Three new Tom Douglas restaurants will be opening in Seattle very soon. I had the privilege of finding out about a sneak peak preview dinner shortly after it was announced and was able to get a reservation for me and Mark at one of them. The reservations seemed to fill up pretty fast. For $25 each we got to try 5 sample menu items from the new restaurant along with a glass of wine. The restaurant choices were Cuoco, an Italian pasta kitchen, Brave Horse Tavern, a bar with 26 taps and a pretzel oven and Ting Momo, a Tibetan dumpling cafe. It wasn't too difficult to choose between the three. Italian food doesn't always agree with me and a tavern didn't really sound all that exciting. So I chose the one that sounded most interesting and adventurous. I've had dumplings many times and have even made them a few times but have never had Tibetan dumplings or any kind of Tibetan food so wasn't sure what to expect. Chinese/Japanese dumplings are the only type I've ever had.
So we headed out to the Ballroom on Saturday and were about 10 minutes early. We walk in and it doesn't appear we are in the right place, looking at the crowd of beer guzzlers. It took a good couple of minutes to realize we should be at the Palace Ballroom in Belltown and not The Ballroom in Fremont. Oops. We hustle back to the car and fly down Aurora towards The Palace Ballroom. I jumped out of the car right at 6:00 to get seated while Mark finds parking. I walk in and the scenery isn't all too different than what we saw at The Ballroom. I ask about the Tom Douglas dinner and the girl confusedly walks away to ask someone. She comes back and points across the street to the Ballroom. It turns out I was in the Palace Kitchen. I forgot my phone in the car so I couldn't warn Mark but he figured it out.
It was only a few minutes after 6 by the time I got seated at one of the communal tables and found there were a lot of people that didn't show up on time. Shortly after sitting down, I was treated with a small cup of hot chai tea that was close to the size of a sake cup. The only chai tea I've really had has been at Tully's/Starbucks and is usually overly sweet. This chai tea was just the opposite and wasn't sweet at all. I'm guessing that's the way they drink it in Tibet but I could have used a little sugar in it.
Each seat had a menu with a 1-4 rating listed under each item as well as some lines to write your comments. I found it kind of hard to rate food from a culture I've never eaten before. Also at each chair was a plate with squares of some kind of pastry and 3 cups of different sauces. Nothing had been explained to us yet so I wasn't sure if we were supposed to be doing something with them like dipping the pastries in the sauce or what. I decided to leave everything alone and hope we would be given some direction on what to do with this stuff. I saw some people dipping fingers in the sauces to taste so I decided to do the same. The sauces were very flavorful. The one on the left was very spicy, the middle was very sweet and the right one salty. I could tell bland is not something that would be used to describe Tibetan food.
Tom eventually came to the front of the room and introduced the head chef of Ting Momo, Deyki Thonden, her husband, and several other people that have been instrumental in getting the restaurant up and running. Deyki talked a bit about her story, how she and her family had walked for months to get out of Tibet. It sounded like she had a very difficult childhood but since moving to Seattle she has been working for Tom though not cooking much Tibetan food. She will be living her dream when Ting Momo opens and she is able to cook nothing but Tibetan food.
We soon discovered what the plate of pastry dough in front of us was for. We would be making dumplings ourselves. I'm not sure if the other two restaurant sneak peaks got to do any hands on stuff like this so we got a little cooking lesson in how to make Tibetan dumplings. Deyki showed us how to make several different shaped dumplings. I never knew there were so many different ways to make them. It was a little difficult to make t hem because the pastry dough was starting to harden and kept cracking. A little cup of water was provided to moisten the dough which did help. We didn't get to eat the dumplings we made but were served 5 different types of dumplings. Momo - made with yak, Samo - one made with pork and one with potato, Tingmo - made with eggplant, and Ghasel - made with lamb and potato. We were also served a soup with hand pulled noodles. The sauces weren't the only things that had such strong spicy flavors. Everything we ate seemed to have a lot of spices in it and enjoyed most everything we were served. It wasn't a large meal; I didn't walk away stuffed, but it was enough.
Not only were we served wine but we also got a bottle of Tibetan beer. Unfortunately I'm not a beer drinker but I did have a sip just to try it. Mark ended up drinking my bottle and I had some of his wine.
Ting Momo will be opening in April in South Lake Union on Terry Ave between Thomas and Harrison. It will be more a to go type place than a sit down place but there will be a few tables. It's only supposed to be open for a few hours during lunch but they will occasionally be offering a Tibetan dinner by reservation only. Also note this is believed to be the only traditional Tibetan restaurant in Seattle. Didn't realize how rare/hard to find Tibetan food is.