Kairali South Indian Restaurant
South Indian cuisine is known for its abundant use of spices, coconut and vegetables and we have limited opportunity to enjoy this style in Auckland. I have always enjoyed the food at the well-known Satya restaurants, so was keen to try the food at Kairali South Indian Restaurant in Royal Oak.
The restaurant is located opposite the always-busy Pak ‘n Save store. On this chilly winter evening we ventured just after 6pm into a chilly and empty restaurant. We were given a warm welcome and the staff member moved the oil heater over to our table and turned it on. We were counting on the spices in our food to do the rest!
The restaurant has a very simple decor, but good tables and chairs. There is a photo display of some of the dishes offered in the menu. We settled in to look at the options. We discovered that the menu offers a mix of North and South Cuisine, so we tried a little of each. I had hoped for a larger variety of vegetable dishes to try, but not to be.
We started with the platter of vegetable pakoras served with a mint/yogurt sauce ($9). These were slightly overcooked but not at all greasy, and the three of us devoured the 7 pakoras very quickly. I managed to score a pakora with lots of chili, so I was no longer complaining about the cold! We appreciated the jug of chilled water.
We shared a variety of dishes for our main meal: Chicken Biriyani ($17); Vegetable Chettinad ($14) and Malabar Lamb Curry ($18). We ordered three Parotta bread ($2 each) and I just had to try the Appam fermented rice pancake ($3). Our meal came with a complimentary large bowl of basmati rice, perfectly cooked.
The Biriyani arrived in a brass serving dish and was topped with a poppadum as a lid. We dug our way through the layers to get the rice, meat, sauce and spices. There were three pieces of chicken and also a hard-boiled egg. I haven’t had Biriyani for awhile so do not have a ready comparison with other restaurants, but I enjoyed the spices, especially the cinnamon in the dish.
The Malabar Mutton Curry was more indicative of South Indian cooking. The mutton was very tender and was served with a rich roasted coconut sauce or gravy and topped with curry leaves. This was my personal favourite of our main dishes. The Vegetable Chattinad dish had a delicious sauce that sang of cardamom, and I only wish there had been more fresh vegetables rather than the frozen mixed vegetable variety.
If your only experience of Indian flatbread is naan bread, then you are in for a treat with the parottas here. These are thin layered flatbreads that are light and flakey. Delicious! I also enjoyed trying the Appam fermented rice pancake. My only other experience of fermented flatbread has been enjera, so this was something new for me. It was a thick and spongey flatbread not at all stodgy that had a slightly sour taste from the fermentation. Perfect for soaking up sauces, and I really enjoyed it.
We did our best but didn’t manage to clean up all the food. We could have had the food packaged up to take away with us, but we declined.
The food at Kairali was good, well-presented and served by friendly, helpful staff. Bring along your own wine or beer and make an evening of it.