Shell Collection: Eight Of Mumbai’s Best (And Most Unique) Tacos

For a city sorely deprived of Mexican fare, there’s no paucity of tacos on restaurant menus in Mumbai. Like the sandwich, the Mexican street snack lends itself to experimentation. The taco is now a staple on regional and multi-cuisine menus with chefs getting creative with their tortillas and fillings. Gastropubs such as The Monkey Bar in Bandra and restaurants such as The Bombay Canteen in Lower Parel have popularised desi versions of the snack packed with Indian ingredients. Others such as Pa Pa Ya, Joss and Umame serve Thai and Korean hybrids. Here’s our picks of Mumbai’s best tacos.

Paprika spiced lamb tacos at The Clearing House.

Paprika spiced lamb tacos at The Clearing House
Calicut Street, Ballard Estate. Tel: 022 6223 2266.
Keep a sweet beverage on standby while tackling the pungent taco at this high-end spot in Ballard estate. For the filling, diced lamb is first marinated in smoked paprika and jerk spice and then grilled in the tandoor. The pungent paprika clings to the smoked meat, which is offset by the creamy cabbage slaw laid as the bed of the taco and mild aioli served as the dipping sauce. The hot, meaty mixture served in a crisp taco shell, made using a blend of cornmeal, regular flour and dry oregano, would make for a great breakfast taco while nursing a hangover. Rs580 (excluding taxes).

Grilled chicken avocado tacos at Pa Pa Ya
Third Floor, Palladium Mall, Phoenix Mills, Lower Parel. Tel: 88280 31900. Also at Hotel Diplomat, Whitehouse Building, 24-26 B. K. Boman Behram Marg, Apollo Bunder, Colaba. Tel: 022 2204 4441.
At this South-East Asian fusion restaurant, they’ve attempted a Thai version of the Mexican snack featuring curried chicken blended with guacamole to make it creamy. The outcome is perhaps better suited for Farzi Cafe, the fusion Indian restaurant chain that belongs to Massive Restaurants, which also owns Pa Pa Ya. The dish is flavoured with Thai herbs, galangal, lemongrass and Thai chilli, yet the well-cooked chicken tastes distinctly Indian owing perhaps to the curry powder lavished on the shredded meat. The chicken is stuffed into light, fried, crunchy gyoza shells. The taco is unarguably addictive even if somewhat misplaced on their menu. Rs395 (excluding taxes). 

Goan pulled pork vindaloo tacos at The Bombay Canteen
Unit 1, Process House, near Radio Mirchi, Kamala Mills, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel. Tel: 022 4966 6666.
The Bombay Canteen’s unique union of Goa and Gujarat has spawned many variants of desi tacos across the city. The unlikely coupling of methi thepla with judiciously spiced pork vindaloo infused with Goan coconut vinegar is rightfully among their most popular offerings. The restaurant indulges you further by garnishing each neatly contained thepla with a shard of crispy pork skin tinged with chilli powder or what they call desi chicharrons. Rs325 (excluding taxes).

Laal maas phulka tacos at Monkey Bar.

Laal maas phulka tacos at Monkey Bar
Ground Floor, Summerville, junction of 14th Road and 13th Road, same lane as KFC, off Linking Road, Bandra (West). Tel: 022 3015 1853.
The taco has undergone a complete desi makeover at the bar chain with branches in Delhi and Bangalore. Light phulkas substitute the taco shell and packed inside the taco-sized chapatis is a wealth of Indian ingredients such as red chilli-braised Bannur lamb, mirch achar mayonnaise, whole green chilli, ker sangri sabzi, onion and white radish slaw and garlic coriander chutney. It’s a busy, messy, textured snack with a wallop of flavour and is extremely satisfying with a boozy cocktail. Rs320 (excluding taxes). 

Pulled cumin jackfruit tacos at It Happened in New York
68 Chapel Road, opposite Starbucks, near Lilavati Hospital, Bandra (West). Tel: 022 2644 6161.
It gladdens us to see jackfruit on menus and thanks to this casual-dining Bandra restaurant, we’ve learned that it makes a tasty taco stuffing. They cook the flesh in olive oil until it turns into chewy pulp to which they add cumin seeds, salt and chilli flakes. The taco itself is quite thick as the shell is made of equal proportions of black rice and cornmeal. The cooked mushy fruit is quite bland but once it’s assembled with pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream and coriander, the taco rivals any of the meat varieties on this list. Rs300 (excluding taxes).

Grilled shrimp tacos at The Table.

Grilled shrimp tacos at The Table
Ground Floor, Kalapesi Trust Building, opposite Dhanraj Mahal, Apollo Bunder, Colaba. Tel: 022 2282 5001.
We typically opt for grilled shrimp between their choice of fish and prawn. The latter are succulent, charred until they’re lightly smokey in flavour and veiled in a understated chilli lime mayonnaise that doesn’t mask the sweet flavour of the shrimp. Cabbage and finely chopped cilantro and onion make up the crunchy garnish. The wedges of lime served with each of the three tacos in a plate come in handy if you like your seafood with extra pucker. The accompanying roasted tomato sauce and pico de gallo are full of flavour albeit superfluous with this dish that needs no improvement. Rs880 (excluding taxes).

L.A.’s Korean taco with pulled pork at Joss and Umame
Ground Floor, Savoy Chambers, next to the Mini Cooper showroom, Linking Road, Santa Cruz (West). Tel: 022 2661 7771. Also at Umame, First Floor, East Wing, Cambata Building, same building as Eros cinema, Churchgate. Tel: 022 6635 6908. 
This hybrid made it to our list for the glorious overload of pork in the dish. Farrokh Khambata has adopted this L.A. food truck favourite that is typically served with beef bulgogi and kimchee slaw and put chicken and pork variants on his menus at Joss in Santa Cruz and Umame in Churchgate. The fried flour taco shell brims with fat-laced strips of evenly cooked belly that is marinated, cooked sous vide, fried then sliced and rubbed with gochujang and hoisin so that it’s half sweet, half umami and deeply porky. Rs730 (excluding taxes).

Tempura fish taco at One Street Over
One Street Over, Ground Floor, Navrang Building, near National College and Hotel Linkway, off Linking Road, Khar. Tel: 022 2600 2224.
Bandra gastropub One Street Over maintains the integrity of the Baja-style taco that combines batter-fried white fish, slaw and a creamy white sauce. The kitchen employs snapper, which is encased in tempura that is crisp and notably greaseless. Shredded  iceberg lettuce and jalapeno salsa form the bed of the soft taco topped with a dollop of sour cream. If you crave chilli, spike the taco with a spoonful of their house-made Sriracha. We typically only need a squeeze of lime before we devour the tortilla. Rs650 (excluding taxes).

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