Vayal's Indian Kitchen is now open in midtown Phoenix | Phoenix New Times

Vayal's Indian Kitchen brings bold flavor to midtown Phoenix

With lunch, dinner and takeout options, this new restaurant is a welcome addition to the neighborhood.
Vayal's Indian Kitchen serves a wide variety of classic and unusual Indian dishes. If you're unsure what to order, friendly servers are ready to help.
Vayal's Indian Kitchen serves a wide variety of classic and unusual Indian dishes. If you're unsure what to order, friendly servers are ready to help. Tirion Boan
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When a new spot opens in town, we're eager to check it out, let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead, a peek inside restaurants that have just opened — an occasion to sample a few items and satisfy curiosities (both yours and ours).

On a recent Tuesday night, almost every table was filled at Vayal's Indian Kitchen on Thomas Road. Customers sat in booths or around small tables, sipping hot tea or slurping bright orange mango lassis though plastic straws. Perhaps they were returning customers — Vayal's was previously a food truck. Or maybe they were neighbors, who, like me, were excited to see an Indian restaurant open in a part of town mostly devoid of such delights.

Either way, the tables were packed, a steady stream of customers came in to order takeout and delivery drivers hustled to pick up bags packed with curries and steaming rice.

click to enlarge
Vayal's Indian Kitchen, previously a food truck, is now open on Thomas Road.
Tirion Boan
Two servers sprinted around the restaurant taking orders, answering the phone and ringing up tickets at the counter. At one point, a rush through the kitchen's curtain-covered doorway caused an order of hot naan to go flying. But overall, the chaos was much more orchestrated and efficient than one might expect from a restaurant that's been open for less than two months.

Customers' buzzy conversations were filled with excitement as servers recommended dishes and subsequently brought plates of crispy fried Pav Bhaji and folded dosa.

The menu offers unique, regional Indian dishes that many may not have tried before. There are multiple options for uttapam, a thick pancake topped with onion or egg and Manchurian, an Indian dish of fried veggies or cheese with Chinese influences such as being tossed in a wok and coated in a sauce made with soy. Sharable and snacky dishes include Masala Wings and Medu Vada, small fritters that resemble doughnuts.

But for our first visit, we stuck to some favorites to see how this South Indian restaurant would put its spin on the classics.

click to enlarge Curries at Vayal's Indian Kitchen.
At Vayal's Indian Kitchen, the Dal Makhani (left) and the Chicken Tikka Masala (right) were lightly spicy, warming and hearty dishes.
Tirion Boan
The Chicken Tikka Masala, which can also be ordered with lamb, shrimp or fish, was rich and creamy, full of butter and spices. There was no char on the chicken, typical of the dish, and less tomato flavor than many versions around the Valley. While not immediately recognizable as a tikka masala, it was delicious, decadent and comforting. We elected for a spice level of five out of 10, and the hint of heat was barely detectable.

It was the only dish we ordered that received that sliding scale, but the same spice level was present throughout our meal. The creamy, sauce-heavy tikka contrasted well with the drier Chicken Biryani. We were given the option between boneless and bone-in chicken. The basmati rice was soft and heavily scented with spices. Chunks of cinnamon stick and bay leaves were visible alongside other aromatics, sliced green chiles and raw white onion. Soft chicken punctuated the bright yellow rice and a side of yogurt-based raita brought a cool and creamy contrast.

A standout dish was the Dal Makhani. This was a chunky version, with black lentils and red kidney beans visible in the creamy stew. The lentils and beans are simmered overnight with tomato, which allows the flavors to meld. The consistency, subtle smokiness and presence of cinnamon and other baking spices gave this Indian dish a comical, but not unwelcome, similarity to Cincinnati chili.

An order of naan is an essential side at any Indian restaurant, and the garlic basil version is a winner. Fluffy and thick on the edges and thin in the center, the flatbread is almost like a pizza crust. A kiss of char had blackened bubbles in the bread which beautifully sopped up the flavorful sauces.

Vayal's is located about a mile away from the longstanding central Phoneix restaurant and market New India Bazaar. But the next closest Indian restaurant is around 7 miles east. To the west, there's not another Indian restaurant for nearly 20 miles. Judging by the bustling restaurant packed with hungry diners on a Tuesday, Vayal's has filled a need.  But the crowd isn't there out of convenience. This new neighborhood spot serves Indian food to rival the best across the Valley.

Vayal's Indian Kitchen

507 W. Thomas Road
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