If you Google “Tibet,” the search results are a humdinger: not easily condensed into a short preamble used for a column concerned about eating out. Instead, it’s much simpler to recall the many Tibetan prayer flags hung in first-year dorm buildings and retort at their clichéd-ness. Then, segue into introducing the restaurant up for review: The Tibetan Kitchen Café.
Tibet, located in the north-east Himalayas, lies close to Northern India, hugs Nepal’s border and could consider Thailand a distant neighbour. This central Asian setting influences the regional cuisine, drawing flavour pairings from each nearby country.
My friends and I started with Tibetan pan-fried Momos ($14), a circular dumpling filled with pork, onion, scallion, ginger and garlic. Unlike the dough of pot stickers, Momo dough is softer and slightly sweet. Paired with a tomato cilantro puree, much like chimichurri, for dipping, each bite is filling, yet bright.
I tucked into Thukpa soup with chicken ($16) for my meal. The homemade broth, a rust-coloured concoction smelling of a far-away spice shop, swam with thin egg noodles, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, bell peppers and chicken. Crowned with mung beans (bean sprouts) and scallions, the Thukpa easily doubles for lunch the next day. Like all menu items, it can be ordered mild, medium or hot.
One friend, curious to try the Tibetan take on an Indian favourite, ordered chicken curry ($18). Unlike restaurants that rely on dairy to thicken the sauce, all Tibetan Kitchen’s curries are gluten and dairy free. Instead, ground cashews work double duty, both as a sauce base and a protein punch. For the chicken curry, diners may choose kale or spinach to have it cooked in. Flavoured with fenugreek, a sweet and nutty spice similar in taste to cashew, with a brilliant yellow tinge, the curry is earthy and nutritious. A side of poorie (naan-like bread) accompanies each order.
My other friend ventured to try the Shepta beef stir-fry ($14), a bold combination of garlic and ginger with mushrooms and bell peppers on a bed of fried rice and spinach. Bold not so much for the ingredients, but taste. I found the overall dish too salty, a common occurrence when soy sauce appears. My friend complained of too much grease, stemming from the fried rice. A slight miss.
Tibetan Kitchen poultry is always free range and local. At lunch, meals are all under $14 and I hear the quinoa stir-fry routinely receives rave reviews. As well, season two of You Gotta Eat Here featured the restaurant on a recent episode.
Oh, and a strand of prayer flags hangs above the bar.