Monday, September 20, 2010

Victoria Mini-Trip: Tibetan Kitchen Cafe

I urge everyone who feels the need to comment on their own experiences at this eatery to read the entirety of this blog post first. Comments that have been left appear to overlook a number of points that address non-issues, and create false assumptions.

Furthermore, I am not here to personally attack the Tibetan Kitchen. Reading the blog post will clarify this.

First night in Victoria, and we were starving. Walked around a bit, hoping to avoid tourist traps, and ended up here, Tibetan Kitchen Cafe.
Before I go on, I have no experience with specifically Tibetan food. Did I know if what I ate was authentic or not? Nope. So I'm simply going on how I thought it tasted, and how I thought the experience at the restaurant was. Alright? Super.
That being said... I'm a little hesitant to write this. I'd hate to knock a humble eatery. I better be careful on how I continue.

As we walked into the restaurant, the place was quiet. However, we were told that they were super busy...? Staffed by the waitress, the waiter/manager, and one kitchen staff, I didn't know how this should be taken. The food on the menu didn't appear to look like it required much prep (and therefore a heavily staffed kitchen), and a good waitress can handle four tables by herself no problem (especially small ones). We were also told that due to the orders, the kitchen could be expected to take a half hour before food arrived.

We decided to sit anyways... and were placed a table with two full alcoholic drinks already placed there from the previous customers. My guess, from what the waitress was warning us and the drinks, was that the previous customers got fed up and left..

But they sat us down, offered some complimentary flat bread and a sweet/spicy cranberry (?) chutney down, and offered us drinks apologetically, as if they knew the food would be taking a while (drinks as compensation...? and more on this later). The flatbread, while simple, was addicting with the chutney. I wish there was more.

We placed out order, and the food came in good timing (surprise surprise. Is this waitress trying to sabotage the restaurant?) Lamb Curry --served with brown/white rice, naan, and lentil soup.

The dish in itself was pretty good. I liked the curry. Spicy, nice chunks of tender lamb. The naan, while not like any naan I know, had a nice texture. The lentil soup was a lukewarm mediocre.

Good dish overall. However, we were served with one set of cutlery on the table, and we required three others. When we asked for some, she rushed off, and didn't return until we asked again a while later, plate of food still sitting on the table. The cutlery was a short ways away across from our table.... If we had realized this earlier, we would have grabbed them ourselves. As we didn't, I still question why she didn't just turn around and grab them instead of whatever else she was doing... Also followed by a bitingly sarcastic "Is there anything else I can get you??"
Yea. Maybe a spoon. That none of us have. For soup.

Sha-Palei --hand rolled Tibetan pita pocket stuffed with ground beef, mushrooms, spinach, bell peppers and shredded cheese. Pan fried and gently baked.

While my sister had commented that this was far too oily, causing a soggy skin, I still enjoyed how the pita pocket tasted over-all, especially the spiced ground beef stuffing.

Technically this is not a big deal, but brown rice had been requested. The dish arrived with white rice. Waitress not quite on top of her game?

Momos. Ordered because the name sounds like something out of a children's cartoon when I read it on the tourist ad. Honestly, after going online later and reading good things about these dumplings, I don't know what to say. There were a lot of heavy spices in the previous dishes, possibly masking the momo's own flavour (and therefore this is possibly a very incorrect statement)... but we thought that while the skin was done nicely, overall they were boring and rather tasteless.

This photo was taken mid-eating, but I guess the presentation wasn't far off. Then again, it's a stir-fry, so I won't comment. Beef Shepta-- Seasoned with ginger and garlic, stir fried beef or chicken with mushrooms and bell peppers served on a bed of your choice of brown or white fried rice or egg noodles. (Does this sound very cantonese to anyone else?)

