Till a year ago, college student Kushal Todi and his friends were always on the hunt for an eatery where they could shoot the breeze over inexpensive food for long hours. This quest was the trigger for the finance graduate to put his money where his mouth was and open Kurries & Burries near Wilson College in Mumbai.
Kushal’s idea of providing Tex-Mex and South East Asian food in a QSR format with minimal frills and at economical prices seems to have paid off, as youngsters can be seen forsaking Starbucks situated across the street in favour of Kurries & Burries. It also helps that students get a 10% discount on the bill – music to the ears of the current genre of perennially cash-strapped collegians.
To fuel interest amongst the 18 to 30-year clientele, Kurries & Burries has an ongoing ‘Big Daddy Burrito Challenge’, influenced by the Man vs. Food contest. Anyone who can polish off the 16-inch burrito (weighing close to 1 kg) – containing refried beans, crispy baby corn, paneer chilly, kung pao potatoes, salsa, sour cream and cheese sauce – within 12 minutes, eats for free. So far, five people have attempted this challenge and only one has managed to finish the dish within 13 minutes. We decided to try it and failed miserably – even after splitting it between two people.
VEG FUSION FOOD
Keeping in mind the predominantly vegetarian locals, Kurries & Burries offers only vegetarian fare, of which majority can be prepared to appeal to Jains. The recipes are inspired by Kushal’s mother, who he claims is an awesome cook, and have been further worked on by Abraham, the culinary consultant Kushal has tied up with for his enterprise. Abraham is also in-charge of managing inventory, staffing and procuring produce, while Kushal often enlists the help of his brother, father and sister-in-law to help out at Kurries & Burries.
Knowing that there are many restaurants that offer either Mexican or Chinese food, Kushal has decided to push his luck by presenting fusion Tex Mex and Oriental dishes with an Indian touch. He had kept the prices between INR 120 to INR 180 for each dish, with portions that encourage sharing, making it an economical meal. The fare consists of sandwiches, wraps, tacos, nachos, burritos, momos, wok dishes, Thai curry as well as rice and curry options.
We tried the Mango Mocktail (INR 120), a thick mango milkshake made from fresh Alphonso mango pulp, which Kushal sources from a relative who exports the fruit. The Tender Berry (INR 110) is like a virgin spritzer with berry concentrate, soda, lemon juice and mint leaves, which is refreshing especially during summer.
Kushal suggested the Crackling Spinach with Paneer (INR 160), which had big chunks of fresh paneer cooked in schezwan sauce and topped with flash fried spinach and sesame seeds. It was crackling and crunchy, with the right hints of spiciness and sweetness, though you can discern the oiliness of the fried leaves and schezwan sauce by the stains at the bottom of the paper plate on which it is served.
The Mexican Mex-Wich (INR 150) is Kushal’s attempt to highlight fusion food at Kurries & Burries and it has a burrito that is baked, grilled, baked and deep fried – all while it tenuously holds together its stuffing of paneer and Mexican refried beans. Doused as it comes with sour cream and cheese sauce, it is reportedly a hit with the customers, and Kushal says that some have rechristened it Cheese Nirvana.
FUSION DOES NOT WORK ALWAYS
Kushal tried to pull off another synthesis drama with the Mex-O-Fusion Quesadilla (INR 190) by putting a filling of wok-tossed vegetables within a grilled quesadilla, but failed. It is hard to say where the Oriental inspiration began and where its Mexican counterpart met it halfway, because it tasted no different from a regular quesadilla.
The fusion element in the Thai Curry (INR 210), available in red or green versions, is that instead of a peanut-based gravy, the curry is coconut milk based with little peanut and lot of chunky vegetables thrown in. Served with a bowl of steamed rice, this meal is total value for money, and Kushal has not scrimped on the basil leaves and galangal that go into the moderately spicy stew.
He admits that treading the fine balance offering fresh produce at economical prices is tricky and sometimes unenviable but he would rather make a loss and have customers return for more, than be thrifty and put them off. Within two months of operations, Kushal has signed up some corporate clients, setting up pop up food kiosks on their premises. The most recent one was a week-long popup kitchen at Motiwal Osawl where he presented a different cuisine every day. He added that many of these staffers now visit Kurries & Burries regularly because they loved the wholesome food served at reasonable prices.
Kushal’s infectious enthusiasm compels you to overlook inconsistencies in the offerings – from the excessive cream and cheese lathered over most dishes to the stunted plastic cutlery that sometimes hinder in eating the food, or the long wait between dishes, which is at odds with the principle of a QSR. However, one is willing to cut the youngster some slack, partially because he dared to pursue his dream of running a restaurant without any training or grounding in the culinary industry. Sometimes, you will people to succeed merely because their conviction has convinced you!
Photographs courtesy Divya Bhatia