Perhaps nowhere else in Boulder County is food tied to a place as much as Tibet’s Restaurant & Bar in Louisville is to the country and perspective of its namesake.
The interior is designed with care and intention. The owners Mark Herman, and Kami and Pasang Sherpa, the latter two of whom are from Nepal, have carefully placed artifacts throughout the restaurant to effect calm and pleasure. “Each decoration,” the owners write, “serves as a reminder of Buddhist philosophy. … Tibet’s has been decorated with strategically placed items to create the best energy for the space.”
That much is evident before you know any of Tibet’s back-story. The colors of the interior, deep reds and greens, with rich wooden tones throughout and accents of yellow and white, are painted on statues, portraits, furniture and tapestries. Himalayan folk music churns slowly, cutting in and out at silences in dinner conversation. Portraits of the Dalai Lama and Annapurna catch the eye. Big windows let in light from outside; little candles illuminate from inside. The staff is always smiling, calm and accommodating. Simply, there is balance at Tibet’s. It is pleasing to sit down for a meal there.
Fortunately, there is balance in the food as well. The cuisine is simple and comforting Tibetan fare. The restaurant has an exceptional lunch buffet and full dinner service, as well as a full bar.
First on the table on a recent evening was a momo platter. The momos were freshly rolled, packaged and sealed, and you could smell the wet flour though the purse, which retained ideal structural integrity. The meat inside, ground chicken rolled with herbs in this instance, was steaming hot and well-seasoned. It was served with house-made tomato chutney.
Next were small complementary bowls of dahl soup. The dahl was made from pureed lentils and herbs, and with a cold, hard rain falling that evening, it reminded me of the piping hot pea soups I, and many others I’m sure, ate growing up.
Crunchy and thick samosas arrived next. They were packed with potatoes, peas and carrots. The shell was thin and crusty, and tasted like unsweet carnival funnel cake. The samosa bits went well with the chut neys and sauces on the table, leftover from the opening round of complementary papadams — crisp chickpea wafers.
We had two entrees that evening — a lamb vindaloo and a chicken curry. First, the lamb was robust and earthy, cut into chunks and stewed in a spicy tomato sauce alongside potatoes. On the plate, too, was the fluffiest rice — long basmati grain — that was a warm and soft bed for the meat. It had deep red spices and the heat was moderate, but can be adjusted according to taste.
The chicken curry was a little brighter on the tongue, but less flavorful than the lamb vindaloo. Sharp tomatoes, ginger, onion and garlic were simmered to form the curry, and the chicken was tender and soaked up the flavor of the sauce.
For dessert, we had a bowl of kir, an Indian rice pudding. The creamy, semi-sweet rice was topped with yellow and purple raisins, nuts and cinnamon. It was cool and understated. Nothing in the dish flashed, but there was something captivating in its simplicity that kept me coming back for more.
That’s a pretty good way to describe Tibet’s. Captivating in its simplicity. Whether you go for the abundant lunch buffet, which features various meat and vegetable entrees, samosas, Tibetan noodles, these awesome, lightly fried, long green bean things, and much more, or for the sit-down meal at dinner, you’re likely to be full and content when you leave.