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117 W. Santa Monica Blvd. Santa Monica, CA 90401 ~ 310-656-1664 (TACO Guide)

My oral enthusiasm for Indian delicacies eventually steered me to Gate of India, Santa Monica's well-spoken of 'Atala' dripping in festive tent fabrics, gorgeous detail and ornament, swish figurtative paintings, and the occasional random string of Christmas lights, resembling some middle-aged gal's 40-thieves-induced wet dreams aboard a first flight to Delhi. Stoppering the northside of the 3rd St. Promenade, mere yards from the beach, Gate of India's first non-surprise was disclosing the buffet's $10 price as relative to the suggestions of its high-profile real-estate.

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Desi ex-girlfriends and bent ex-roommates can back me up, I munch more than a man's fair share of South Asian fare, so a 10 buck all-you-can-eat buffet seemed like the right idea at the time of this blazed lunch. Service was friendly, the spot bright and buzzing with worker bees, plus the buffet is convenient and wide open enough to fit my dear and personal interpretation of Eric Wright's 'Eazy Access Legislature of 1988.' Atmosphere aside, hot curry in my mouth is what I seek, so onward did I press....

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Why yes, now that you all mention it, my subcontinentally-slanted tongue can be a harsh judge of which particular Indian is coming into my mouth, as countless cruel lashings and cunningly twisted slips of upbraiding has resulted for those whose curry-pots just couldn't be tamed. Would I dress down Gate of India for a 'sari' performance, calling it to the carpet for a cruel castigation of its flavors, appearance and hustle? Or maybe I'd merely subject said Punjabi pleasures to a waggish, smart, and randy soul kiss? Eh...in the end, that shit was just alright...

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I like my Indian vegetarian, but the best item on Gate's lunchtime buffet was the ginger chicken, which slid off the bone in oily, tender chunks bursting with creamy, spiced-stewed masala-like flavor, the hints of natural, distinct tastes emerging from every bite. The other chicken was a Tandoori, okay, definitely not spectacular and a wee bit dry. The curries really did not blow my mind, but are the kind of things I'd come back to if in the area and hankering for Indian in a bad way. I love chana saag, but not when the spinach comes overcooked and dominates the flavors instead of complimenting a good measure of spice. The Dal was flavorful and had a great consistency somewhere between typical legueme mash and something silkier. Onion bahjee is hardly a dish but it made like fries to my chicken, dried out, though saturated in oil.

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There was also some uninspired, slightly boring aloo gobi, overall, putting too much pressure on the chicken to justify the high price which should have gone towards furthering the cuisine with creativity or consistency, rather than merely making the grade. The curries were mild and not regionally specific or fascinating, let alone sumptuous, doing the trick just enough to pass as Indian, but not enough to push the boundaries of what that can embody. Obviously, the buffet is not the best angle to judge most restaurants from, but we're concerned with saving what little booty we can scrape together.

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Overall, the food is well-balanced and pleasing, but not mind-blowingly delicious. Perhaps my glazed eyes mysteriously arrived bigger than my stomach, for I left about 13 pounds heavier, my stomach full of everything from crappy store-bought garlic naan that came much later than my food to some semi-wack Indian 'sweet' I had at the end of the meal. I can't think of a lot of independent restaurants left around the 3rd street area, nor a lot of places I really wanna eat around there. So while I'd go back to Gate of India in a second when buying my ironic t-shirts at Urban Outfitters and my Omarion CDs at Borders, if it was my infinitely insatiable need to find the best inexpensive Indian meal, my thoughts might venture more towards Royal Anarkali on Melrose, or Govinda's in Culver City, Tandoor-India and India's Oven on the Wessside. But alas, the quest continues to satisfy my desires for a proper Desi repast in Los Angeles (short of the killer dinner I had at that Mendhi party at Sitar in Pasadena). All I truly long for is some soulful, sticky, sweet Indian-Angelina to give my mouth the curried contentment it truly craves...

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