Food from the hills

I wasn’t sure what to expect as the giant Buddha eyes peered out at me from across the street.  They watched as I made my way to the door, and seemed to hold their lingering stare as I stepped across the threshold into the warm embrace of the Tibetan Kitchen at Spring Hill.  Inside, the Tibetan Kitchen was abuzz with table-upon-table of diners, and my eyes darted from one corner of the room to the other in search of a familiar face.  Having been stood for a few minutes unable to find my group, I was now hopeful of having one of the service attendants come to my aid.  But they seemed run off their feet serving meals and clearing tables, and failed to catch my eye.  I decided to wait outside.

Stealing glances through the large-framed windows, the restaurant has striking decor, with costumes adorning the walls and instruments strung from the ceiling, while paper lanterns dangle from above and give the room its subtle lighting.  Yellow and blue themes the tables, and offset the timber that features throughout.  With the rest of the group having arrived, my presence is acknowledged and we are shown to our table.  Located in a tight corner, and nestled against a pylon, we are seated in front of the fire extinguisher cupboard and have a view of the access to the bathroom facilities.  Despite having six people booked, and table settings to match, one of us was expected to stand for the meal and probably would have done so had we not ‘borrowed’ a chair from the neighbouring table.

Settling in, we casually scanned the diverse menu offering a selection of unique Himalayan dishes.  The restaurant has three chefs who each specialise in their own traditional Tibetan, Nepalese or Sherpa cuisine bringing the unique flavours of the region.  As an entree, I chose the vegetarian Namche ko Momo ($6.90) – a Tibetan-style steamed dumpling with coriander, ginger and garlic that was served with homemade chutney.  Our mains consisted of Dhaal Bhaat Masu ra Sabje ($17.90), Sherpa Chicken ($15.90), Kothy ($15.90), Somar ($13.90) and Churipi Curry ($13.90).  Then we waited…

It would roughly an hour before the entree arrived.  The dumplings were perfectly steamed, and plump with the coriander, ginger and garlic filling.  However, the chutney did not have the consistency I hSomar (Tofu Curry)ad hoped.  Rather than the coarse and chunky texture I had experienced with other chutneys, I found the Tibetan Kitchen chutney to be wet and fine; a mix of tomato, mint and chilli, with the consistency and flavour of taco sauce.  More waiting…  A further hour, in fact, before our mains were served.  We were salivating in anticipation; ravenous.  The Dhaal Bhaat Masu ra Sabje, a Sherpa dish, was a platter containing chicken, lentils, mixed vegetables, fried spinach and the chutney which had failed to dazzle at entree, and its own portion of rice (all dishes at Tibetan Kitchen are served with rice).  The chicken was dry, and needed the lentils and chutney as accompaniment, while the fried spinach was sad and limp.  The Sherpa Chicken was more of a success.  The boneless chicken had been tenderly cooked and mixed with onions, garlic, mushrooms, green chilli and cream, with just a hint of coriander.  The Tibetan Kothy dish was a tray of steamed meat dumplings, but rather than be served with the chutney this dish came with the Chef’s special soup.  I’m not sure of the difference.  A dish with a truly unique texture was the Somar.  This Nepalese-style curry contained soft tofu with sour cream and coconut milk, capsicum, garlic, ginger, green chilli and fresh coriander.  The coriander and chilli really shone through, and the soft tofu felt light and puffy in the mouth.  However, it was the Churipi Curry that grabbed my attention on the night.  This curry contained spicy tofu that had been perfectly fried to give it a crispy outer coat without chewing like rubber, and teamed it with capsicum, onions, red chilli and tomatoes, for a flavour that left a lasting impression.

Service was difficult to come by (read: non-existent), although there were enough staff working to easily cater for the number of tables dining.  We felt neglected in our corner, and particularly so after our meal orders had been taken.  Any service for drinks required a fair amount of effort on our parts to get the attention of a staff member, who then had great difficulty understanding the request.  Our beers were served in hot glasses, causing the drink to overflow with foam.  Staff then wiped the spill from the glass with their hands before leaving less than half of the liquid to be consumed (instead of offering to replace it).  But most frustrating was that staff appeared more concerned with setting tables for the following evening, and less concerned about attending to the needs of existing diners.  Perhaps this could be addressed in the future.

Although my appetite was satisfied, all up the Tibetan Kitchen dining experience disappointed. 

Overall rating: 2 out of 5

Tibetan Kitchen details:
 Address – 216 Petrie Terrace, Spring Hill, QLD 
 Food – Himalayan cuisine; Tibetan, Nepalese, Sherpa
 Drink – Licensed 
 Prices – Breads and Soups start at $4.90, Entress from $6.90, Mains from $13.90 and Desserts from $5.80.

Tibetan Kitchen is open 7 days a week from 5.30pm till late.  See tibetankitchen.com.au or call 07 3367 0955.

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