Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tashi Delek: A Journey to Tibet?

I have pledged to try more new things.  I like to think of myself as a pretty adventurous person, especially when it comes to food, but I find that I often get stuck in a rut-making the same things, using the same ingredients, eating at the same places, ordering the same can be pretty bad.  So, I have started to cook new things, and try new foods.  Last night, to really expand my horizons, I traveled over to Brookline Village with Jen from Beantown Baker, and Katie from The Small Boston Kitchen to try a "new to me" cuisine- Tibetan!  

I cannot express how excited I was to try Tibetan food.  I envisioned all new flavor combinations, exotic meats and pairings...I was thrilled.  We embarked on this journey to Tibet at Tashi Delek, an intimate restaurant that opened four years ago.  The restaurant itself was lovely and our waitress, who I assumed was actually one of the owners was amazingly pleasant, patient and kind.  Other patrons, though they were few, seemed to know her well, and shared stories about their lives as they sat and ate, or waited for take out.  It was an amazingly homey atmosphere.

We three indecisive food bloggers poured over the menu for ages, wanting to try everything, and finally choosing to split several appetizers and each have a bowl of soup.  This decision seemed to give us the greatest ability to sample a fair amount of the cuisine.

I began my meal with the hot and sour soup.  As you know, I love hot and sour soup, and it is a staple to me when I eat Chinese food.  I was excited to try the Tibetan version.  I would say that I was disappointed to find that this soup was exactly the same as its Chinese peer, however it was one of the best bowls of hot and sour soup that I have had in ages, so disappointment doesn't really fit here.  Served piping hot with the standard chunks of tofu and mushrooms in the mix, and garnished with fresh green onion, the soup was thick, flavorful and spicy!  So often dishes are marked spicy and spice doesn't even touch the dish, so here I was thrilled to actually taste the hot pepper in the soup and feel the warmth of its burn as the liquid poured down my throat.  The flavors were crisp throughout and each of the additions to the broth were well proportioned and cooked.  Delicious.

Prior to arriving, we each had done some research and had learned that Momo's, basically dumplings stuffed with a variety of fillings, are one of Tibet's most well known staples.  We decided to order two helpings of the appetizer sized portions, one order chicken, and fried, and the other beef and steamed.  We also ordered servings of their spring roll, and their vegetable fritters. 

Not surprisingly, I found the Momo's to be the highlight here.  The first, the steamed, was a mix of ground beef mixed with garlic, ginger, scallion and other spices which created a really fresh tasting filling.  The dough encasing it was lovely, thick and doughy, just a bit gummy from their steam bath, and perfect for allowing the flavors of the beef to shine forth.  These were lovely little pockets of flavor.  The chicken fared similarly, ground chicken mixed with similar ingredients resulting in an even fresher taste, though I didn't feel that the fried exterior added to the experience.  I love fried just as much as the next person, but with these Momo's I actually enjoyed the lighter flavors, and the textures of the steamed buns.

The spring rolls were nothing remarkable, fried rolls of cabbage and carrots mixed with spices, rolled and fried.  The ingredients were incredibly fresh which was lovely, making them a bit better than average, however here I didn't taste anything too much different than an average spring roll.  One note, the sweet sauce drizzled over the rolls tasted as though it had been mixed with a heavy mint flavor, which added an interesting note to the sauce, but was a rather odd combination.

I had envisioned the fritters to be pancake shape, but instead what we were served more resembled haystacks of vegetables, a welcome surprise.  The mix consisted of potatoes and broccoli, battered with gram flour and flavored with curry, and fried until golden brown.  These had wonderful textural contrasts, but again nothing really popped here as "fantastic" or "out of the ordinary". 

All in all I'd say that I enjoyed my meal at Tashi Delek, but I am not entirely sure that it counts as trying something new.  

As a side note, I'm not entirely sure I should be surprised by the fare last evening not breaking any barriers.  As I dine out in varied restaurants of different backgrounds I am consistently disappointed that they don't "bring it".  The food is, more often then not, dialed back and shadows of what is true to the nation from which it stems.  Case in point- as we dined last night one of the regulars asked the owner about a certain dish that he had had of Tibetan origin, she said that they make it all the time at home, but couldn't make it for the restaurant because no one would order it.  I feel that that may be one of the saddest statements- if we are dining in a restaurant of a foreign land- don't we go there to try their cuisine?  Why do we force these restaurants into serving less than authentic dishes?

Food for thought today...   

Tashi Delek on Urbanspoon


Emily @ A Cambridge Story said...

interesting... i suppose there is a spectrum of authentic to not when it comes to ethnic cuisine. Maybe Brookline village is not the place for truly authentic Tibetan food? In light of my recent adventures with Afghani food (at home and out to eat), I also have to wonder what food in Afghanistan is really like...

Jen said...

Great writeup about the meal. I think the highlight of my meal was my soup even though I burned the crap out of my tongue on it!

Anonymous said...

This place sounds delicious! Need to try it!

The Small Boston Kitchen said...

As always, great write up! We have to go back here. There's some other things I want to try and I agree, steamed dumplings were better. I'd want to try the chicken ones steamed next time. That chicken meat was really great!

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