MAROLI (630 Bloor West, at Euclid, 416-483-5393) Complete meals for $16 per person, including all taxes, tip and a juice. Average main $9. Open Tuesday to Sunday 11:30 am to 3 pm and 5 to 10 pm. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
Maroli owner Naveen Polapady is ready for a fight at his new location next to the KFC on Bloor West.
After three hard years of cooking Indian food in an anonymous plaza and carving out a niche among the fickle, spoilt-for-choice uptown eaters, Polapady was informed that he had to vacate the premises to make way for a Sobeys supermarket.
If you have any doubt regarding his antipathy to big food corporations and his willingness to take it to the Southern-fried man, just check the posters adorning the walls of his pleasant, brand-spanking-new location. They say Stick It To The Colonel and other such things.
But have no fear, all of Maroli's antagonism is directed toward the string-tied one. You'll never meet nicer people serving behind a counter.
Maroli's weapon of choice in its battle against the Colonel is Malabar chicken ($7.99), which takes its name from India's southern coastal region. Pieces of boneless thigh are coated with a rub featuring 16 different herbs and spices (lick that finger, Harland Sanders), deep-fried in vegetable oil and served on a bed of lettuce with plain basmati rice.
The result is tender chicken with a modicum of heat and an intriguing, compelling flavour that evokes Chinese five-spice powder. As a lunch special at $5.99, it's about as healthy and economical a meal as fried chicken can be.
Other dishes don't stray from Indian resto standards. Vegetable biriyani ($7.50) delivers good spicing and heat but would benefit from more fresh than frozen vegetables.
The tikka salad lunch special ($4.99), a fresh but plain Indian chicken salad served with rice, cries out for some sort of homemade yogurt dressing instead of the supplied pack of Kraft Italian.
Butter paneer ($9.99) allows vegetarians to enjoy all the creamy richness that has Torontonians so enamoured of butter chicken.
But coconut milk gets overplayed in the shrimp Malabari ($9.99), which needs greater reduction to focus flavour. So stop in for some Malabar chicken and Toronto's latest culinary David-and-Goliath cockfight.