Entering from 37th Road, right around the corner from the busy 74th Street station in Jackson Heights, Phayul is a 2nd floor restaurant that is a simple room containing both kitchen and dining area. It is a very casual place, like a diner, only with different smells and decoration. It overlooks a busy corner and each table has a nice view of the action down on the street.
The place is sparsely decorated, but you find your obligatory "Free Tibet" t-shirt and a photo of the Dalai Lama smiles down on patrons. Eventually while we were eating, the server tuned the television to Radio Tibet for even more atmosphere, something that the Tibetans eating before us apparently did not need.
It's hard to eat this kind of food and not order momos ($4.99, below), so we did just that. The thak sha momo is a beef dumpling, and these are decent, but somehow seem like they have been around for a while. Our server gave us a sauce mixing lesson, combining the two hot sauces available and vinegar, to create a nice dipping sauce.
Luckily that was the only dish that did not get resounding approval. The other starters were more flavorful and fresh, including the tsaksha drang tsel ($7.99, below), a cold salad made with beef. It has some sort of numbing chilis within, a feeling usually had with Sichuan cuisine. The dish is full of flavor though, plenty to overcome the fact that you eventually do not feel much of the inside of your mouth.
Another appetizer was jasha khatsa ($7.99, below), a chicken chili dish mixed with red and green peppers and onions. The pieces of chicken are very dry, but well spiced and chewy. It works for me, although others at the table were so-so.
The beef thenthuk ($6.99, below) is a soup with noodles that they make in house that will simply impress. As I was eating them, I was thinking they had to be some of the best I have ever had. I assume they are used across the range of soups here, making the entire portion of the menu very appetizing.
Don't forget to order a portion of tingmo ($1, below), which always goes with any dish. It is especially good at sucking up the broths of soups, and our server was kind enough to cut ours into slices so that we could share it more easily. Looking around at other tables, I understood this a little better, as each diner had their own.
If you have not tried it before, the butter tea ($1) is worth sampling, a drink that tastes exactly as described, with a lot of salt as well. And if you were in the market for one, there is a pamphlet for "high-quality stainless steel momo steamers" at the counter for you to take on your way out.
37-65 74th Street, Queens NY