If you stop by Nha Sang Restaurant in Burnsville at lunchtime, you might be tempted to have the buffet, which looks like a better-than-average Asian spread. But if you choose the buffet, you’re missing out on Nha Sang’s real gems: its Tibetan offerings.
Nha Sang is a family-owned-and-operated restaurant, with the immigrant parents running the kitchen while their adult offspring handle the front of house. The interior belies its strip mall local, with a more upscale ambiance and attractive decor, plus the unusual blessing of a fairly peaceful space, even when it got busier. Our amiable server was pleased to discuss the Asian fusion menu with us and point out the most traditional of Tibetan offerings, which were mostly what we chose.
The first dish to arrive was Tibetan Thentuk ($9 with chicken or pork, $2 more for beef or shrimp), sized for sharing. The first sip of broth alone had us over the moon; it was rich and complex, spicy with the tiniest hint of sweetness underneath, a perfect antidote to the cold, blustery day. The delicate hand-pulled noodles were soft and comfort-giving. Sizable chunks of chicken were offset by crunchy pieces of bok choy and onion, with bits of cilantro rounding off the range of flavors. Everyone at the table agreed that this was the Tibetan equivalent of grandma’s chicken noodle soup.
The next arrival was the Tibetan Style Shapta with beef ($12). This was, as the menu noted, spicy. It came with plenty of jalapeños and jalapeño seeds tossed with thin pieces of tender beef sprinkled with scallions. The dish came not with rice but with a piece of Tibetan bread, curled like a cinnamon roll, from which we were to break off pieces to use to scoop up the meat and sauce. The bread itself had little flavor, but it served as a way to tone down the spice of the dish — not that we minded the heat, which was flavorful rather than punitive.
The only item that seemed to fall a bit flat was the pork momos ($11). Although the presentation in a bamboo steamer was attractive, the dumplings themselves were fairly bland and needed a lot of help from the accompanying chili sauce and table condiments of soy and hoisin sauces. It was hard not to compare them to the wondrous momos at Gorkha Palace, which are full of flavor all by themselves.
The last thing we tried was not strictly traditional, but we were curious after noting the repeated presence of cranberries on the menu, something our server said was due to his parents’ fondness for the fruit. The Cranberry Curry ($11 for vegetable, tofu, mock duck, chicken, or pork; $12 for beef or squid; $13 for shrimp; $15 for scallops) was beautiful to look at, its red vibrant in contrast to the steamed rice. The cranberries had a restrained presence that took a back seat to the coconut curry — and it worked. Everything here was tender and flavorful, from the sauteed onions to the delicate, tiny mushrooms to the large chunks of chicken. The Thai curry sauce added some heat, but it was not overwhelming; the primary flavor was coconut with just the occasional tang of cranberry.
There are plenty of Americanized options on the menu, but there are also several other intriguing dishes that will draw us back for a taste. If we can convince ourselves to try something new rather than ordering the Thentuk or Shapta again.
Nha Sang Restaurant
Tibetan and Asian fusion in Burnsville
12621 Nicollet Ave
Burnsville, MN 55337
Mon-Thu 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Fri 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Sat 2-10 p.m.
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $9-$15
NOISE LEVEL: Quiet
PARKING: Free lot