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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tibet Nepal House - Pasadena (Old Town)

The first time I tried Tibetan and Nepalese cuisine was in Wisconsin, of all places. Actually, Madison was surprisingly wonderful, filled with more ethnic restaurants than I expected (I tried Afghan cuisine for the first time there too.). I remembered mung bean patties and a huge dosa, but can't remember which was my or my friends' order. The flavors were vaguely Indian, redolent of spices and curry, but different.

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Several years later, I met up with a friend of a friend for dinner and he took me to Tibet Nepal House in Pasadena, thinking that it'd be a new cuisine for me. Nope! The conversation was better than expected; the food, however, was decidedly less so. I remembered ordering the sherpa stew, and that the meat was so hard and dry that he wanted to send it back to the kitchen. For someone who picked a cuisine that was a little unusual, even for SoCal standards, he was really quite unadventurous with regards to food in general and we never went out again.

So my first impression of Tibet Nepal House wasn't so stellar. I don't remember what else we ordered that night, but one dry, hard stew shouldn't chase me away from further exploring Tibetan cuisine. So in July 2009, I went with Gourmet Pigs to try out the $8.99 lunch buffet.

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Ten items of Tibetan and Nepalese foods including Himalaya chicken, goat curry, mushroom and peas, potatoes and bamboo shoots, and dessert.

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My plate.

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Not bad. Reminiscent of Indian cuisine, but different is really the best way for me to describe it. The lunch buffet was a good way to try a variety of dishes and made a much better impression the second time around.

Fresh naan always helps too.

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Since we had a coupon, we needed to order something else and chose to try a pot of sho jhaa (Tibetan butter tea), tea leaves blended with salt and butter, $2.99. Salt and butter! In tea! The waiter warned us it was an acquired taste, but we still had to try. Salt and butter! In tea! I felt like I was drinking a cream soup. Not my cup of tea at all. I kept saying that if I was a hardy yakherder on the Himalayan mountains, then this tea might be warming and invigorating. Alas, as Gourmet Pigs wryly pointed out, I am not a hardy yakherder, and butter and salt in tea, in sunny SoCal, just didn't quite go together.

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I can't remember what this dessert was, mung beans or lentils perhaps?

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And rice pudding maybe?

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It wasn't until the following March that we came back again, this time with Mattatouille and to try yak meat.

I think this was lamb sekuwa (Tibetan lamb marinated overnight in Himalayan spices), $14.99. Really salty, dry, and hard.

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Yak momo (Tibetan ground yak meat, seasoned and stuffed dumplings), $15.99.

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I like the unusual shape of the dumplings.

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Yak meat is very lean, reminiscent of beef.

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I can't remember what this dish was, but I want to say it was the kumari tarkaari (Nepalese vegetable curry with onions, tomatoes, and Himalayan spices), $7.99.

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The waiter brought out this complimentary soy bean dish.

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Tibetan beer.

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The two times I've been here for dinner, the meats were hard, dry, and salty. But the chicken and goat curry served at the lunch buffet was fine, good even. Different chefs perhaps? All I can say is, I can recommend the lunch buffet if you want to try Tibetan and Nepalese cuisine, but dinner is another matter.

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Afterward, we walked around the corner to Vertical Wine Bistro for wine and dessert.

Tibet Nepal House
36 E. Holly St.
Pasadena, CA 91103
Tuesday to Sunday all-you-can-eat lunch buffet ($8.99 weekdays/$9.99 weekends with champagne) 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Tuesday to Thursday, and Sunday dinner 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday dinner 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

1 year ago today, Heirloom rose.
2 years ago today, peanut butter and white chocolate drizzlecorn.
3 years ago today, my second-youngest uncle's wife's bun rieu (Vietnamese shrimp and crab noodle soup), packed to go.


  1. I went here twice in early 2010 - we just had the buffet. We should have tried the yak momo!

  2. CC,
    Yeah, the buffet is really quite different from dinner. Had to order yak just to try it, but those were expensive dumplings.

  3. Wow, I was excited to randomly discover your blog today, and then I liked it on Facebook, saw this post linked to on Facebook, and came to check it out, only to find a shout-out to the Nepalese and Tibetan food of Madison, WI-- what a nice surprise! I grew up in Madison, so I have a crazily enthusiastic love for Nepalese food (and Vietnamese food... and Indian, Thai, Korean, Japanese, Ethiopian food, etc.).

    My favorite Himalayan restaurant in Madison is Himal Chuli, but next door at Chautara is maybe where you or your friend ordered the huge dosa?! (Madison is such a good town for eating!) Anyway, I'm glad you found good Himalayan food in California too... I live in Santa Barbara and have never been to Pasadena, but I'll keep this in mind if I'm ever passing through there!

  4. Spontaneous tomato,
    Welcome! Yeah, I think it was Chautara that I first tried Tibetan food. I loved my summer in Madison! I tried and liked Tara's Himalayan too if you're looking for other restaurants to try.


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