In the spirit of chef Nick Oltarsh’s suggestion #1, I trekked it out to Shangrila Bistro in East Cobb last night hoping to sample some authentic Tibetan dishes – specifically anything made with yak and a serving of butter tea. A little bird recently told me that they now offer both items on its menu when a previous AJC write up indicated that they did not serve either.
If you’re already getting a little squeamish about the thought of eating yak, you shouldn’t because they belong to the same biological subfamily as buffalo and domestic cattle. My waitress last night told me that it’s like beef but generally leaner than meat consumed in America. Butter tea, or po cha as it’s known in Tibet, is a tea made with butter derived from yak milk. I have never had it, but from online descriptions the experience can purportedly range from “rancid” to “creamy” to something “resembling buttermilk.” Alas, I confirmed the restaurant serves these now but last night they were out of both. My server/manager stated that the restaurant has to import the yak meat and butter from China and sometimes orders can take a week to be delivered. So if you have the hankering to try either or both, call ahead.
I did try other dishes by its chef who is originally Chinese but lived and cooked in Tibet for five years. The restaurant’s menu looks starkly similar to popular Sichuanese restaurants around town, which makes sense considering the region of Tibet is geographically located next to the Sichuan province. But Cliff Bostock also does a good dissection of the menu including seafood items not generally found in landlocked mountain regions such as Tibet. You’ll just have to accept that the folks over at Shangrila are business people first and foremost, and the local demographic have certain expectations of Chinese food.
I sampled an appetizer of the kitchen’s fried potatoes that are a cross between potato chips and french fries. They are fried to crisp golden outside and tossed with diced onions, crushed chili, cumin, salt and other medley of spices my waitress could not identify; they were great and made me think this would be a lively and novel snack to bust out at a party.
The other dish I tried was an order of cumin cilantro lamb. I have had several Sichuanese versions of this dish all over metro Atlanta and it is almost identical in that salty, cumin flavor besides the similar USM (unidentified spice medley) I tasted in Shangrila’s potato appetizer.
I wish I could have reported on Shangrila’s yak and butter tea as I originally intended, but all is not a loss. I did learn that they do offer them now, just with a slight time-dependent delivery caveat. I was also informed that they have opened a second location nearby off Johnson Ferry Road where according to my server, “more Tibetan dishes are on the menu.”
3545 Canton Road #102, Marietta. 678-388-7878
1280 Johnson Ferry Road, Ste 180, Marietta. Phone tbd.
- by Gene Lee, Food and More blog
– Gene Lee writes about International Cuisine for the AJC Dining Team. He also publishes his own blog, Eat, Drink, Man… A Food Journal.