Thursday, February 23, 2017

Hoping to Slam the Gates of Hunger

India Gate Restaurant
2512 Walnut Ave. 
Tustin, CA 92780

Indian buffets are very enticing, but most are only available during weekdays during lunch time, and after having four plates of delicious Indian food, the last thing I want to do is go back to work for four hours with a stomach full of tikka masala. I'd be pretty useless at work, okay, more useless than a normal day after eating all that Indian food. I bring this up because I always feel a little gipped when I see signs that promote Indian buffets when I'm at a restaurant for dinner. It doesn't diminish my love for Indian food, but I wanted to get this off of my chest.

Our good friends Angel and Rebekah have been talking about India Gate for a long while now, and we finally set up a double date night to try it out. When I looked up this place before coming here, almost all of the comments were about their $9.99 lunch buffet, and how great the food was. Even though we were going to be meeting here well after lunch time, all the positive praise really got me excited to give this place a try.

India Gate has been around for a year and a half now. They are located in a very out of the way shopping plaza just off Tustin Ranch Road and Walnut. This small, five-unit strip mall also includes a Korean restaurant, chiropractor, beauty salon, and a tiny sandwich shop. We arrived here at 6 pm on a rather chilly Saturday, but the restaurant had a steady stream of customers coming through the door. The inside of this restaurant is spacious, with nicely spaced tables, and bright lighting. Not being too well versed in Indian cuisine, I appreciated that the rather large menu was easy to navigate, and had good descriptions of each item. It really made it easy to order, and speaking of ordering, let's see what we ended up getting and if Angel and Rebekah's praise for this restaurant was justified.

We were pretty hungry, so we got a couple of dosas to start our meal with. This was our first time having dosas, which I'd describe as part crepe and part quesadilla. Our first foray into dosa-hood was the Cheese Masala Dosa ($11.95). The menu said that the crepe, which is made of lentils and rice flour, was to be filled with cheese and potatoes, but it was devoid of potatoes. Nonetheless, this was good, with a crunchy outer shell, and the not overly stuffed cheese filling inside. This came with two chutneys, one of which had coconut in it and it was the better of the two. Our second dosa was the Masala Dosa ($9.95) and it was partially filled with peas and spiced potatoes. This was a little hard to eat, as the fillings fell out rather easily. It had the same crunchy outer shell, but the insides were kind of boring and did not add too much to this, as the chutneys did a lot of the flavor work here.

Entrees made their way out pretty fast at India Gate, and we each picked a dish and decided to eat family style. Angel's selection was the Chicken Tikka Masala ($12.95). This is undoubtedly the most popular of all Indian dishes, and this version was wonderfully full of rich flavor, the chicken was tender, and it was hard to stop dipping my naan into the sauce. Delicious. My favorite Indian dish is Butter Chicken ($12.95) and this one rivaled the best one I have had to date at the now-shuttered Tamarind in Newport Coast. Much like the tikka, this also featured some very tender chicken and a delicious sauce, which was a tad more subtle than the one used for the tikka masala. Another winner. I actually picked the Lamb Korma ($14.95) partly because I love lamb, and also because I knew that both Angel and Katie would not want any. Yes, I'm very selfish. Most bites of the lamb were tender, with only a few clunkers in the bunch. The sauce for this was both sweet and spicy and had a tinge of cardamom hanging around each bite. As for Katie's choice, the Chicken Biryani ($12.95), I made the cardinal error of any food blogger by forgetting to take a picture of it because I was so focused on eating. Rookie mistake. Anyways, Katie is always on the hunt for a biryani that matches the one she had in New York and this one was pretty close. The chicken is cooked with rice and then garnished with a little bit of cilantro and fried onions. She really liked the authenticity of this dish, but I was a little bummed that the chicken came with bones in it. It made it more difficult to eat. No complaints from Katie though, as she assured me she would get this again.

Of course, some naan needed to be ordered to go along with our meals. The Plain Naan ($2.45) and the Garlic Naan ($2.95) came out nice and warm, but I thought it was pretty average. The garlic version needed to have more garlic included. Nevertheless, this was a great vessel for sopping up the excess sauces, which is definitely a trademark of Indian cuisine and one of the best parts of the meal.

I've come to the realization that Indian desserts just might not be for me. I tried all three of these and was not really wowed by any of them. Out of the three that we had, I probably liked the Kheer ($2.95) the best. It's made of rice in a sweetened milk. Kind of like a less sweet version of rice pudding. I forget what Angel had wanted to order, but they were out, so he got the Kulfi ($3.95) instead. This was simply a scoop of mango ice cream, which had a good texture to it, but I'm not really a big fan of mango. The last of our three dessert options was the Falooda Kulfi ($3.95), which the menu described as being a rose flavored ice cream, but I did not get too much rose here. Again, these are not really my ideal types of desserts, but the rest of my dining partners enjoyed them well enough.

If you get a chance to try the lunch buffet at India Gate, do it. Although I was not in love with the dosas or the desserts, all of the entrees that we had on this evening were exceptional and from what I hear they are all available at their noontime ten dollar buffet. The entrees that we had here were some of the best Indian food we have experienced thus far, although I am by no means an expert in Indian cuisine. The service was a little inattentive, especially as the night went on and they became busier. Thanks so much to Angel and Rebekah for introducing us to this restaurant, we enjoyed our double date and the delicious Indian food. Not necessarily in that order.

Out of five running shoes, (because the India Gate monument in New Dehli was the starting and ending point for Robert Garside's 35,000 mile run around the world, and I can imagine he went through a lot of running shoes), five being best to zero being worst, India Gate Restaurant gets 3 running shoes.

For more information about India Gate Restaurant, head to their website here:

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