6 at Astor Pl.; L at Third Ave.
American Express, MasterCard, Visa
Houston St. to 14th St., Ave. A to Fifth Ave.
Tibet may be better known for its political plight than its cuisine, but at Tsampa, all conflicts, geopolitical or gastronomic, are checked at the door. Waitresses in chuba, traditional woolen dresses, offer insights on a menu that borrows from Nepal and India and which focuses on healthy cooking: brown rice, fresh produce, free-range chicken, and not a sliver of red meat. Among more than a dozen vegetarian dishes, the eggplant sauté stands out for being remarkably rich and savory. Momo, or dumplings, are compact parcels of whole wheat dough, stuffed with chicken, mushrooms, or vegetables, steamed or fried, and served with a potent coupling of red and green hot sauces. Spices here are often unexpectedly complex, and ginger, tamari, and garlic are used liberally. Ngopa, a baked noodle dish, is another house specialty, as are the noodle soups (thukpa). The word tsampa means roasted barley flour—a staple of the Tibetan diet—and used in a cake for a delightful dessert. The dimly lit restaurant is decorated with prayer flags, small chimes, colorful rugs and wall hangings, a bamboo tree, and a beatific portrait of the Dalai Lama. The setting inspires such tranquility that patrons cannot be blamed for lingering over their cups of bocha, the buttered and salted tea that is an acquired taste, a Himalayan homonym of liquefied grits.Recommended Dishes
Momo, $9.95; eggplant sauté, $9.95; gyathuk ngopa, $10.95; Tsampa dessert, $5