Updated: 23rd Oct 2014: This restaurant is closed.
This will appeal to the adventurous foodie, you know, the types that just gotta try exotic cuisines. They are there just for the experience and for the learning — enjoyment of the food is secondary. If the food turns out great, it’s a bonus.
And that is like me.
I had been eyeing this location on Fraser and 50th for a few weeks already. All that time, there was a temporary banner that says Vancouver Tibet Kitchen without a mention on exactly when they will be opened.
As I was driving home last week, that banner was gone. In its place is a new banner that says “Tibet Kitchen Now Open”. I guess it was once an Indian restaurant before. The old sign that says Purewal Tandoori still looks new.
It was exciting walking into the restaurant. They have traditional Tibetan embroidered coverings on the door and framed Tibetan auspicious symbols lining the wall. Melodious Tibetan prayer songs permeates the entire restaurant.
I like the pleasant and serene setting. The tables are decked with alternating red and white table cloth. At the back of the restaurant is a shrine of sort of the Dalai Lama.
I was eager to learn about the Tibetan culture and so we came very early for dinner. He he he … it was 4PM when we got there. I knew that the restaurant would be slow at that time and as such would be an excellent time to ask questions and all.
That worked out great as the waitress was sweet and extremely helpful. As a matter of fact, she was quite eager to share with us about the Tibetan culture and food. We had a good time. Here is something she told us.
The Vancouver Tibetan Kitchen is the first Tibetan restaurant in Vancouver. I was told that there are only over a hundred Tibetans in Vancouver. Not a lot huh? I guess to sustain this restaurant, the cuisine will have to rely on people learning to enjoy the Tibetan cuisine.
One new thing I learned was the influence of the Mongolian culture in the Tibetan culture. So, some of the food here have the word “Mongolian” on it. During the height of the Mongolian empire, the Mongolians invaded and ruled Tibet until the empire fell.
I made a mistake and asked the waitress if she consider Tibet part of China. She was so sweet until then when she sternly snapped “No!”. Whoa! I was just asking OK? Anyway, she added that Tibet has nothing in common with China — the culture is different, the language is vastly different and all that. I can accept that.
We were served free appetizer. This is called Khap Se, a deep fried ribbon dough. It looked interesting. Suanne said they probably make a slit in the dough and twist it through the hole to make that shape. She said it looked very Chinese … I said “shhh … not so loud”.
I was curious as to what Tibetan cuisine is. In my mind I thought that it would have been influenced by the Chinese and Indian cuisine because of the proximity to the two countries with an established ancient cuisine. I also think that it should also be influenced by Mongolian cuisine but that is a cuisine I am not familiar with.
For drinks, we had the Boa-Cha. This is a traditional Tibetan Tea and it is really cheap. A pot costs only $2.75 and yields four cups.
It does look like hot chocolate isn’t it?
It is made with milk, butter, salt and tea leaves. It is a savory tea. The waitress said that this tea keeps one warm and enjoyed by the people who lives in the cold. Moreover, water often freezes at high altitude.
It is an acquired taste kind of thing. It was OK for Suanne and I but Arkensen and Nanzaro refused to drink it. At least Nanzaro took a sip. Arkensen, well, he only smell it and told me not to force him to drink it.
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