22 August 2013

Wasabi Point

Bhutan

New York City has its fair share of worldly things that are hard to come by. Sure, people from all nations make their way here, but many cuisines do not find homes. In 2013, Bhutanese food seems to be one of these, falling off menus that previously catered to people from the Kingdom. Ten years ago, there was a minority of Himalayan restaurants in and around Jackson Heights that put up the Bhutanese flag on their awning and offered a few dishes for the local community. Times, they have changed.

Luckily Wasabi Point and the Bhutanese chef running the place are filling the gap. For now, he is just running different variations of the Bhutanese national dish, but he plans to expand the menu and have more of a Himalayan focus. This is a place I would normally avoid, as I have a strong aversion to any type of fusion like the awning advertises. I am really excited about the changes though, and will come back when that happens.

While there are no Bhutanese appetizers or sides, you can enjoy a few things from the Tibetan side of the menu. Order a plate of vegetarian momos ($8, below), for nine standard bearers of Tibetan cuisine. I always recommend vegetarian for these, as they usually seem better spiced than their meat counterparts, and we were not disappointed with this batch.


Also worth putting on the table early to get the taste buds jumping is the simple Tibetan cabbage salad ($2, below) which is anything but simple when it reaches your mouth. It is a small portion, so you need a few for a group.



By this time, get the fiery Bhutanese national dish to the table. We ordered it in its pure form aima datse ($8, above) and sha datse ($9.50, below), a version with chicken. I think the consensus was that the dish is only distracted when there was meat involved, and the yak cheese and chilies were better off eaten on their own with the mountains of rice they bring you.  The cheese is silky and slimy, enjoyably sliding down your throat and this heat definitely will make you sniffle. It is a unique dish, unlike anything I had eaten before.



Back on the Tibetan side of the menu, one dish we would skip next time would be the mushroon phing ($10, below), one of the most interesting sounding items listed. The glass noodles and black mushrooms appear much more appetizing then they are, and unfortunately the dish just does not have much oomph.


Not amazing, but definitely tasty is the beef special ($10, below). These tender hunks are sautéed in dried chilies and slathered with whatever the chef's "special sauce" happens to be. This is definitely a more Chinese-influenced side of the Tibetan cuisine. 


Do not forget to order at least one portion of the delicious Tibetan bread tingmo ($2, below). It will help you soak up some juices and has a delightful consistency. I was dipping it in the cheese from the aima datse all evening, even if this might have landed me in a Thimphu jail cell.


Just as we were starting to really feel our stomachs expand, a plate of sautéed bok choy showed up on the house. It was a nice green finish on an otherwise very un-green meal and was quickly devoured.


As mentioned before, there is a Japanese element to this restaurant, but even the chef recommends staying away from that. The restaurant shines from the Himalayas, and will soon be expanding that portion of the menu. We will be happy to return when that happens!


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