Located right on top of Jiaotong University metro station and opposite to the Qian Xuesen Library, Zasag is the namesake of a holy mountain worshipped by the Ando tribe in Tibet. The restaurant owner appears to be aiming to do for his home cuisine what Xibo has done for Xinjiang cooking – making it more palatable for a mid- to high-end clientele. The dishes are therefore more expensive than the average Tibetan eatery around town (not that there are many of those) and there’s a stronger focus on presentation. The interior space is slick, if a little derivative, and the atmosphere is well judged.
The menu fuses regional flavours, with Sichuan and Xinjiang inspirations creeping into the plentiful yak meat dishes. There’s dry pot Tibetan pork (138RMB) and fresh Tibetan matsutake mushroom with XO sauce (158RMB).
The Ando-Tibetan braised yak short ribs (198RMB) were sleekly presented on a grey slate resting against a large bone. They were also covered in a gloopy, slightly sweet barbecue-like sauce that rode roughshod over any other flavour on the plate. The meat was reasonably tender and tasty for the first few bites but quickly became monotonous. The liberal addition of sauce seemed like an admission that yak is not a particularly flavourful meat.
Similarly, a highly slurpable bowl of thick noodle segments in an almost pho-like broth will be a treat when winter kicks in properly. While the Tibetan noodle block (68RMB) is perfectly filling in its own right, it’s worth pairing it with the crispy fried bread of the pickled beefcake (68RMB).
With Tibetan kitchen staff and waiters (alongside Han colleagues), Zasag admirably attempts to marry rustic culinary authenticity with the high-end presentation, though it isn’t always successful. But stick to the cheaper dishes here and you could easily walk out having had dinner for two for around 350RMB – not bad value given the rarity of what’s on offer. Treat it as an adventure rather than a special occasion, and you shouldn’t be too disappointed.
UPDATED: MONDAY NOVEMBER 18 2019