When you're entering a city nearly two and half miles above sea level, you're not going to find much of substance for dishes grown locally. A hundred years ago, the Tibetan diet was based around the ubiquitous yak, which was used for its meat, milk, and cheese and tsampa, which is a roasted barley used in porridges and is often combined with yak butter. In today's globally diffused world, thankfully even Lhasa has made strides toward a wider and better range of flavors. The Chinese and Indian influences have made themselves apparent on the city's food scene, while there are even a few Western-style establishments that have cropped up.
First off, no matter where you eat, it will be rare to find a wait staff that speaks more than Chinese. Still, knowing a few useful words or taking a look at what other diners are eating is a great way to go. That being said, although travelers often choose Chinese food when in Lhasa, we suggest at least making a stab at yak in one of the many Tibetan restaurants or cafes. Notable establishments include Makye Ame, Shangrila, Tengyelink Cafe and numerous other cafes around the Barkhor area and beyond. Many restaurants have moved beyond a purely Tibetan approach and offer an international range of dishes; a good many hotel restaurants in Lhasa (House of Shambhala and Snowland Restaurant) are worth a look for this reason.
Nepalese food can be had in quite a few places, including the Mandala Restaurant on South Barkhor. Chinese food is more prevalent in the western half of the city, although one of the best, Hao Wai Xuan, is also a staple of the Barkhor district, while more American-style flavors can be had along with traditional fare at Dunya on Beijing East Road. For further information on the what and the where of Lhasa cuisine, take a look at our listings or start a conversation in our community.