 2/5. The sauces were lacking in flavor and bulk, and the mostly sun-dried tomato composed “crust” dominated the flavor. You can probably notice that this is becoming a recurring theme. Sun-dried tomatoes are delicious though, so it still tasted nice, but when I go to a high class restaurant I’m not looking to practice mono-eating.
Try to introduce a triangular Pizza in a restaurant in Italy and you’re liable to get chased by an angry Chef wildly swinging his rolling pin
Almond Cracker with Olive Tapenade –
I’m not a big cracker person, so I might be unfairly rating this based on my personal preferences, but I was also highly unimpressed by the olive tapenade, which to me is the more important part of this dish. It basically tasted like olives. Now I love olives, so this isn’t a bad thing, but the flavor lacked depth and zing, which is what I’m looking for in a gourmet meal. The theme recurs once more.
If you want to try an Olive Tapenade with some flavor, Freesh up this bad boy recipe
Zucchini Pappardelle Alfredo –
Now this is what I’m looking for at a joint like this. Full, rich flavor with perfectly balanced texture contrast, exquisite mouth feel and excellent presentation. The truffle oil in the sauce made this dish, and the contrast between the olives, cherry tomatoes and creamy zucchini noodles was simply spectacular.
Now this is what I call Freesh
Strawberry Creem Freesh –
It truly breaks my heart to give such a poor rating to a Creem Freesh. The actual Creem was pretty Freesh, but the Strawberries used were too sour and subsequently the balance of the flavors was off. Either the Creem or the Strawberries needed more sweetness. Balinese Strawberries tend to be more sour than sweet, so I think this dish simply needed a different, more reliably sweet fruit. Mango, Jackfruit, and Mangosteen come to mind. Oh and the Balsamic Vinegar Reduction was awful.
Apparently Strawberry Creem Freesh with Balsamic Vinegar Sauce is a traditional dessert. I’ve never had it, but I hope it normally tastes better than this. According to the Internet, the Sauce needs to be Reduced or Macerated, so perhaps this just is one of those recipes that doesn’t work well Raw (at least in a Restaurant where Maceration isn’t an option due to time constraints).
The Overall Dining Experience –
Everything about this place lived up to expectations…except for the food. For the most part, these were not gourmet dishes. They just looked like them. In my line of work I constantly hear the saying that people eat with their eyes, and maybe I’m just different, but I eat with my mouth. With the exception of the Zucchini Pasta and the Cashew Cheese on Onion Bread, disappointment swiftly followed the sense transition of sight to taste.
The flavors lacked boldness, fullness, roundedness and originality. The textures were hit and miss. The ingredients used were slightly repetitive (lots of cherry tomatoes and olives).
Though I’m glad that I made the trip (mostly because of the Durian haul haha), I won’t be returning. If this place was half the price and a third the distance away from Ubud then I would probably frequent it. But like I consistently alluded to in this article, experience is largely based on expectation. When I’m dishing out more dough and traveling farther than usual for a meal, I’m looking to be wowed.
I hope this article helps you make an informed decision if you are waffling over visiting this restaurant.