Friday, February 8, 2013

Butter Tea at Vancouver Tibet Kitchen

Vancouver Tibet Kitchen on Urbanspoon I'd had Tibetan food at Gurkha Himalayan Kitchen, and rather liked the appetizers but found some of the mains "meh". Vancouver Tibet Kitchen has an even smaller menu (although it used to be somewhat bigger), and the appetizers are basically just three types of momos (potsticker-like dumplings, typically steamed).

As of my visit just this Thursday, the Tibetan menu ends at item #16. The rest is essentially Chinese food. Even the soups and mains on the Tibetan menu are Chinese-like, yet not quite. It's very hard to turn off the instinct to compare it with Chinese food, and if you try it with that mindset, you're bound to rate it lower than you might otherwise. Overall, the food is really decent, though nothing really stellar. Only one thing stood out for me, a spicy beef dish.

Watch out for the chili provided at the table. It can enhance your meal a lot, but try a bit first. On its own it has a bitter bite to it, but this is subdued when paired with food.

The mains typically come with a tingmo or a bowl of rice. Rice is rice, so go for the tingmo, unless you're aiming for a fuller meal.
A tingmo is a big bun that's curled like a cinnamon bun and about the same size. The dough is very much like the white dough of a Chinese pau, but fluffier. You can also get it deep fried, in which case it develops a crispy outer shell and the middle is even softer. Both are very different experiences and I recommend you try them both. The un-fried regular version is more versatile, however, and can be used to mop up a lot of the tasty sauces left from each dish.

Another item that's hard to find elsewhere is butter tea. Just because you like butter doesn't mean you'll like this, however. Looks like a chai, and has a hint of chai flavour, but mostly it's like drinking salty butter. You may like it, or you may find it really gross. Some people prefer it with a bit of sugar, but you'll have to ask for that. It's better hot, but only marginally.
Worth a try just for the experience, but you might want to order just one cup at first and pass it around your dining companions.

Service was sincere but harried. Just the one pleasant girl running around and perpetually two steps behind things that need to be done, like clearing plates. Nevertheless our water was no less than half full, which you can't say for every restaurant.

Vancouver Tibet Kitchen closes its doors on February 15th. It's in a black hole of a restaurant spot and the space has seen many restaurant tenants over the years. Beyond it, toward 50th Avenue, is residential, and maybe being at the edge of the commercial district puts it just outside everyone's radar. In any case, if you want your tingmos and butter tea, get it now before it's gone.

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