I've wanted to try Phayul Restaurant since the first time I heard about it. Tibetan food in a comfortable, second floor space-- a respite from the bustle of Jackson Heights below, seemed irresistible. Seated on high, it's almost as if you're atop a mountain.
Highlights of our meal included Gyum Ngoe Ma ($7.99), which featured fried pucks of blood sausage along with peppers, chiles and Sichuan peppercorns. Apparently porridge is mixed into the mildly bloody sausage, giving it an almost creamy texture.
But the most interesting dish we tried was Tsak Sha Cu Rul ($3.99), a Tibetan rendition of cheese soup (or is it the other way around, with us Americans making a rendition of their traditional soup?). At first our waitress gave us the "not for you" speech, and throughout the course of the meal she continuously warned us that the soup would be strong. Wisely, we pressed on. When it arrived, a sulphuric funk wafted into my nostrils.
Swap the cheese and this could be eaten anywhere in America. Meat and potatoes floated in an intensely familiar soup spiked with Sichuan peppercorns and dried chiles. Thickened with zanba, a barley flour, the soup had the familiar consistency of a chowder, but with a deep spiciness (along with a faint tingling from the peppercorns). Meanwhile, the cheesiness was milder than I'd anticipated, with only the funky background notes providing a hint of the Tibetan cheese. Slurping my soup, I couldn't help but think of the numerous cheddar soups I've made and eaten at home in the Midwest.
74-06 37th Road
Jackson Heights, NY 11372