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Thursday, January 30,2014

Tibet Kitchen: bad parking, great prices

Is this Boulder's best lunch special?

By Josh Gross
You know Tibet Kitchen. You’ve driven by its location on the corner of Arapahoe and Folsom dozens of times, seen its large sign advertising lunch specials starting at $4.95 and its nightmare of a parking lot and kept right on going, thinking “one day” to yourself. But chances are that day never came. While Tibet Kitchen is seemingly on the way to everywhere, that lot is hard as fudge to get into and across the street from the ample parking of the well-restaurantified Village Shopping Center.

That’s a crime. Because the prices are far from the only delights contained within.

Let’s start with those boldly advertised lunch specials, which are — unscientifically speaking — probably the best in Boulder.

Most of the front room is taken up by a large fast-food-style steam table and order area laden with Tibetan delights. The one-item combo is $4.95, with upgrades to two and three item meals available for $5.95 and $6.95, which is practically Third World prices for Boulder.

What does that knave’s ransom get you? Fans of Indian food will have a good frame of reference for the steam table, with various curries, chickpeas and vegetables served with rice. But Tibetan cuisine has its own flair, working in elements of Chinese cuisine like bok-choy, fried rice and spice palettes that go straight to the nostrils like a fine horseradish. The Tsel Shogok (sliced potatoes with spinach and red bell pepper) is especially tasty, as is the Jhasa Shamdeh (chicken breast in curry and yogurt sauce).

There are also dinner-sized portions of these and other items available for those who prefer to skip the steam table line, including a healthy list of items for the vegetarian and vegan set.

But if you’re going to skip the steam table, this reporter would recommend going straight to the momos, which, for the uninitiated, are steamed Himalayan dumplings that are larger and more flavorful than potstickers. Tibet Kitchen makes them from scratch and serves them eight to an order stuffed with beef, chicken or vegetables for $7.95. The beef isn’t bad, but doesn’t much stand out. However, the chicken sings with a bite of flavor like lemongrass and a zesty tomato-based dipping sauce. If you’re going to pick one, go for the chicken, but we here at BW recommend going for the combo platter and diversifying your dumplings. Be aware though, while they may look it, momos aren’t finger foods. They squirt hot, burny, liquid, which is fine for your mouth, but not for your wrist. Don’t be a hero. Just use a fork.

On the whole, Tibet Kitchen’s offerings aren’t as spicy as Tibetan food is often wont to be, but it’s smooth, approachable and easy on the bank account, so let it be mild.

The space is also just right for a lunchtime visit, with a cozy, secret coffee shop vibe decked out with Buddhist decor and no shortage of chai. Just make sure that if you visit on a cold day, you score a seat in the back unless you like your tastes of the Himalayas to include the taste of genuine arctic blasts of wind from the slow-closing front door. And chances are, unless you’re training for a mountaineering trip, you don’t.

So, worst parking lot in Boulder or not, make the effort. It’s true Tibet Kitchen is a bit tricky to reach. But it’s still way easier to reach than Tibet itself. Especially in the space of a single lunch hour.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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