Kairali bills itself as “a taste of Kerala,” a South Indian state along the Malabar coast. They do traditional dishes that mix the elegance of royal ceremony with the comforts of home cooking, and a blowout $11.99 lunch buffet.
They also do lunch specials from 11 - 3 for around ten bucks. Head chef and owner Raj Kumar used to work in restaurants back in India before opening his own place here.
When we enter Kairali, we’re assaulted with a blast of Indian EDM that’s as exciting as the spicy smells wafting from the buffet area set up against the bar.
The buffet is roughly divided into sections of appetizers, rices, curries, soups, other items like cabbage and daal, and desserts.
Either know what you’re looking for or be prepared to ask because nothing is clearly demarcated.
Before that table, there’s a smaller one with your plates and cutlery, salads, and accompaniments like yogurt, salad dressing, chutney, lime pickle, and hot sauce and tamarind sauce for samosas and spring rolls.
Of course, there’s also hot tray full of buttery, layered flatbread, necessary with everything and as cutlery itself.
I go for the biryani rice, which is a little spicier than other options. This is already starting to look like an amazing deal.
I load up my own plate further with butter chicken, daal (lentils with some snap peas), and a spicy fish curry that seems iconically South Indian.
The daal, samosa and the butter chicken are what you’d expect, the lentils spiced warmly, huge chunks of chicken swimming in creamy tomato sauce. The fish curry is more spicy and unique.
King fish cooked in banana leaf ($10.99) is a traditional delicacy. The aroma of the banana leaf combines amazingly with the complex spicy smells of the thick curry the whole king fish is bathing in inside, and it’s perfectly cooked, chunks of filet peeling right off the bone. Be prepared, this dish brings the heat.
To round out our experience, we also order a classically wafer-thin, epically huge, buttery dosa. It comes with three kinds of chutney made with spices and coconut, perfect for tearing and snacking. Order a Soma Panam lager which is actually from London, Ontario brewing company Cool India. Drinks are cheap, with $4 domestic bottles.
The humble restaurant with plastic-topped tables and vinyl booths seats 60, and there’s a huge patio outside that seats 75 when it’s warm. There is a ramp leading to the restaurant, but it’s surprisingly steep, so be careful when it’s slippery.