At any rate.. From where we were sitting, we could hear the waitress and kitchen argue with each other.. it wasn't pretty. Something along the lines of the kitchen getting frustrated with the wait staff forgetting to specify orders or mixing them up.
Relevant because we had ordered chicken. And the argument/mix up resulted in overcooked beef (I don't blame the kitchen. I don't. I believe the kitchen fought admirably. If the food got the attention it deserved instead of having to divide the attention between fixing wait staff mistakes, I believe this could have been good).

That being said, I will not comment on this dish.

At the end of the night, after watching the waitress try to tag the drinks onto our bill by the computer that she had also been using to use Facebook, the manager came by to graciously comp our drinks. After they had offered drinks multiple times as if to comp the long wait time that they had warned about. (This may have not been the intention, and I'm not asking for free drinks. But when you are the wait-staff, shouldn't there be some tact in conducting oneself with the customer?)

07/10/2010 update: (I have recently been notified that the Facebook page on the computer screen is there for the owner of the restaurant to check comments on their Facebook page, which they use as their website. The waitress plays no hand in this issue. Furthermore, the bill is written by hand, not on a POS system, which I had forgotten while writing this blog post).

So I wrote it. And I feel like a douchebag. I didn't think the food was bad. And I believe given a better night, with non-incompetent waitstaff, the food could excel, but our night here was simply not very good. I mean, we had a laugh looking back at it, and enjoyed the rest of the evening because of it. But that's not really something you want your restaurant to do for its customers.

I'll stop now.
I wish the kitchen luck. Because the waitress that served us that night was simply terrible.

Tibetan Kitchen Cafe on Urbanspoon


KimHo said...

As in real life, you just something by first impression. If they didn't deliver in that, the next question would be if you are willing to forgive it and give a second chance. Had it been me, I think I would have been extremely harsh. But, hey, that's me! ;)

Yen said...

Coincidentally, I might be going back to Victoria again in the coming months. Maybe I will, maybe I won't. We'll have to see!

Anonymous said...

Unless the food was super good, I don't think I would give it a second chance. The restaurant business is super competitive and if the service sucks, it can scare people away.

Yen said...

Well, it's true that the restaurant business is competitive, and if I were to be a customer who had not publicly commented, I would most probably do the same. That being said, I feel like the posting of opinion on this-- or any restaurant, forces a responsibility to be a little more considerate when determining judgment on any eatery. If this event is an outlier, then I have placed unfair attention (albeit a little.. given how popular this blog is, hullo.) on an event that in this restaurants normal circumstances, simply wouldn't happen. I would hate for people to be scared away from a one-time event that just happened to fall on a bad day.

Although, if service really does suck. Then theres no helping that.

Thanks for the thoughts though : )

A. Lee said...

I used to work for the Tibetan Kitchen Cafe, left due to moving to the mainland for school. I came across this article, and was shock to hear about the comments written about the waitress and her services. The waitress is a cute Japanese girl, who came all the way from Japan with a working holiday visa just to earn a little income while traveling. She always have a happy smile on her face and is a hard worker who completes all of the tasks the was assigned. I felt the need in clearing this up because she is such a sweet girl and doesn't deserve to hear this.

Tibetan Kitchen Owner and Chef said...

I have three Japanese Girls from Japan working in the restaurant no other staff beside me and a Tibetan lady who does not even speak English We do not have a manager as we do not need one. It is not in their culture of these three Japanese girls to be rude. They are the most courteous human beings. I know them as they have been working with me for sometime.
I am just so sorry you came in and had a bad experience.

Yen said...

Honestly, as far as I could tell, this waitress was not Japanese. I am not speaking poorly of any Japanese waitress as far as I know and the waitress's English was fine.
I'm sorry if this reflects poorly upon any of them, but this was the experience I had. If the Caucasian man that works there is not the manager, then he is at least part of the staff, as we were served by him as well. I hope that clears up the air.

Vox said...

Don't ever "feel bad" about posting your experience, regarding food OR service, at a restaurant. That's why we read food blogs...pretty pictures and honest opinions.

