Coming to Mumbai and settling in Bandra from a little town in central Texas, it wasn’t long after I stepped off the plane that I started scoping out local eateries in search of a passable burrito. It should be noted that I wasn’t expecting any Mexican miracles 8,931 miles away from home. This was especially true considering the fact that the consumption of beef — a vital ingredient on any Tex-Mex menu — is an absolute no-go throughout the entire state of Maharashtra.
Realizing this, I thought my Mexican culinary experiences would be relegated to sub-par chicken quesadillas and some generic red sauce falsely labeled “mild salsa.” I’m happy to say, however, that after visiting the two most popular burrito spots in Bandra West – Uba Tuba and Burrito Factory – I’m not nearly as disappointed as I thought I’d be.
Uba Tuba – Reclamation (Bandra West)
Uba Tuba is situated on a relatively quiet stretch of pavement on Chapel Road in Bandra – just up the street from the well-known Mount Mary Basilica and a stone’s throw from a number of quality bars off of KC Road.
The seating arrangement is pretty typical of what you’ll see elsewhere in this part of town. There are a few small stations inside near the kitchen and a number of more sizable tables on the covered porch. The decor is simple, but the hanging sombreros and colorful chairs leave no doubt that you’re about to stuff face on something uniquely un-Indian.
Since I was on the lookout for a decent wrap on my first visit, I opted not to fuck around with salads, nachos or freshly pressed juices. I knew what I was after, and I quickly dropped an order for one grilled steak burrito.
Now I’ve quickly come to realize that the word steak can mean anything from buffalo to lamb meat in this part of the country, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. After a short wait, a cleanly sliced burrito, a handful of tortilla chips and a small dish of surprisingly tasty salsa was delivered to my table. The picture below is a pretty shitty representation of the actual presentation, but full-disclosure – I was so hungry that I ate half the meal before I remembered to snap this admittedly low-quality photo.
The actual burrito was relatively small compared to what you’d find in the states, and it was topped with sour cream and what I suppose could pass for guacamole in some circles. It was tightly wrapped in aluminum foil, but once removed, the wrap was still folded in a way that ensured minimal spillage. I’m pretty sure the mystery “steak” in this dish is buffalo meat, but I’m never positive. I’d say that well-seasoned lamb is also a possibility. Regardless, it was freshly grilled and spiced in a way that blended well with the cilantro rice and black beans.
After polishing off the main dish and all of the chips and salsa, I was actually so impressed and pleased with what I’d just eaten that I decided to toss in an order of chicken quesadillas for good measure. They were, let’s just say, adequate. The burrito, however, was pretty damn solid – far better than what I expected to dig up in this part of the world.
My experience was good overall, but one thing that was definitely missing was a cold beer to wash down the salty meal. I get that liquor and beer licenses can be tough to get in this town, so I suppose I’ll keep my complaints to a minimum in this department.
When it was all said and done, Uba Tuba managed to toss me some decent quesadillas, a burrito, chips and salsa, and a 500ml bottle of water for a grand total of 714 INR. I walked away from this place stuffed and happy, knowing that they’d definitely just earned themselves a repeat customer.
Burrito Factory – Pali Hill (Bandra West)
Burrito Factory, the other promising contender in this culinary squabble, is located in Pali Hill about two kilometers north of Uba Tuba.
I had heard about this spot a few weeks before, but I didn’t actually decide to stop and eat here until I was dropped off nearby on a random shopping trip.
Now I don’t claim to know much about the origin of “California Burritos”, but I do understand that they typically consist of carne asada, cheese, sour cream and french fries. I’m not super keen on the idea of shoving fried potatoes inside my tortillas, but I figured – what the hell? How bad could it be?
When I walked into the restaurant I was told to head upstairs and chill until someone could take my order. I immediately noticed that the dining area was pretty Spartan – a couple of small pictures on the wall and a few sets of generic tables and chairs. Since a place with the name “Burrito Factory” isn’t exactly a spot you’d frequent for fancy ambiance, I wasn’t shaken. I was on a mission for a quality burrito, and I wasn’t about to let a low ceiling and white walls fuck up that experience.
I decided to stick with what I know and order a grilled steak burrito made with buffalo meat. I wasn’t sure how it would be presented considering that they label themselves as a California burrito spot, so I was surprised to see a tiny pile of fries on the side when the server came up stairs. I emphasize the phrase “tiny pile” because I was literally presented with a grand total of nine small french fries. After snapping the picture below, I got past the laughable side portion of potatoes and took a quick peak inside of the burrito.
The foil-wrapped, single-sliced presentation looked almost identical to what I saw at Uba Tuba, but the actual tortilla fell to pieces when I removed the foil. After piecing it back together as best I could, I managed to down the first half of the burrito pretty quickly. The steak was tasty and the ingredients seemed fresh, but I suppose I was expecting something different from a self-labeled Cali burrito restaurant. I dropped a little Tabasco sauce on the second portion, stuffed face, and paid the check without feeling the need to order anything else. The food was decent and I was full – sure – but I definitely walked out wishing I had gone back to Uba Tuba instead.
All things considered, the final cost was reasonable – around 350 INR.
At the end of the day – you win some and you lose some. But as far as burritos in Bandra are concerned, I’d put my Texas credentials on the table in support of Uba Tuba any day of the week. I can only imagine that it’s tough trying to support a Tex-Mex menu without beef, booze and certain ingredients that are widely available back in the states, but I do think that both restaurants are doing a decent job with what they’ve got.