Come hungry and savor the many choices for dinner at ARK in Half Moon Bay.

Spread the word, please! ARK Grill on Main Street in Half Moon Bay has not yet been discovered and the food is outstanding.

It all started with pizza dough. Yep. Raj Mithal and his wife, Nina, owned Farallon Inn in Montara back in the 1990s. When business slowed after the attacks of Sept. 11, they opened a pizza place next door. The pizzas were great, but their customers were increasingly drawn to the exotic aromas of their family’s Indian meals wafting from the kitchen.

Fast forward to 2012, when the Mithals opened ARK, (named for the first initials of their three children) and started serving exquisite North Indian cuisine to the Coastside community. 

I’ve been a regular for a few years, and have rarely ventured from the vegetarian Thali, a combination plate, that includes salad, vegetable of the day (variety!), lentils, basmati rice, naan, raita and dessert. Even though the Thali is a substantial meal for a reasonable $18, I often start with the Palak Pakoras, irresistible lentil fritters with finely chopped spinach and onions — and yummy dipping sauces. 

Happy with that meal, I’ve never been tempted to experiment, but dining there recently with a few friends, it was wonderful to sample more items from the expansive and creative menu. 

I noticed some slight hesitations to share, but we ate family style, and everything ordered by everyone was delicious.

I discovered some new favorites, especially the Deconstructed Samosas. It’s a kind of Indian-Mexican fusion dish made of “broken-down” samosas on a bed of greens, topped with garbanzo, tomatoes, onions, crunchy shredded potatoes and drizzled with chutney. It was heavenly, and devoured so quickly that we ordered another one, which disappeared as well!

The meat-eaters raved about the tenderness and taste of the Rogan Josh, lamb cooked in a sauce of tomatoes, yogurt, ginger, chilies, garlic, onions and spiced with paprika and turmeric.  

Another dish we all served ourselves more than once was the Vegetable Korma, a delicate mix of vegetables appreciated for the slight crunch of shredded coconut and subtle sweetness of its creamy gravy. My reviewing partner, initially reluctant due to a predilection for non-spicy foods, found the Shrimp Jalfrezi — and a surprising number of the other dishes — just the right blend of mild, spice and flavor.

Raj and Nina make a great team. They’ve been together for nearly 40 years, raised three children and been restaurateurs since the 1990s. They’ve created a warm and welcoming ambiance at ARK, and the food is consistently wonderful. The only thing missing is people. If you haven’t been there, go soon — and bring your friends. It’s a wonderful Coastside gem. Dare I say it, I look forward to a day when I have to wait in line for a table!

Restaurant reviews are done by two local residents who enjoy sampling Coastside cuisine — from taquerias and sandwich shops to upscale places with Michelin stars. They choose to remain anonymous so that they get the same treatment as you would get in these places. Use their insights to help guide you, but by all means check out these eateries yourself.

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