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Phayul rocks for vegetarians

CitySpoonful | Feb 11, 2012 09:07 AM

We had a great, all-veg dinner a Phayul last night. We started w/cups of Butter Tea, which was surprisingly tasty, despite also being hardcore buttery/salty (who would've thought that combo would hit the spot as a beverage?). I would've liked a stronger, more astringent black tea, though...this was like drinking watered down butter.

The hit of the night: the Phing Khatsa (thread-like, clear mung bean noodles submerged in a luke warm soy-chili-vinegar sauce with plenty of garlic and scallion; topped with fried soy beans). The mix of flavors was incredible. The tang of the vinegar (maybe a Zhenjiang vinegar w/a balsamic-like edge?) dominated but there was so much going on in that little bowl that it was difficult to pick out individual flavors. Perfect balance.

We also tried the Vegetable Egg Soup, which had a very mild, soothing veggie broth with eggs that were somewhere between scrambled and poached, as well as spinach and tomatoes in the mix.

I was prepared to love the Shogo (potato) Momo after reading/hearing so many raves about them. But I found them bland and carby -- like mildly spiced mashed potatoes inside a dumpling wrapper. (Put me down as a much bigger fan of the less carby, boldly seasoned veggie momo at Tawa Nepali hut.) Still these were delicate and carefully made.

We managed to get a vegetarian version of the Beef Thenthuk (hand drawn noodle soup). It was the same very soothing, mild broth from the Vegetable Egg Soup (but no egg here!) with sliced carrots and daikon in the mix. I personally prefer a bit more zing in my broths but this was undeniably good -- light and soothing. And the hand drawn noodles absolutely hit the spot, satisfying my winter-time noodle cravings. They were thick and irregular (shorter than Uncle Zhou's by far) and a bit on the al dente side (which is fine w/me). Wondering what flour they use for these -- anyone know?

We rounded out the meal w/three veggie dishes: the Dofu khatse Ngoen Ma (spicy tofu w/garlic, ginger, and spring onion), Pel Tsel Ngoen Ma (bok choy sauteed w/Sichuan pepper corns), and Cucumber Salad w/Hot Chili Sauce and Black Beans.

I was most excited about the tofu, which several people had recommended to me. But I was disappointed to find that it was swimming in a pretty unsubtle, firey red chili sauce w/only mild hints of garlic and spring onions (ginger? what ginger?). The flavor was pretty one-dimensional, though the floral/tingle-inducing Sichuan peppercorns helped to liven things up a bit. One the positive side -- the tofu wasn't overly oily!

But the other two dishes were superb. The cucumber salad (very fresh cucs, btw) was tossed with lots of garlic and dreid red chilis, as well as soy and the same balsamic-like black vinegar. It was incredibly refreshing and very reminiscent of dishes I've enjoyed in Sichuanese restaurants.

The bok choy was expertly cooked -- still crisp and not at all oily. The generous use of Sichuan peppercorns gave the greens a nice floral (almost citrusy) undertone that complemented the smoky wok flavor. Amazing. We used our Tingmo (steamed rice-flour bread) to soak up the ample bok choy juices pooled in the bottom of the dish.

All that came to a little over $50, with tip. Although the portion sizes were very moderate (extra merits!), four very hungry adults left happily full (though not too stuffed for some moong daal halwa and cups of masala chai at Maharaja...).

BTW, we were very curious about (but lacked table/stomach space) to get the following -- has anyone tried these?

Lhasa Khonte (barley wine with dried fruit soup) -- veg?
Shogo Khatsa (fried spicy potato)
Laphing (similar to the Phing Khatsa but less spicy?)
Shoko Sil Sil Ngoe Ma (shredded potato w/green pepper)
Bhoe Thuk (chetsey noodle soup) -- if veg alt. version is available?
Gyathuk (regular noodle soup) -- if veg alt. version is available?
Lhasa Fried Noodle -- veg? (worth it, or basically just a Tibetanized "house lo mein"...?)

Also, has anyone tried the $5 hot pot set?? Is hot pot a Tibetan thing? An import from Sichuan?

37-65 74th St, Queens, NY 11372

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