According to Yeshi Lokyitsang, owning one of the best Tibetan restaurants wasn’t a part of her plan; it was something that “just happened.” Yet here she is, owner of the successful and, if I do say so myself, delicious, House of Tibet Kitchen located in Teele Square.
Yeshi was born and raised in Dharamsala, India, an enclave of Tibetan exiles, and immigrated to the United States in 1996. After working in a few restaurant-based jobs, she took over House of Tibet Kitchen in 2008 from its previous owner. House of Tibet Kitchen was originally opened around twelve years ago, and was the first Tibetan restaurant in this area. Since taking it over, Yeshi has put an emphasis on the health benefits of traditional Tibetan foods such as yak, something that is difficult to find in the United States, and has used her food and decor to exemplify Tibetan culture.
The first thing you notice when you enter House of Tibet Kitchen are the many representations of Tibetan culture. Prominently displayed behind the counter is a photo of the Dalai Lama. Below the traditional Tibetan prayer flags on the walls are paintings representing aspects of Tibetan life, from their holy city of Lhasa to everyday activities. These paintings were done by the brother of the previous owner, and brought from India. They add to the traditional, yet comfortable, ambiance of the restaurant that makes it the perfect place to come with friends.
As charming and personal as the atmosphere may be, the best thing about House of Tibet Kitchen is the food. You are likely to be served by Yeshi herself, who, in addition to being open to a great conversation, is always willing to give a recommendation on a menu that is foreign to most people who walk in for the first time. The dishes that stand out most are those with yak, a traditional meat in Tibetan cooking. According to Yeshi, it is difficult to find in Tibetan restaurants around Somerville, House of Tibet Kitchen is one of the few that serves it. Customers love the yak so much that they have come all the way from New Hampshire for it!
As a vegetarian yak was not on my list of things to try when I first visited House of Tibet Kitchen. In fact, the primary reason I was at House of Tibet was momos. The first time I ever had a momo was in Dharamsala, in the house of a Tibetan family, and they were delicious. Despite simply being dumplings, I loved them. Yeshi’s momos were as delicious as those first ones I had tried. Handmade by Yeshi and her family, they are one of the few things that are not made immediately when you order them, simply because of the time it takes to make them, yet they were absolutely worth the visit.
House of Tibet Kitchen is an adventure into the delicious food of Tibet, a cuisine scarcely found in Massachusetts. The bustle of Teele Square adds to the comfortable atmosphere of the restaurant. Ask for a recommendation from Yeshi, and don’t forget to try the momo’s!