If you dont like spicy food, try Tibetan. After sampling the food at three of the four Tibetan/Nepalese restaurants so far, Im guessing that when Tibetans want spicier food, they go to Nepal.
The flavors of Tibetan food Ive tried seemed subtle ... very, very ... very subtle. The texture of many items was soft. If I get dental work done in the future, Ill keep Tibetan food in mind.
One of the good things about Chowhounds is they find what is good on a menu and what is not so good, so other hounds can make the best choices when dining out. This report is more about what to avoid. However, reports from two other hounds (link below) have identified the better choices on the menu from a non Tibetans point of view. A few Tibetan events were held at Café Tibet and Tibetans seem to love the food.
One poster wrote The chef/owner, Samten Chinkarlaprang, worked under Emily Luchetti at Stars, so her desserts are sometimes as good as you'll find at the most expensive restaurants in the area. Try the seasonal sorbets and ginger crème brulee.
They are a lot less expensive too, running around $3 - $4. Another poster had a bad crème brulee experience though.
Chinkarlaprang is from Tibet and cooked for many years at the Shangri-La restaurant in Dharamsala. While there are a few Western desserts and ingredients on the menu, I dont really think it qualifies for the label of Cal-Tibetan.
Kyidrong Tenak ... assorted bean and lentil soup with cream and freshly ground ginger, garlic and coriander ... was liked by one poster and another said it was one of the few things she might order again.
A poster who eats occasionally at Café Tibet says they have nice salads and stir-fried noodles.
As to some of the other dishes there were mixed opinions, so check the thread below.
My quest was for momos, a pot sticker-like steamed dumpling. It was the only item all four restaurants served. I also checked the menu for items I never tried before. Unfortunately, all dishes I chose were dough-based, including my dessert.
Actually I liked the dessert best. Bhaktsa Marku described as a traditional Tibetan dessert, that is a small pasta rolled with brown sugar and topped with mild cheese. A martini glass was filled with sweet gnocchi-like pasta and topped with a dab of mascarpone.
The link to the website and menu has a picture of the Tingmo, steamed Tibetan bread mildly seasoned with fresh garlic. These were like two large steamed pork buns, without the pork. There was a little turmeric and garlic mixed in.
Out of the three restaurants that I tried momos, Café Tibet rates at the bottom. Himalayas momos were just stellar, a delicate dumpling, flavorful filling and spicy sauce. While the momos at Kathmandu were on the bland side, they were very fresh and were in a nice tomato-based sauce that had a little yogurt tang. The momos at Café Tibet were tired, like they were reheated and I have to go with Melanies assessment on these.
I tried the Bod-Jha. Tibetan tea churned with milk, butter and salt. This has to be something you grew up with. A little unpleasant to me, it did taste like salty tea with butter. All I could think was thank goodness it wasnt served with real Yak butter.
Chan, a fermented rice beverage that looked like non fat milk, didnt really have any specific flavor or alcoholic buzz.
I went at lunch which changes daily. It is a scaled down dinner menu with a few dishes not available in the evening. Today there was:
Shea thuk - Lhasa noble families enjoyed this special noodle soup with vegetables. Choice of beef, chicken or tofu
Sandwiches on amdo baklab. Baklab a flavorful sandwich bread originates in the Amdo region of Eastern Tibet.
Tsel Baklab sweet and sour mixed vegetable sandwich, marinated in sesame oil
Jasha Baklab Tibetan chicken curry sandwich with EMMA SPICE.
Well, given that EMMA Bunton was a SPICE girl, you can imagine a Google of this spice didnt turn up much that was food related. Maybe Emma joins you for lunch. A couple of other iterations, and the best I could find was Grandma Emma's Spice Loaf. She wasnt Tibetan. So emma spice in the curry remains a mystery ... or menu typo.
It was an interesting lunch, which means Im glad I tried it once, but Im not likely to go back. Although the baklab sandwiches seemed interesting, so who knows.
I still have to try the lunch buffet at Kathmandu. Based on the two dishes Ive tried already at Kathmandu, I rate it the better Tibetan restaurant. However, it is both a Tibetan/Nepalese restaurant while Café Tibet is totally focused on Tibetan food with a subtle California influence. Other than the momos, neither restaurant had any dishes in common.
[BROKEN LINK REMOVED]
Heres another good user review on the web. Theres a familiar name in there pushing the mushroom momos.