As I’ve written before, I am a fan of Chinese food, and I am also a fan of Tibetan spirituality. But not so much vice-versa. Let me put it this way: I would be quite willing to give up a trip to Beijing and any chance at an Olympic gold medal. (Admittedly a very slim chance for a fat restaurant critic. My shot at a medal depends on the temporary incapacitation of everyone under 80.) But give up the suan la chow show at Mary Chung’s? Well . . . maybe in a future life. Speaking of which, what are the reincarnation possibilities for a restaurant critic? Jackal? Vulture? Magpie?
|Tashi Delek | 617.232.4200 | 236 Washington Street, Brookline Village | Open Tues–Sun, 11:30 am–2:30 pm and 5–10 pm | AE, MC, VI | Beer and wine | No valet parking | Access up three steps from sidewalk level|
Maybe I could move up the reincarnation ladder and become a woodpecker if I admit that Tibetan restaurants in Boston are getting better, and that Tashi Delek is such a nicely decorated room, with such reasonably priced food, that it makes a very good alternative, even in restaurant-saturated Brookline Village. In fact, there’s an item at Tashi Delek that I think all chefs should check out — the “Tng Mo” ($3/à la carte; also included with dinner entrées). The menu description is “steamed wheat bran buns,” which strongly understates the case. These are whole-wheat breads with the texture of Chinese steamed buns, folded in beautiful wave-like patterns like Parker House rolls. Someone is surely going to e-mail me that these Brookline tng mo are pale copies of the ones you get in a particular backstreet café in Lhasa, and that they don’t count without yak butter. But I have to tell you that a basket of these with unsalted cow butter is a very convincing illusion of earthly pleasure incarnate.
Like most Tibetan restaurants, Tashi Delek serves momos ($6.50/appetizer; $14–$15/entrée). You get a choice of four fillings, either steamed or fried. The classic filling is of course yak, for which beef and vegetables are the American substitutes. Momos are related to Peking ravioli via Genghis Khan, but beefier. Of the monkish versions (tofu, spinach and cheese, greens and mushrooms), go with the greens and mushrooms. As momos go, the ones here are somewhat starchy.
Tibetan food is a mountain cuisine, with meat and starch to keep you warm, and its soups are especially strong. Shan dal ($4), described as lentil soup, looks like yellow split peas and has a nice curry bite. It’s thinner than North American pea soup, but I find it refreshing this way.
Entrées bring steamed bread and salad, but they aren’t large portions. “Jha-sha Tsel Ne Zom, chicken with mixed vegetables in green curry sauce” ($14) sounds Thai, but is in fact a rather tame curry and not a lot of boneless chicken chunks and familiar vegetables. Lhasa Shapta ($15) is beef slices in a light tomato gravy. The menu has a group of shrimp dishes, but I tend to be wary of seafood cuisine from landlocked countries. (Maybe I am being unfair — Tibet could have crawfish.) No matter, there are a lot of vegetarian dishes, and they’re probably a better bet than seafood.