Situated in old Durban house, which gives little away from the outside, Mali’s is a treat, from the minute you’re warmly greeted to the exceptional celebration of eastern cuisine on the menu.
The offering is vast and includes a range of both North and South Indian dishes, as well as some Indo-Chinese specialities, on which you can decide over a tasty snack of chickpeas, fried with mustard seeds.
Start off with the mushroom Manchurian, a spicy plate of deep-fried mushrooms coated in Chinese spices with a surprisingly delicious crunch. Meat and vegetarian options include a range of idli (a South Indian savoury cake), impressive large dosa pancakes served with a variety of fillings, or vadai, an interesting savoury doughnut, which is delicious served in sambhar, a lentil-based vegetable broth with a sneaky kick.
Luxurious chicken, lamb, vegetarian and seafood curries can be mopped up with a variety of Indian bread – the masala kulcha topped with sesame seeds is superb. If you can’t choose between the many curry, tandoori, biryani, rice or noodle dishes, order a thali. This South Indian array of dishes is served on a tray and kept warm on a burner at your table, solving some of that indecision problem, with portions of spicy vegetable soup, succulent lamb curry, flavourful butter chicken, dhal, naan bread and crispy papad, as well as sambals and yoghurt. It includes gulab jamun for dessert – a sublime deep-fried milk ball soaked in light syrup with a hint of rose water. Traditionally you’re supposed to use the tray to assemble all the main dishes and eat off it with your hands, but the waiters are prepared for amateurs and bring you a plate and cutlery.
A small list of local beer and wine is available. Dessert drink options include lassis, Bombay crush and milkshakes.
Waiters are patient and helpful with suggestions, making the meal relaxing and enjoyable. Servers are efficient and meals are served promptly.
The dining room is cosy and simply decorated, but comfortable with a lively atmosphere most evenings.
The Chettinad crab curry is the signature dish, but does require at least 24 hours notice when making a reservation.
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