A druk is a figure on the national flag of Bhutan, a thunder dragon to be precise, clutching jewels to represent wealth. Druk is also the name of Buffalo’s first and only Bhutanese/Nepalese restaurant.
Judging by my first few bites of this unique cuisine, I can only hope that customers will start flocking to the establishment, thus ensuring its own longterm wealth and success.
Initially reading the menu, I could tell that they did it right. It’s a fairly limited menu, which is a welcome change from some of the other ethnic restaurants that tend to ramble. They have kept their offerings nice and tight, most likely because they are not sure of the level of foot traffic, which probably varies a lot due to the obscure location. Also, because this is a new cuisine to many people, they didn’t want to make things overly complicated.
Tasting Bhutanese cuisine for the first time, I was immediately reminded of Indian and Asian flavors, and knew that my husband and I were in for a real treat. To start, we ordered the Somosa Chaat. This dish, typically, is a popular Indian street food. Druk’s version was a sizeable bowl of the largest, most plump peas I’ve ever laid eyes on, floating in a deliciously scented sauce of what, I believe, was the usual curried suspect spices – coriander, cardamom, garlic, ginger, cumin, turmeric, and chili powder. This was truly an incredible first introduction to an otherworldly cuisine. The dish was rounded out by dollops of yogurt, torn pieces of the crunchy fried samosa shell, and judiciously sprinkled red onion, cilantro, Thai red chiles, and sev (thin dried vermicelli noodles). We also ordered a few Somosas a la carte, simply to compare, and were pleasantly surprised at how full each pocket was, stuffed to the brim with the same aromatic spices, and loads of those massive, portly peas, a few potato chunks, all included in a hot, crispy shell. They were served with a subtle, spicy, and creamy dipping sauce.
Next up were the Chowmin noodles. These were an amazing take on what I would call the perfect marriage between a sesame noodle and a chowmein dish. Whereas either one can tend to become redundant bite after bite, I finished the plate immediately. In hindsight, I wish I had left some to take home.
The quickly stir fried Chinese egg noodles were tossed lightly with sesame oil, then hit with an array of thinly sliced broccoli florets, julienned carrot and cabbage, and bits of red onion and scallion. They were finished with a sprinkling of sesame seeds, cilantro, and slivers of red chiles which all came together seamlessly to create an ultimate, and unforgettable noodle dish. I should mention, the first time I ordered this dish “hot” and learned my lesson. The second time around I did not request “hot”, so the chilis came in a little side bowl, and I could add them to the noodles until the heat was perfect.
My husband thoroughly enjoyed a Fry-Rice (sic) dish, and commented that the vermicelli almost had a fideo (al a Mexican cuisine) noodle texture, which was a pleasant surprise. The only negative was, in ordering the chicken version, he felt that there was not a strong enough representation of the chicken, and the pieces that were included fell flat. Therefore, he would stick to the vegetarian version next time, which would include all of the veggies I previously listed.
Two items that I would be sure to order next time would be The Thuk-Pa which is a noodle soup, not unlike a Vietnamese Phở, albeit with the appropriate indigenous seasonings. I would also order the Fry-Chicken/Drumstick (sic) which has been getting rave reviews on social media. Also of note, is their utterly warming, in every sense of the word, house tea. Their version of Nepali milk tea tastes like it’s made with black tea, milk, a touch of sugar, cloves, cardamon, and cinnamon. A perfect antidote to the cooling fall temperatures. My husband raved about it throughout the course of the meal.
The food is the clear winner here, thankfully and rightfully so, and the obvious reason to visit Druk Cuisine Kitchen. I recommend that you eat at the restaurant, instead of getting take-out, as the sister-owner duo of Sita Bista and Gita Tiwari could not be more friendly, accommodating, or excited to educate you on all things Bhutanese/Nepalese. But just a couple of things to note in doing so. The atmosphere is pretty basic, 6 3-top tables and a pictorial menu banner, pretty much round the space out – it’s pretty stark and simple. Also, bring a sweater/coat for sure, as I was glad I did earlier in the week on a pretty mild day. There is a fireplace, but if it’s not on, it gets chilly.
Lastly don’t fret if they bring your tea along with your main course – the timing might be a bit off, but there’s a good reason for it. Seeing as the same sister who is serving you, will, most likely, be preparing your meal, these ladies’ main focus is getting your order out speedily, and not necessarily staggered. To me, sometimes places like this, it’s their quirky nature that makes them such a treat to visit – as long as the food is good of course. And at Druk, the food is divine!
Druk Cuisine Kitchen | 2768 Elmwood Avenue | Kenmore, NY | 14217 | 716-331-3104 | Facebook