There are three things that come to mind when reviewing Thai Marlai in Cornelius: (1) service and friendliness of the staff; (2) loads of veg choices; and (3) freshness of ingredients.
First, service. Sometimes ethnic places can be a little intimidating for me – I’m dealing with unfamiliar dishes or taste combos and am not sure what to order, or the staff seems impatient or downright rude (hellooo, Dejai Thai!), or in some cases there may be a language problem. Not so at Thai Marlai! The owner met us at the door and seated us. Very friendly yet totally deadpan, she kept up a constant stream of chatter and comedy. She worked the table, telling stories, making menu recommendations, even doling out funny relationship advice. She’s also been in the Charlotte area since the days “Carolina Medical Center” was “Memorial Hospital” – so her English is flawless. After dinner, I was loitering outside as the restaurant was closing – and all the staff, as they left, gave us friendly smiles, nods, and “good nights.”
Second, choices. Any underlined item on the menu can be made vegetarian. So, that’s a choice of 3 appetizers, 4 salads, 4 soups, 4 curries, 3 “specialty dishes,” 11 stir-fries, and 4 noodle dishes!
Third, freshness. I wasn’t feeling very well so I was unadventerous and ordered the Pad Thai, extra spicey. Our hostess recommended she bring me the condiment dish instead. Once the food was brought out, she selected one of the condiments for me and it turned out to be the perfect complement to the Pad Thai. The condiments are all house made and you can really taste the difference! I still might have preferred my selection a little hotter but it was such a flavorful dish it didn’t really matter. My companion ordered the vegetarian Kang Dang – a Thai red curry in coconut cream sauce with bamboo shoots, green beans, chili, basil leaves, and tofu served over rice. This was outstanding, with beautiful fresh flavors of ginger and basil. I didn’t taste anyone else’s food at the table, but everyone seemed to be enjoying their meals.
One more point to note: They are aware enough at this restaurant they will AUTOMATICALLY omit the fried egg from Pad Thai, fried rice, and other noodle dishes if you order them vegetarian. Nice!
One Location: 19700 One Norman Boulevard, Cornelius, NC 28031. Closed Sundays.