Dining review: A taste of Tibet and more at Sherpa Garden in Colorado Springs

By JL Fields jl.fields@gazette.com - Updated: November 29, 2017 at 10:37 am • Published: November 29, 2017 0
photo - Sherpa Gardens Restaurant "Aloo Gobi" - Potatoes, cauliflower and peas in a mild creamy tomato sauce Wednesday November 15, 2017. Photo by Jeff Kearney.
Sherpa Gardens Restaurant "Aloo Gobi" - Potatoes, cauliflower and peas in a mild creamy tomato sauce Wednesday November 15, 2017. Photo by Jeff Kearney.

Tibetan prayer flags flapping in the wind caught my eye on a recent drive down Colorado Avenue. The waving colorful cloth over a quaint front yard with tables and chairs was a welcome sign: Another eatery has opened in Old Colorado Springs.

Sherpa Garden Restaurant and Bar does indeed serve Tibetan food (thus the prayer flags), but "Sherpa" is also the surname of the owners, who are from Nepal. Like most restaurants with a Tibetan influence, Indian fare can also be found on the menu and, since this is Colorado Springs, you can also find American cuisine like mac and cheese and a burger. But the focus of this monthly review is always vegan, so if that's now how you eat, be sure to check out the menu online because you'll find a variety of dishes that will appeal to all diners.

Sherpa Gardens Restaurant "Momo" - Homemade Tibetan dumplings (served: steamed, pan-seared or deep fried) Wednesday November 15, 2017. Photo by Jeff Kearney.  

Though it felt as if I were walking into someone's home (so Old Colorado City), upon entering you'll find a quaint bar with three intimate areas of seating. In one section you'll find wooden benches for booth dining, small tables in another, and take one step up and you're in a little room with tables that can accommodate 12 people. The hub of the restaurant is the bright and modern bar accented with wood and metal.

Sherpa Gardens Restaurant Wednesday November 15, 2017. Photo by Jeff Kearney.  

Most items begin plant-based - coconut milk and rich vegetable broth are common ingredients - which means that ordering vegan is pretty easy. We started with the Momo ($6.99); when ordered steamed, you'll get a fluffy dumpling filled with leafy greens and carrots that's balanced with a peppery puree of tomatoes with just a hint of heat. The seared and deep-fried dumpling options offer a variety of taste and texture (and, face it, a few more calories).

Sherpa Gardens Restaurant "Papadams" - Crisp wafers made from chickpea flour served with a homemade dipping sauce Wednesday November 15, 2017. Photo by Jeff Kearney. 

From the Indian section of the menu we opted for the Aloo Gobi ($11.99). Hearty potatoes and cauliflower swim in a creamy coconut milk-tomato sauce. Tofu and peas provide protein to make this simply presented dish, alongside a generous serving of basmati rice, a full and well-rounded meal. But I suggest sharing it because, from the Tibetan side of the menu, you'll find an irresistible meaty meatless stew. The Thentuck ($11.99 with tofu) is truthfully more souplike, but the dense pieces of wheat dough (many of you know it as seitan - "wheat meat") and large pieces of chopped red and green peppers, potatoes and fresh, raw spinach leaves in a watery broth make it far heartier than an average soup. And it's far from boring broth because it's an intensely flavored vegetable version. We enjoyed the plentiful stew with roti ($2), the only plant-based bread on the menu; be sure to order it without the traditional brush of ghee to keep it vegan.

All entrees come with the aforementioned basmati rice, plus dahl soup. The soup is worthy of its own mention because if you order a bowl ($3.99), it's perfectly sized. Dahl is made with quicker-cooking lentils, often red; Sherpa Garden opts for yellow lentils. Golden and velvety, you're going to want to dip the roti - whole wheat flatbread - into each bite.

Nonalcoholic beverages include traditional teas and smoothies as well as coffee, lemonade and soft drinks ($1.99-$3.50). There's also a full-service bar with cocktails ($7), beer ($4-$6), and wine by the glass ($4-$7) and the bottle ($15-$26).

This new, family-owned restaurant boasts a variety of vegan fare that's filled with flavor, a charming atmosphere from the "front yard" outdoor seating to the intimate dining sections in the tiny restaurant, and friendly service. It's a welcome addition to my west side neighborhood.

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