The Himalayan community of Queens seems to be expanding out of Jackson Heights and taking over some turf in Sunnyside. Last year another Tibetan restaurant opened on 47th Avenue eight blocks down, in addition to the Nepalese mainstay on Queens Boulevard. Punda is the latest place to give it a try, a proper sit down restaurant from the chef of popular takeout spot Gangjong on Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights.
The shop still has the smell of fresh paint and varnish, and unfortunately has no charm. Thankfully, with cooking this good, there should be plenty of time for that to change in the future. First and foremost, the momos here are off the charts, and come in a few options.
Beef momos ($7, above) are crescent shaped and appear more like their east Asian brothers. The pickled cabbage offers a sweet companion to your bites if you so desire, and the momo hot sauce is a must.
Chicken momos ($8, below) are the more typical round version you may be used to, and add $1 for any of your momos to be fried here. These guys got a round of ooohs and ahs from our table as we ate.
The group also ordered a plate of shabhalap ($7, below), a Tibetan patty stuffed in this iteration with meat but sometimes available with chicken or vegetables as well. The same dipping sauce is served with these, and inside to pair with your meat is added minced onion and coriander. I enjoyed the doughy crust and juicy interior combination.
When we brought in a couple six packs of beer (for now the bar here is unstocked and the place remains BYOB), our server recommended the chat phat ($7, below) for another appetizer we would enjoy. This is a crispy chicken dish (admittedly more crispy than chicken-y) that does qualify as South Asian bar food, greasy bits topped with onion, tomato, and green chili.
Our resident daal expert was enamored by the dal fry ($6, below), a simple dish on the small "Vegetable" section of the Indian page on the menu. The lentil-onion-tomato combination was spot on and seemed perfectly homemade.
After such a beginning, we all looked forward to our array of entrees, seen below:
Phing-sha ($9), Tibetan beef and potato stew with tingmo.
Shabtak ($9), spicy sliced beef with tingmo.
Langsha jintsel ($9), sliced beef with fresh celery.
Shabri sonam ($9), traditional Tibetan meatballs.
Ping-shogo ($7), vegetable stew with potatoes.
Tsampthuk ($7), barley soup, a Punda specialty.