Six months after opening in New Haven, Tibetan Kitchen thrives
Tibetan Kitchen, which opened its doors in October, has attracted a large following among Yale students and New Haveners with their authentic Tibetan cuisine.
Sarah Ben Tkhayet, Contributing Photographer
Tsering Yangzom and her husband Sherab Gyalsten cook all the food that is served at their restaurant.
Tibetan Kitchen opened its doors in October and is located on Chapel Street. While the restaurant’s cuisine is authentically Tibetan, featuring dishes like gyathuk ngopa, sha momo and thenthuk, Gyaltsen explained that the restaurant’s cuisine is also heavily influenced by Indian spices. He and Yangzom were born and brought up in India, he said, and their food therefore contains “hybrid” elements that combine Indian and Tibetan flavors.
Yangzom and Gyalsten said that they enjoy every minute of their collaboration as they work as a duo to prepare meals for New Haven customers.
“Some people say when you work with your spouse, you argue and you have a lot of problems but we work really well together, so it’s been fun,” said Yangzom.
Tibetan Kitchen was initially supposed to operate as a takeout-only restaurant, but Gyaltsen and Yangzom eventually decided against it. Instead, they chose to integrate several Tibetan cultural pieces into the decor.
Gyaltsen said that he would have liked the restaurant to be completely vegan, because of his love for animals, but also recognized that many customers come for the dishes that contain pork, beef or chicken.
“Tibetan cuisine usually consists of a lot of meat,” Gyaltsen told the News. “There’s no vegetation [in Tibet], so people usually eat more meat.”
As a compromise, the restaurant offers a combination of vegan and vegetarian options in addition to the meat dishes, catering to a wide range of customers.
Before opening their current restaurant in New Haven, Yangzom and Gyalsten used to own another Tibetan restaurant in Middletown, Connecticut. This restaurant — also called Tibetan Kitchen — was featured in the New York Times and had a loyal clientele. Even when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, clients that were native to Middletown continued going to the restaurant, left good tips and supported the business, according to the owners.
Yangzom and Gyalsten ran their Middletown restaurant for 10 years before choosing to move to Woodbridge, Conn. to be closer to New York. The move prompted them to open Tibetan Kitchen in New Haven.
Gyalsten and Yangzom’s decision to venture into the restaurant business was not coincidental: Yangzom’s family has a restaurant in India, while Gyalsten’s mother used to run a vegetarian restaurant in 1989.
“All the customers were Westerners, tourists, from Europe and America,” Gyalsten said. “So I had an experience working in a restaurant.”
Before opening their Middletown restaurant, the couple owned a Tibetan store where they sold gift items like singing bowls, prayer flags and Tibetan jewelry. Eventually, however, they decided to switch industries.
Gyaltsen said that this change turned out to be at just the right time. He recalled the rise of Amazon soon after the store’s closure and the subsequent impact it had on several local businesses in the area.
In the beginning, owning a restaurant proved to be challenging.
“I’d never cooked for customers before, so when we initially opened the restaurant, we were supposed to open from five to nine, but we had to close at seven,” Yangzom said.
Clara Lee ’24 said that Tibetan Kitchen is “definitely one of the hidden gems in New Haven.” Lee is not alone in this perspective, as the owners said that Tibetan Kitchen has become a favorite for many Yale students.
“If you come during the weekdays at night, it probably looks like a Yale dining hall,” joked Gyaltsen.
The restaurant was selected as one of Connecticut Magazine’s Best Restaurants of 2023 in the “new restaurants” experts’ picks.
As the couple looks to the future, they hope to potentially open a vegan or vegetarian food truck, as well as serve Sunday brunch and have weekly specials.
“Right now it’s really busy, so I don’t have extra time to make weekly specials,” Yangzom said. “And we always visit our daughter [at her boarding school] every Sunday. But once my daughter goes to college, it’s not like we can visit her every week, so we’ll have a lot more time.”
Tibet Kitchen is located at 1217 Chapel St.