photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Phayul is a Tibetan restaurant in Jackson Heights, and it’s the sort of spot where you can eat a memorable meal with little to no advance planning. The food is exceptional, everything costs less than $10, and there are so many different options that you could eat here every night for several months in a row and not get even a little bit bored.
The long menu here has everything from blood sausage and a Tibetan cheese soup (both of which you should order) to roughly 20 different “side dishes” that are more or less entrees. There are also a few different types of momos, and they’re even better than the ones you’ll find across the street at Lhasa Fast Food (which are already very good to begin with). Order the beef ones fried or steamed, then set aside a reasonable amount of time to appreciate how juicy and flavorful they are. An ideal meal at Phayul will also involve some kind of soup. The thenthuk, with its big chewy noodles, will always be a good option - but our favorite is the tsak sha la kor, which comes with a mound of beef and sliced radish, hidden like an iceberg in a broth that’s light, creamy, and filled with szechuan peppercorns.
As for the space, it’s just one small room on the second story of a building, with a kitchen to one side and a handful of tables to the other. There’s a constant stream of people coming in and out, and you might encounter a wait when you stop by for dinner - but the kitchen moves pretty quickly, and even if you have to stare at the ceiling or make small talk with your children for 15 minutes or so, it will be worth it.
Two dishes at Phayul will fill you up, and with around 50 items on the menu, that leaves you approximately 1,225 different ways to have dinner here. So if you live nearby, make this one of your go-to spots for a weeknight meal. And if you aren’t in the area, make a trip out one weekend afternoon. After your first visit, you’ll probably start planning your next 1,224.
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Tsak Sha Momo
You shouldn’t just get one thing at Phayul, but if you insist on doing that, go for these steamed beef momos. They’re chewy and juicy, with a hint of celery, and if they weren’t so filling, we’d spend most of our money on them.
We’re often torn between the steamed and fried momos at Phayul, because both are about as perfect as flawless diamonds or the towel displays at Bed, Bath, & Beyond. So the question you have to ask yourself is, “Do I want an excellent steamed dumpling, or an excellent fried dumpling?” (There’s no wrong answer.)
Lhasa Fried Noodle
There’s nothing revolutionary about this plate of fried noodles, but there also doesn’t need to be. The noodles are chewy and flavorful, with chunks of vegetables and your choice of protein, and you’ll never regret having them in front of you.
Tsak Sha La Kor Hot
You should get some kind of soup at Phayul, and this is our favorite. The broth is just slightly creamy, with a little bit of spice from the dried chilies and szechuan peppercorns, and it comes with a big pile of beef and radish.
Want a soup with noodles? Get the beef thenthuk. The noodles are thick and chewy, and they come ripped into big square pieces. We prefer the beef, but you can also get this with chicken.
Chicken With Peanut
This dish is exactly what it sounds like. It’s stir-fried chicken mixed with some vegetables and roasted peanuts, and it’s a great way to hit your chicken quota for the day.
Another chicken dish, with meat that’s lightly breaded and mildly spicy. It’s good, but we prefer the peanut chicken.
Gyuma Ngoe Ma
These slices of blood sausage are crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside, and even if you don’t typically consider yourself a blood sausage person, you should still get an order for the table.
Always have a tingmo on your table. It’s a big piece of fluffy steamed bread, and it’s useful for cleaning up any scraps on your plate.