Now for the real deal: the $7.95 lunch buffet ($9.95 on weekends). As the first Phoenix restaurant critic, R.D. Rosen, once wrote, “Chinese food is already fast food.” It must be served fresh and hot, and it dies in a chafing dish. On the other hand, Indian food is mostly stew and actually improves as it sits waiting for you to decide between second helpings and a diet. So which way does Tashi Delek lean: toward accommodation with the stir-frying Chinese, or toward their stewish protectors from India?
For the most part, fortunately, the buffet our day was more Indian in style. The basmati rice (and papadum and poori) instead of the wheat buns was a letdown at first, but not once we covered it with stews: chicken in curry with potatoes, beef with fried cabbage and a kind of near-gravy, and a mild stew of mixed vegetables and what the card called “cottage cheese” but I would reckon is closer to paneer. A Chinese-flavored dish of string beans with sesame also came off well. The buffet lunch was bracketed with the same curried pea soup and salad, and with a simple dessert of mixed canned fruit in yogurt.
Drinks for this cuisine might start with Indian beer, and many will want to end with the famous buttered tea ($2). It’s better than hot buttered rum.
The room is relaxing despite the loud, clashing colors of the Tibetan flag and various Buddhist symbols and decorations, including a photo of the Dalai Lama. (Minimalists and Chinese occupiers, you’ve been warned.) Another wall has a photograph of Lhasa, in case you thought you were in Kansas. Incidentally, “Tashi Delek” now means “hello” in Tibetan, although it was originally a phrase of auspicious greeting attached to the end of sentences.
The total Tashi Delek experience is larger than the food or the room, or even the caring service from the lone mid-week waitress. The commitment to Tibetan culture as a whole is transporting here, and do we not dine out as a road to altering our consciousness?
Robert Nadeau can be reached atRobtNadeau@aol.com.