The world is divided into three groups. The first have never heard of the world ‘chipotle’. The second think that chipotle is a spicy sauce, used to add flavour to Mexican food. A select few individuals, however, know that Chipotle is a smoke dried jalapeno which is used to add earthiness, spice and heat to Mexican dishes.
Last week, we were introduced to the Chipotle chilli and subsequently became members of the third, minority group at The House of Chipotle’s new outlet in Lower Parel.
The House Of Chipotle: The Background
The House of Chipotle, or THC as it is fondly known by fans, was started earlier this year by Pranaay Pathak, Siddhant Thakur and Tanveer Abdi. It first launched an outlet in Bandra, followed by one in Andheri, followed by the most recent one in Lower Parel.
The QSR chain – as you can probably tell from the name – places a focus on Mexican cuisine; it’s the first restaurant to serve a Chipotle Rice Bowl in India and has a variety of other Chipotle-staring dishes like Chipotle Chicken Burger, Chipotle Fries, Chipotle Nachos and Chipotle Paninis on the menu.
Talking Chipotle And More With Chef Pranaay Pathak
The Chipotle sauce that THC uses is Chef Pranaay’s own secret formula, which he spent an extended amount of time developing with the Indian palate in mind. “The sauce has no jalapenos as I wanted it to appeal to the Indian palate,” he said to us when we stopped by Lower Parel’s THC. “For the same reason, the sauce is mayo based rather than tomato based,” he added.
Indeed, an understanding of the Indian palate was one reason he chose to start a Mexican cuisine focused eatery. “The cuisines are very similar,” he said. “Both use a lot of chilies. Both are rice based.”
Later, he went on to further explain how the two cuisines are married in THC’s dishes saying “the smokiness in my food comes from the Chipotles and the spiciness comes from Indian chillies.”
This complex balance of flavours is perhaps a metaphor for the complexity of Pathak’s own culinary journey. Before founding THC, he worked with Chefs Vineet Bhatia, Heston Blumenthal and Andy Varma while studying in London. He recalls running into Blumenthal when working at Chef Bhatia’s Rassoi and saying “’Sir, I’d like to work for you.’ Three months later, I worked with Heston in his kitchen,” he reminisces. After that, he went on the work with Andy Varma and at Harrods and Selfridges food counters.
A few months later, he flew to LA to pursue further studies and was enamoured by the food truck culture. “I was inspired by the movie ‘Chef’,” he recalls. “I used to go find Mexican food trucks and ask if I could help out with chopping or preparing.”
It was at around this time that Pathak ate at Chipotle (the US Mexican chain) and was inspired by the flavours.
After six months in LA, he came back to India and teamed up with Siddhant Thakur. The duo then met Tanveer Abdi who owns Biona – The World Cafe in Bandra and The House of Chipotle was born.
Tasting The Talk
“I knew there was no Chipotle Rice Bowl in India”, Pathak said to us, adding that now the rice bowl is one of THC’s most popular menu items. The rice bowl is made by blending a vast variety of ingredients together to create a wholesome, delicious meal.
However, before we dug into the bowl, or indeed the rest of our meal, we tasted the much-discussed Chipotle sauce. The sauce comes in three variants – Mild, Spicy and Very Spicy, which if you’re planning to try, the menu wishes you “good luck”. Erring on the side of caution, we opted for a spoonful of the Spicy variant. With that one spoon, we could already understand why THC’s regulars are infatuated with its food; the sauce was wonderfully creamy and both spicy and smoky.
We then moved on to the Chipotle Fries. “I got the idea for these remembering when we were students in London and could get fries for a pound,” Pathak said as he served us the hot fries doused in dollops of Chipotle sauce. “You need to scoop up two or three fries in one go,” he advised. Doing as he suggested we loaded our forks with a generous amount of fries and stuffed our mouths. We were rewarded with the gratifyingly crunchiness of the fries balanced out with the creamy sauce.
We then moved on to sample the Nachos, which Pathak told us are different in that they are served cold. Should you want to parcel them up and take them home, THC will put the toppings and nachos in separate containers saving them from becoming a soggy mess. Made in-house, the nachos were fried to perfection and were topped with oodles of the Chipotle sauce, shredded cheese and tender chicken.
Then, we sampled the Classic Grilled Chicken Panini which again boasted tender chicken , crusty warm bread (also made in-house) and cool coleslaw making for a variation of temperatures.
Finally, the signature Chipotle Rice Bowl arrived at our table. On THC’s menu, it is described as ‘a perfect blend of hot & cold ingredients served together’ and it was just that, with a vast combination of ingredients including tangy coriander lime rice, mushy refried beans, creamy avocado, shredded cheese, crunchy peppers, tender chicken and finally the Chipotle sauce to tie everything together. The rice bowl, we believe, is the perfect symbol of what THC has to offer; a balance of textures, flavors and temperatures which work together to create delicious dishes.
Want to get a taste for yourself? Head over to THC’s Lower Parel outlet. They also have an outlet in Oshiwara and will be opening a central kitchen which will fulfill delivery orders soon.