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Taste of Tibet

Update 7/27/12: Taste of Tibet is closed.

In a word: State Street Shangri-la.

The specs: #0655  
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at All Menus, Isthmus, Michael Braun's Blog, The Program Manager Restaurant Guide, Yelp, Fearful Symmetries, 77 Square; TDPF; listing at Eat Drink Madison; official web site, Taste of Tibet on Urbanspoon

Latest Taste of Tibet news and reviews

Elizabeth, Evy, Greg, JM, Jordan, Nichole, Paul, Todd and Trish ate the phing drel (vegetable spring roll), sha baleb (beef patties), jha sha numtak (fried chicken), tsel momo (vegetable dumpling), sha momo (beef dumpling), fried noodle with shrimp (non veg chopsuey), ginger shrimp in gravy, then thuk (beef noodle soup), and a butter tea.
The bill was about $10/person, plus tip.
JM gave Taste of Tibet a B+; Nichole gave Taste of Tibet an A- (see our grading rubric).

Rice bunsTaste of Tibet is subtle. Its austere approach made it an inappropriate conclusion to our "Taste Tour" day of overindulgence, at least to Nichole's thinking. Whether this is because she feels guilty being so conspicuous a consumer, or because she was mildly embarrassed to plan a mobile dinner party without dessert (Taste of Tibet doesn't do sweets), is overthinking.

Anyway, it had been a long day of eating and we were mostly full already. Many of our party went for appetizers, including vegetable spring rolls (which came home and aged well despite being fried), beef patties baked in a pretty bread shell a la pastys, and fried chicken balls with a salad that included noodles. That presentation wasn't much to JM's liking, but made for a balanced plate that could have passed for an entree. Also, they were called chicken balls. Seriously.

Jha sha numtakSha baleb

Momo (dumplings) are a pillar of the menu. They were out of yak meat, an occasional and sought-after menu item, so we got one order of beef and one ofvegetable. The vegetable momo were wrapped in light green spinach dough and contain salty potatoes and carrots. The fried version wore a light, bubbly batter evenly browned while the boiled ones were better: lightly slicked with butter and seared on two sides. Whether boiled or fried, with ground beef or vegetarian, all could have been more flavorful, yet the Sriracha-based hot sauce was too violent a counterpoint. A very lightly vinegared slaw/salad/garnish was good.

Vegetable dumplingsBeef dumplings

SoupEvy was the sole soup sipper. Her bowl of thick, soft, hand-pulled noodles in beef broth was probably the best dish of the night. The soup, and a butter tea we tried, embodied the idea that this is food for keeping warm, for appreciating the yield of every tug on an udder.

The butter tea is exactly what it sounds like: strong black tea mixed with milk and butter. It was fairly well emulsified but butter did float to the top. It was too rich to finish.

We think it's neat that Taste of Tibet is the only Madison restaurant we know of that serves chop suey, though we've been looking for a while. Here it's listed on the menu as "Fried Noodle (non veg chopsuey)" and done simply, topped with barely cooked bok choi, carrots, and fresh meaty shrimp.

Ginger shrimp

It's tricky to seat us nine, to seat us nine at dinner time, it's tricky. Our group was spread across three tables in the tiny dining room. This added a sense of play to the socializing, as if we were hopping from ledge to ledge to mingle around different mountainside campfires, but it also made conversation difficult. While the servers were adept, dealing with the situation can't have been easy for them.

Spring rollsAfter our group meal, the consensus seemed to be "everything looks spicy but isn't." "While it is clearly made with care, it fails to improve much on other local offerings," wrote another eater. That said, we get the feeling that patience repeat visits would lead to a deeper appreciation of Taste of Tibet's wholesome and nuanced menu.

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