Tibetan Kitchen Cafe, 680 Broughton Street, Victoria, BC
I dined at Tibetan Kitchen Cafe just after they opened and wasn't overly impressed, but appreciated the food enough to reserve judgment pending a second visit. I made that second visit this week for lunch. While I detected improvements in the food, some of the disappointment experienced during that first visit remains.
I want to first emphasize that the family and staff working this place are really great, sweet as can be, thus service has not been an issue during either visit. These are good, hard working people who care deeply about the product they serve, and on this point alone I'm more than willing to recommend this restaurant.
What I like about the food is its fresh, from-scratch wholesomeness. My disappointment relates more to the recipes. This week I had their chicken curry, and a variety of momos. Included with the meal was a hearty bowl of lentil soup, or something more approaching a dahl. I found the curry and dahl lacking in flavour. To be blunt, I found the curries during both visits to be quite bland. This could be a regional or cultural thing; perhaps I've been so influenced by the often overpowering Indian and Thai curries that anything lighter on the palate comes off bland. It's not that Tibetan Kitchen's food is bad, but more that the flavour profiles seem one dimensional. Maybe a better way of describing the food is that it's much more minimalist than curries and spiced dishes from neighbouring Nepal or India. My momos were good, but not dazzling. The real winner on my plate was the homemade bread, which is a bit like roti, much lighter than Indian naan.
Tibetan Kitchen's decor is what you'd expect, lots of temple photos, Tibetan ornaments, with the centerpiece being a large photo of the 14th Dalai Lama. Some ethnic restaurants overdo it a bit on this issue, but Tibetan Kitchen manages to avoid crossing the line from spiritual to kitsch. I did find the recording of Tibetan Buddhist monk chants a bit loud during my visit this week, but hell, that's way better than hearing loud Lady Gaga music or a bad radio station.
I'll surely return to Tibetan Kitchen because the food very much resembles a reliable home cooked meal. Sometimes one doesn't want to be dazzled by a restaurant, but comforted with something fresh and wholesome. The price is right and the service is great without being too invasive.