Saturday, December 26, 2009

Tsampa 12-23-2009

Location: 212 E. 9th St.
Time: 6pm
People: Take-out enjoyed by RB and myself

Feelings: When I think of Tibetan food, I automatically envision a vegetarian friendly, health conscious meal full of barley and vegetables. Since I am a huge fan of shojin cuisine (Japanese Buddhist cuisine), I expected a similar concept and healthy cooking from Tibetan cuisine.

Tsampa is a very clean and modern restaurant covered with gorgeous Tibetan artwork. It has a very romantic atmosphere, and the place was crowded with young groups of people. The staff was extremely polite and courteous, and I felt very serene just waiting for my food. They really do an amazing job making their customers feel tranquil.

RB and I shared Lhasa Momo ($5, garden vegetables and shiitake dumplings) and a side of Ting Momo ($3, steamed bun). Both Momos were quite doughy and heavy on barley flour. They were chewy and tasty, but I expected a bit more flavor from the vegetable dumplings.

RB's spicy chicken ($10.95) was cooked liberally with garlic and basil, and I was a bit embarrassed taking the fragrant food home on the subway. The almost nauseating aroma of garlic and basil really filled up the whole car of the 4 train. If you are on a date or doing a take-out, I would not recommend this dish. Despite the strong promising smell, RB thought the dish was bland and only hit one note of flavor, and it surely was not a very good note. The chicken was overcooked and a bit dry as well.

My sauteed shrimp with noodles ($13.95) was also bland and mushy, and it did not look appetizing with all the muted colors of brown and moss green. If a dish does not look pretty or is not colorful, I often lose my appetite. I am quite Japanese and eat with my eyes.

It was really unfortunate that the flavor of our dishes was not what we expected. It might perhaps be better if we dine in, but bland Thai-esque flavor is not something we want to pay more than $10 for. I appreciate the healthy cooking and fresh produce, but blandness and unappetizing plating are also usual reputations of most healthy meal. You don't have to use unhealthy ingredients to bring umami to the dish. It is really discouraging that another health conscious restaurant is contributing to this unfortunate stereotype.


Gar said...

Awww...that's too bad. I really wanted to try this restaurant though. The dumplings looked kind of 'oily' from the picture. And yes, they seem a bit doughy as well.

Btw, happy holidays! :)

PS Will you revisit SobaKoh on New Year's Day? ")

Yosh. O said...

Happy Holidays to you too!

We usually go to Hasaki for NYE. It's less crowded than sobakoh/sobaya/soba totto, and the service is really good.