I had a meal at Tibetan Kitchen about 1 1/2 years ago, and had a similar experience. The food was alright, but the service was not stellar. Special requests were not followed and service was indifferent and sparse, and I didn't even bother asking for replacements since things were already so slow. Our server was a blonde woman, I believe, so it doesn't sound like the same person...but it has kept me from returning to the establishment on subsequent trips to Victoria. If the first thing I remember about a place over a year later is unsatisfactory service, that's really saying something. The food was fine, but I need more that JUST food when I dine out. I'm sorry to say I've crossed this off my list.

Please don't hesitate to tell us about your complete experience when making posts, and this sounds like a very awkward dinner indeed.

Yen said...

Thank you for the support Vox, I really appreciate it.

As I see it, there is no way that the Tibetan Kitchen being staffed only be three Japanese waitresses and the kitchen chef/owner can be truth, and I don't know what this owner is going on about.

This post in general has come under too much fire for what it's worth.

Owner and Chef said...

Sorry Guys

I bought this restaurant and took over only on the 6th Nov 2009 so its not even a year old if you check my web site I am celeberating my first year on the 6th of Nov that is next month. Check

1 1/2 years ago this restaurant was known as "Konpiras" a Japanese restaurant, and for your info I have had no blonde as a waitress, since I bought the restaurant from the Japanese Mr and Mrs Miyada I just kept their Japanese wait staff.

Please feel free to call "Colliers Internationals" Victoria (250) 388-6454) to find out when we bought this restaurant, as they are our property managers.

My restaurant is small 35 seats and only staffed with 3 waitress and two kitchen Tibetan staff, me and another Tibetan lady who can speak no English and has come to Canada 3 months ago from India a Tibetan refugee.

Maybe its nothing worth for you Miss Yen but for me as a owner and chef its very important the honest feed back, as I only want to give the best and try to improve my food.

Dear Vox, 1 1/2 years ago I was in India looking after my mother who had a stroke and as if now she is on ICU. so I really do not know which Tibetan restaurant in Victoria you had the bad experience as there was no Tibetan restaurant existed at that time in the whole of BC. If you want I can show you my stamped passport that I was not even in Canada. no Tibetan Restaurant existed at that time in the whole of BC.

I am not trying to protect my wait staff if you did not like my food its ok I can only try to improve but saying that I have rude blonde staff is just not true, as all my staff are Japanese and I am truely sorry if they were rude, but I cannot believe my Japanese girls can do that as they are here in a work visa and are very soft spoken and I am always watching them and they cannot even speak good english and are trying to inprove their English with me. Very Sorry Vox and miss Yen you both feel badly about my food and staff. I have spoken to all three of my Japanese wait staff. and I will keep an eye on them.

I have opened this restaurant to share my culture and my small recipies to the people of Victoria mostly for good will thats why my food is all under $15.00 but its all cooked from my heart and with love. I am really sorry if you did not enjoy my food, and service. this blog has given me nothing but sleepless nights and I wonder if its worth working 14 hours a day.

I still thank you.

If you go to

my waitstaff names are Kai zumami, Chie Kyono and Ikumi Akamatsu all waitstaff. Before that in August I had Ada Lee a second gen Chinese from BC who worked all summer and left to go for further studies in Vancouver and Saki Iha who is in now Japan she worked for me for 6 months all of them are in my website for your info.

I have no idea who the blondie was.. all of us are Asians

owner and chef said...

The Tibetan Kitchen is going to celebrate one year on the 6th Nov so I do not know which restaurant Vox went to 1 1/2 years ago, as there was no Tibetan restaurant in the whole of BC existed at that time. I was in India looking after my mon who had a stroke and as of we speak she is in ICU. I have my stamped passport to prove that I was not even in Canada as I was in India. I took over Konpira a Japanese restaurant on the 6th Nov 2009, call "Colliers Internationals" (250) 388-6454 Property managers
also Times Colonists Victoria as they did our articals on our opening day, for proof, 6the nov 2009, I have had no blondies as wait staff or any other staff at all period. and I have no idea what the above miss

I am just trying to share my culture and little recipe that I know about as growing as a Tibetan refugee family in India to the people of Victoria mostly my restaurant is a goodwill to all the people who can come and share my food. I am sorry if some you do not like my food or service but I can only talk to my stff and improve my food. Tibetan food is not excatly one of the culunery giants. I do mostly north east Indian food, very subtle curries and very little Tibetan food as I say we Tibetans are not culunary giants.

