Tibetan cuisine returns to Middletown with opening of Potala Restaurant – Hartford Courant

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Jampa Deleg has traveled far in distance and experience from the Potala, a fortress in his hometown of Lhasa, Tibet, to the Potala, a new restaurant at 574 Main St. in Middletown.

Once a Buddhist monk, Deleg left Lhasa, the Dalai Lama’s former winter palace, while in college, along with thousands of other Tibetans, when the Chinese government’s oppression became too much to bear. did he declare.

“I liked being a monk, but it’s very difficult,” he says. In the United States, he worked as a chauffeur and was driving a limo over the Brooklyn Bridge when the plane hit the first tower on September 11, 2001. He later worked as a sushi chef in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He sold jewelry made from Tibetan coral and was at one time a card dealer in Foxwoods. “When people were losing, I saw their faces. They were so sad. I didn’t like this job,” he said.

A few months ago, when he learned that Tibetan Kitchen was leaving its Middletown location to relocate, his cooking career and his Tibetan heritage merged. He and co-owners Tsering Sangmo and Dawa Dolma, all of Tibetan descent, seized the opportunity and opened the Potala on July 25.

Deleg, who is both the restaurant’s co-owner and cook, Sangmo and Dolma have retained much of the decor — dark red walls, yellow upholstery, a Tibetan street mural — as the previous owners left it. But they added their own touches: a portrait of the Dalai Lama, a bas-relief of Buddha, a stringed instrument called a tungna, a monastery gong, posters of two films shot in Tibet.

Now, instead of seeing the sad faces of unsuccessful players, Deleg, Sangmo, and Dolma see the happy faces of those who come to taste their simple, spicy creations that Deleg learned from traditional recipes through trial and error. “It’s like being a monk, learning, memorizing,” Deleg said. “I ate everywhere trying to learn and learn.”

The recipes have a lot in common with other Asian cuisines, with interesting variations. The spring rolls ($7.99) are encased in a transparent rice-based wrapper and served with a surprisingly spicy dip. The only fried dish on the menu, sha-baklep ($14.99), are small pockets of crusty bread stuffed with seasoned meat and served with a spicy red sauce. The spicy tofu khatsa ($16.99) mixes ground beef and extra-firm tofu.

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Other appetizers include steamed bun ($2.99), cucumber salad ($5.99), edamame ($7.99), chicken skewer, fried rice with vegetables, sautéed spinach, avocado salad, garden salad, cold spinach with sesame seeds, chicken salad and Kani salad with imitation crab meat ($13.99) and vegetable momo dumplings or with beef, tofu-tsel and mixed vegetables ($14.99). Also for $13.99 are shogo sip-sip, a shredded potato dish, and shogo khatsa, which are Himalayan seasoned potatoes.

Soups include lentils ($6.99), vegetable or chicken ($7.99), thenthuk and Lhasa thukpa noodle soups, both served with vegetables, beef or chicken ($13.99 ) and Mok-thuk, with dumplings and vegetables ($14.99).

Other starters include phaksha dangmo and thukpa dangmo, a dish of stir-fried beef or pork with peppers; thukpa ngokma, a dish of fried noodles with beef, chicken or vegetables; and the phing-sha, a mix of beef vermicelli and mung bean ($14.99). For $16.99, the entree selections are pork ribs, sautéed beef with green chili, and sautéed pork with bell peppers. Shaptak, a fried sliced ​​beef dish with onions, tomatoes and peppers, costs $17.99.

At the high end, salmon with vegetables (Nyasha ngoma) is $24.99 and lamb chops are market price.

Desserts, for $3.95, are gulab jamun and ice cream. Drinks include a variety of teas and soft drinks, as well as lassis and smoothies.

The Potala Tibetan Restaurant, at 574 Main St. in Middletown, is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. potalatibetanrestaurant.com.

Susan Dunne can be contacted at [email protected].

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