rita's gate of india

Years ago, Rita’s Gate of India on 2nd Street was considered by many to be the best Indian restaurant on the West Side.  The interior was very pleasant, there was a wonderful buffet, and the food was superb.  I’m not sure what happened but the rumor was that she lost the lease and had to move.

The move didn’t go well, the new space on 5th Street was not as pleasant, and there were some health code problems. I didn’t go back there for several years.  But recently I saw several great reviews, so I just went back for dinner.

I don’t know how to explain the experience. The space is small and not all that comfortable. There is beautiful art on the walls. Comfortable Indian music is playing. There are strings of blinking lights on the ceiling. 

The menu doesn’t have many of the traditional Indian foods that I’m used to. And when we sat down the waiter advised us that they were short of staff and he was all alone (which was not true) and he was overwhelmed by having six tables to serve so we should expect at least a 45-minute wait before anything was served, except for drinks.

Not a promising start. But it was true. I noticed that only one of the six tables had anything on their plates. But we decided to stick it out, and I ordered a lamb curry and Judy ordered Tandoori chicken. When we suggested ordering one of the appetizers on the menu the waiter announced that none of the appetizers were available.

Beer and Pellegrino arrived. About an hour later the food arrived. It was superb. Both dishes were A+, and there were delicious condiments on the side. The lamb curry had just the right amount of spice (I like it hot) and the lamb was lean and cut into small pieces and was fork tender. The Tandoori chicken was just as it should be but twice as much as Judy could eat at one time. So, there was about half of each dish to take home for lunch the next day.

Rita hasn’t lost her touch, but she needs more staff. When I asked the waiter about that he said yes, but they can’t find anyone that wants to work for a salary they can afford to pay. I understand that and hear it all the time from a few businesses.  Welcome to the new job market!

I don’t plan to go back for dinner at Rita’s for a while.  But I do plan to order for take-out from time to time.  Or maybe I will call ahead and order in advance before going in. The food is worth the effort.

Rita’s Gate of India, 1450 5th Street Santa Monica, CA 90401 424-268-7196 ritasgateofindia.net

Merv Hecht, like many Harvard Law School graduates, went into the wine business after law. In 1988, he began writing restaurant reviews and books. His latest book “The Instant Wine Connoisseur, 3d edition” is available on Amazon. He currently works for several companies that source and distribute food and wine products internationally.  Please send your comments to:  mervynhecht@yahoo.com