Michael said...

Sounds like maybe you hit it on an off night, Yen. My experience was totally different - I agree that some of the food may be heavy for some tastes, but I very much enjoyed all of it. It seems like for the most part, you enjoyed the food, too.

However, it's hard for me to reconcile the comments on service with my own experience, though. My entire evening was an amazing service experience - complete complimentary post-meal chai.

I'd give it another shot the next time you're in Victoria - hopefully it will prove to be a better experience.

Keep up the blog - I enjoy it.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps the blogger got her memories mixed up with another place?

I have always had excellent service and delicious food!

Peaceful music + the best decor = a personal favorite.

Friends and family from out of town are always happy after I take them to Tibetan Kitchen.

That's my experience, which has very little in common with this blog.


Vox said...

I just checked my vacation photos to verify the date of my visit. It was December, 2009. Definitely the restaurant was Tibetan Kitchen. Aside from being excited to visit, since I had recently been traveling through Nepal and Tibet, I have photos from the night.
I apologize for mixing up the date estimation.

Regardless, the experience was substandard. I'm still 90% sure our server was a hippie looking anglo girl. I'm glad other people enjoy the place, but I don't see myself returning because of my bad experience that night.


Anonymous said...

I am not only a long visiter to Pemba's Restaurant, but the Designer who Created the decor, at no charge, as Pemba is the kindest soul I know, and I wanted to be sure she was not perceived as "another asian restaurant". If you visited in Dec it would mean she had just opened..and everyone has opening hurdles. Pemba's food has always been excellent! She is very generous, and kind. Please take the time to visit again. She works so hard, and cares so much about her restaurant. I feel like I am enjoying a meal by my adopted Tibetan mom every time i eat there as the food is FULL OF LOVE! I have NEVER had a bad experience.

Anonymous said...

I have no idea what Yen and Vox are talking about but i have been to the Tibetan Kitchen with my family a whole lot abd never had one bad experience . Maybe you guys are confused with someother resturant. Both the oweners are honest ,friendly people . We feel very welcomed there and the waitress are very attentive.
The food is very healthy and there is only one cook but she manages her resturant like a professional . You probably found her food bland because you dont know what healthy tasts like but it is nothing like chinese food, filled with everything thats bad for ur health . I am glad someone took the courage to open a healthy resturant and is doing so well in the business.
I just wanted to write a good review but when i saw all ur comments i had to give you a little piece of my mind .
Tibetan Kitchen is one of the best resturants in Victoria ,it makes the papers for good food reviews time after time . I hopoe Pemba does well and all her Haters get a little tast of Karma .

Anonymous said...

This place is by far one of the best restaurants in Victoria, if not all of Canada. Great food and service. Either Yen and Vox are confusing this with another place, they really have no idea what good, healthy food tastes like or have unreasonable service expectations for a small, locally owned restaurant.

Anonymous said...

Just came back from a delightful dinner from Tibetan Kitchen! I have to say my husband and I had a beautiful, soulful experience. Pemba the owner and chef puts her heart and all her love in her food. She shares part of herself with her cooking. I have come home satisfied and fulfilled and will definitely visit the place many times. We have traveled extensively all over the world and let me say this, to find an authentic home cooked Indian/Tibetan restaurant is as rare as getting a hole in one (if you play golf you will understand how difficult that is). Thank you Pemba for sharing your love with Victoria, we are blessed to have you here!

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