RANGZEN (1600 Queen West, at Sorauren, 416-588-1100) Complete meals for $21 per person, including all taxes, tip and an imported beer. Average main $6.99. Open Sunday to Thursday 5 to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday 5 pm to midnight. Closed Mondays. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in the basement. Rating NNN
The weather isn't quite Himalayan when we go to Rangzen Café on Queen West in Parkdale, but it's bad enough to make us appreciate the resto's restorative bowls and plates of Tibetan fare.
The first cockle-warmer is a large, steaming bowl of tsey thuk ($6.99). This beef-stock-based soup features broccoli , finely chopped zucchini and carrot and delicious, supple, hand-shaped noodles. The big bowl (enough for four starters) is typical of Rangzen's excellent value.
Sticking to the theme of wholesome and inexpensive are the fried momo beef dumplings ($7.99). Like Szechuan dumplings, only bigger, these beefy crescents deliver both flavour and heft. They're served plain, but there's a side tray of soy and homemade hot sauce.
The shaptah ($6.99) features thin sliced beef stir-fried with chilies and onion.
The spicing is aggressive, and the chilies and onion are reminiscent of neighbouring India. Like everything at Rangzen, this dish has a clean, ungreasy, homemade quality. The unleavened Tibetan bread ($1.75), which resembles a big, semi-opened rose, is ideal for dipping.
Dessert is the classic default for non-dessert cultures: fried banana with ice cream ($2.99). At Rangzen, even this is done with care.
The food feels so authentic, you can almost overlook the very bare-bones decor. But what do you expect at these prices?
Despite its lofty origins, Rangzen's undramatic cooking may be a little too earthbound, but again, it's unfair to demand virtuosity at these prices.
The servers are very helpful and proprietorial. They know their menu from top to bottom and can guide novices through the ins and outs of Tibetan dining.