Maroli has been around for a while so it's about time we gave it a featured review on this site. A Koreatown favourite, it's known for its annual Malabari Food Festival and being one of the few downtown restaurants specializing in dishes from the Malabar region and southern state of Kerala.
We arrive and feel immediately welcome in the stylishly quaint pumpkin-coloured dining room, with comfortable casual seating. It fills up quickly as the night goes on. The low-pitch murmurs of conversation and gentle unobtrusive Indian music flowing over the speakers around us exude an authentic, vibrant aura.
Service is more friendly and helpful than we'd expect from any restaurant. The staff guides us through the menu as if taking us on a tour of southern India, which feels like we're interacting directly with the chefs, making the dining experience much more enjoyable.
The menu lies mostly at the lower end of the spice scale catering to a typical North American palette that may not be representative of our tremendous Toronto foodie population. Here's what we ordered:
Nadan Chicken Curry ($13.99). This succulent Malabari curry with hints of tamarind and curry leaves had us wanting more of it throughout the evening with its delicately spicy coconut gravy.
Malabar Mutton Stew ($14.99). A mild coconut stew that we enjoyed, but the chewy, firm mutton made us yearn for even a cheap cut of stewed lamb instead.
Butter Chicken ($12.99). A renowned Indian favourite across the globe, with Maroli's version featured in a Food Network TV clip on their website, and declared to be the best in Toronto (but not by us). Though the sauce was typically creamy and flavourful, the chicken was rather dry, and we did not find it to be particularly unique.
Vegetable Biriyani ($8.99). Basmati rice with assorted vegetables, cilantro and Malabari biriyani spices gave this dish a very wholesome, hearty taste that we would recommend not just for vegetarians, but for anyone.
Vegetable Kurma ($9.99 - top photo). Another meatless specialty highly recommended for any carnivore, with a mix of vegetables tossed in a creamy cashew and coconut gravy. As stated on the menu, it is "from God's Own Country".
Meen Pollichathu ($18.99) - Weekends Only. A Pomfret fish baked within a banana leaf with Kerala spices had a pleasant aroma, but the fishy taste of the Pomfret put it near last place for us.
Malabari Roti ($1.50). We enjoyed these dense, traditional flatbreads to compliment our main courses.
Overall I'd recommend Maroli for its variety of tasty main courses - both meaty and vegetarian courses - but patrons craving an intra-oral inferno should ask for spicier suggestions from the staff, or for the chef to be more liberal with the chillies.