How is it that Cambridge and Somerville had three Tibetan restaurants, while until recently, those on the other side of the river had none? Was it more vegetarians, to whom Tibetan menus are friendly? More Buddhists? More Lhasa apso owners? One needn’t be adventurous to enjoy Tibetan food: its unfamiliar indigenous elements (yak meat and dairy, barley breads and pastas) are replaced here with local ingredients (beef, cow’s-milk dairy, and wheat flour). Most techniques and recipes draw not from pastoral yak herders, but from the eclectic kitchens of Lhasa’s urban chefs, who freely borrow from nearby China and India while using more subdued spicing and less oil. Now, thanks to Brookline’s new Tashi Delek, Bostonians can sample Tibetan cooking without crossing the Charles.
Momos, the ubiquitous Tibetan dumplings, are an easy gateway dish. The four varieties here feature substantial, chewy wheat-flour wrappers: a gingery minced beef, an almost Italophilic ricotta/parsley, a custardy tofu (all glorious), and, in a spinach-tinged wrapper, vegetable (mostly mushrooms and rather bland). These come with a fine dipping sauce resembling puréed medium-hot salsa and are available either fried or steamed. (Tip: momos pan-fried crisp/brown are more visually appealing than steamed, doughy/pale ones.) The momo platter ($17) features two of each flavor variety, plus a bowl of clear-broth vegetable soup and a shredded-lettuce salad with zippy sesame dressing.
Noodle dishes reflect Chinese influences, like shel thuk ngol pa ($15), a mild lo-mein-like stir-fry of noodles, vegetables, and chicken (or beef or pork) presented fajita-style on a sizzling iron platter. Tsel curry ($15) echoes Indian flavors in its stew of root vegetables and green beans, though the yellow/brown curry won’t ring anyone’s chili-fire alarms. Desserts won’t baffle Western palates, either: deysee ($4), sweetly spiced, nut-flecked rice topped with sweetened yogurt, recalls Greek rice pudding.
The brightly colored storefront has well-spaced tables and familiar Tibetan motifs: a portrait of the Dalai Lama, a mural of Lhasa, and the Tibetan Buddhist “endless knot” symbol throughout. With its friendly service and exotic-but-not-scary menu, Tashi Delek offers Bostonians a welcome primer on the gentle and hearty virtues of Tibetan cuisine.
Tashi Delek, located at 236 Washington Street, in Brookline, is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5 to 10 pm. Call 617.232.4200.