Forget Dinner, Tibet Nepal House’s AYCE Buffet is Where Its At
“There’s no Midtown in Los Angeles!” is something I’ve been hearing a lot of these days. Yes, I get it. There is no Midtown here. What am I going to do? How will this even work? The short answer is this… my fatness knows no boundaries! And rather than focus on a specific area of Los Angeles, I’ll just try and find “Midtown Lunch’ish” spots- wherever they may be. (In other words, I plan on being a fatso all across this great city.) Not everything will be some amazing destination, that you’d travel across the city for. But if one of these places is around the corner from your office, it’s far better than another boring lunch at Subway!
I’ve been spending a lot of time Downtown, on Miracle Mile, and in Westwood, with a few excursions into Thai Town and one great lunch in North Hollywood. But yesterday’s profiled lunch’er put me in the mood for some Pasadena action. So when Javier (aka the Teenage Glutster) invited me to have lunch with him in Pasadena yesterday I jumped at the opportunity. A Tibetan all you can eat buffet? Yes please!
“We could also do Thai or Indian or…” Let me stop you right there Glutster. I… want… Tibetan… buffet.
Old Town Pasadena hasn’t looked like an “old town” for a long long time, and while there are a few “interesting” lunch options on Colorado they all appear to have been pinkberrified in some sort of machine that makes your otherwise interesting food (ramen, tortas, Peruvian saltado) appear new, super hip, and appealing to the masses. Thanks but no thanks. I’ll walk the extra few blocks to Tibet Nepal House, a restaurant that has been described by many as “the only interesting food option in Old Town Pasadena”. In fact Exile Kiss just wrote a massive post about their delicious looking dinner options… but for Midtown Lunch’ing purposes it’s all about the $8.95 all you can eat lunch buffet.
It should be no surprise to anybody that I am a huge fan of buffets. Actually fan is not necessarily the most accurate term. I’m kind of obsessed with the concept of variety and quantity over quality (my dream is to eat at a buffet in every state in the country) and I’m always on the hunt for new buffets to destroy. I’ve even devised a set of rules for beating the Chinese food buffet, many of which could be applied to just about any all you can eat situation. Indian buffets are too common to get super excited out (IMO) but Tibetan/Nepalese buffet? For under $10? This is my kind of lunch.
The buffet at Tibet Nepal House is what I call a “small scale buffet”. There’s rice, vegetable pakoras, four vegetable dishes and two meat dishes. Plus a salad bar, sauces/chutnies and bread is also included. It’s been at least 6 years since I’ve had Tibetan food, and I know nothing about Nepalese food, but the laziest way to describe it would be to say that it’s kind of like Indian food, but not as spicy. And while there are a lot of Indian influences in the food at Tibet Nepal House, it is most definitely not watered down Indian food, and everything on the buffet had a unique flavor.
First plate should always be a “feeler” plate, so I tried to take a little bit of everything (excluding salad of course). Clockwise from the top: vegetable pakora, clay oven baked chicken, tofu saag, stewed boneless chicken, stewed vegetables, string beans, rice topped with dala. The daal was the most boring of all the dishes (it usually is), but the string beans sauteed in garlic were great. The clay oven baked chicken (kukhura sekuwa) was slightly dry of course (it can’t be helped in an all you can eat situation) but the Himalayan spices made it a super tasty (recommended for those who like tandoori chicken.) The tofu saag was creamier than you would get at an Indian buffet, and far more flavorful. It was another of my favorites on the buffet, which is saying a lot considering it had tofu instead of paneer (cheese).
Javier strongly recommended the pakoras (as if fried chicken pea flour fritters need a recommendation!) and they did not disappoint. I’m pretty sure we single-handedly finished off their entire steam table, which is a testament to their tastiness, because they weren’t exactly freshly out of the fryer.
Warm, fresh baked naan was included in the buffet… a huge relief considering my experiences with pre packaged naan these days. Not as puffy as, say, an Indian naan- but it was warm, and did the trick. Don’t entirely ignore the salad bar, though. The creamy white sauce, and super hot but tangy red sauce made everything taste that much better.
For the second plate, I revisited all my favorites (pretty much everything but the dal) but in larger portions. The string beans had run out, but they were replaced with a Himalayan cabbage dish (bhuteko bandagovi) that was good. And more pakoras of course.
According to the menu the chef is “a Nepali of Tibetan descent”, but I don’t really know enough about either cuisine to say which one it more resembles, or how authentic it is. But I can say this… if you like all you can eat buffets, and you work in Pasadena, I can’t imagine a better lunch than this. Sure, there were no momos on the buffet (or yak!), and some of the dishes would be far better if you ordered them fresh off the menu. But I doubt anybody will be challenging this place for the “most interesting lunch in Old Town” any time soon.
THE + (What somebody who loves this place would say)
- I love all you can eat buffets… and it’s nice to see something different
- Unlimited veggie pakoras? Where do I sign up.
- Indian spices + Chinese preparations? That sounds good…
- You think Midtown Manhattan was bad? In Old Town Pasadena, this is about as interesting as it gets
- Did I mention how good the pakoras are?
- They give you naan fresh from the kitchen, rather than putting it on the buffet
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- My favorite part of Tibetan food is momos, and those don’t come on the buffet!
- Ditto for the yak.
- I can’t eat cold pakoras… I don’t care how good they taste
- Buffets are gross… and all the food would taste so much better if it was cooked fresh
- I like my curries spicy! Tibetan food is like watered down Indian food
- Closed on Monday? WTF!
Tibet Nepal House, 36 E. Holly Street (just East of Fair Oaks), 626-585-0955
- Buffet Hours: 11:30am to 2:30pm Tuesday Through Friday
- Parking: Free w/ validation at Parsons Lot, 100 W. Walnut St. (or 90 minutes free public parking at 171 N. Raymond)