¡Arriba! ¡Arriba!

Chinita Real Mexican Food
218, Near BDA Complex,
Double Road,
Indiranagar, Bangalore,

30th March, 2017

“So! You’ve got your results. 90 percent in English, 90 percent in Mathematics, and 90 percent in Science. That’s…Oh, wait! What’s this? 85 percent in Social Studies? It’s just a small blemish, isn’t it? An overall of 89 percent. I can see from your face that you seem quite happy with your marks. Did you top your class? No? Yes, well I thought not, especially after Sharma-ji  – our neighbour – came with sweets to celebrate the fact that her son came in first in your class. How much did he get? Oh yes! 95 percent! And I thought that 89 percent was the highest one could get. Silly me! Tell me, if  he could get 95 percent, why couldn’t you? Surely, there is no reservation quota for top marks! Am I right?” – Indian Parent

Parents, in particular, those of Indian-origin are known to be avid ‘comparers’ – a term that refers to one who tends to differentiate between two or more things.  “So what? Everyone compares! Why single out Indians? Why are they so different?”. A valid query and one that is certainly worthy of clarification. Everyone compares – yes, so much is true. For instance, if an NIP (non-Indian parent) were to enter a grocery store to buy a cereal for his kid, he would, for sure, compare the prices of all cereals before deciding to buy the cheapest (other factors remaining the same). After all, why would one want to spend $11 on a cereal when one can purchase the same for $4.50?! An Indian parent, much like the NIP, would walk into a grocery store and stare at the cereal stand, no doubt comparing the various prices on offer. However, much unlike the NIP, once done with his comparisons, he will walk out of the store (sans cereal). “Well, why didn’t he buy the cheapest item like the other parent?” Herein lies the difference. The Indian parent does not stop at comparing the prices of the cereal brands in one particular grocery. No, no, no, no! He has to make sure that the cereal he purchases is the cheapest cereal available in the 5 mile radius. You see, otherwise, the poor parent risks being ridiculed, not only by his spouse, but also by the nosy Indian neighbour next door, who more often than not pays a visit during his evening stroll for a cup of tea or something more (it’s always something more!) – “You bought that for $4.50!! Are you insane? You’ve could’ve bought the same damn thing in the next shop for $2.50. What a waste of your money!”

Their (Indian parents’) obsessive compulsive need to compare reaches its peak when it comes to comparing their children – amongst themselves or with others. Eerily similar to the many-faced God, this type of comparison takes the form of different avatars – their personality (“You should go out and make new friends…like your sister!”); their career (“You want to take a gap year? You know what happened to Patel’s son when he took a gap year? He is living in his parent’s basement!”); and their grades (“You got a 3.5 GPA in your final semester? The Singh boy got 3.75 GPA! Why can’t you be more like him?”).

So you would think, then, that one (child) could prevent such comparisons from taking place by simply emulating (or even better) one’s so-called competitors. As I said, that’s what you would think would happen. Indian parents, however, tend to take the more scenic route with parenting. After all, topping a class is only as good as it sounds (and feels) if you’re alone, atop the summit, waving your untethered flag.  “Oh! So there were three others who topped the class, including you? Must have been an easy semester exam then!”. Sigh! Talk about trying to be as unique as a snowflake. Speaking of, I think it’s time we got back on the right track. After all, this long-drawn exposition must lead to something bigger (something food-related!).

London, Paris, Tokyo, New York. The renowned food centres of the world. So, what makes them so special, so different from the rest of them? Is it the abnormally large number of restaurants? Is it the wide array of cuisines on offer? Or is it the number of Michelin stars that they possess? Yes.  However, it is worth noting that these cities are firm and stout believers of the phrase “quality over quantity”. It’s not enough that these cities possess a high number of restaurants; they need to be authentic and/or must be of high standards. Whether the same can be said about Bangalore is debatable. One thing is for certain, though, it won’t be for want of trying. 

For example, the Curious Case of Chinita. One of the prime examples of restaurants, in Bangalore, making an effort towards providing diners with authentic food, while conforming to the highest standards. Nestled away in the mouth of Indiranagar – the proverbial ‘beating heart’ of Bangalore’s culinary industry – this Pequeño Mexicano Ardiente (fiery little Mexican) has sought to put to bed the debate over the city’s best Mexican restaurant. And I’m not talking about their food (well, not yet!). Bangalore is no stranger to Mexican wave, with several restaurants plying their trade across the city. Taking cue from my exposition on being unique, these restaurants have strived towards differentiating their product so as to gain an advantage over their next-door competitors. So how do they differentiate their product? Do they introduce a new item on the menu? Adopt a molecular gastronomic approach? Or as it happens with so many restaurants – add a little “twist” to their food?! In the case of Chinita, it was the addition of four simple, yet significant, words – ‘The Real Mexican Food’.

The. Real. Mexican. Food. These four words are more than just a mere addition to the restaurant’s name; it’s a statement of intent. A stamp (or golden plaque) of authenticity of the food that is being served to diners at Chinita. A statement so bold and brave that I just had to see it for myself. Through the next few paragraphs, I aim to teleport you, readers, from the present to the past (and back to the present), as I compare (yes compare!) my recent visit to Chinita with my first.

(Past) We arrived at the foot of the staircase to the restaurant at a quarter to eight in the evening. Hunger, like the summer heat, slowly started to creep up on us and we hurriedly made it up the stairs, only to find ourselves be greeted by a queue of ten people, each eagerly awaiting their turn to sit down and dine at the fully booked restaurant. The wait, much unlike the heat, was not wholly unexpected. We were well informed (warned, rather) of Chinita’s relatively compact dining area while the restaurant’s notoriety of refusing reservations has been well documented. 

(Present) It was half past seven in the evening when my sister and I set our feet on the first step of the restaurant’s staircase. The weather was similar to what we had encountered the year before, albeit there was a slight breeze in the air this time (the stars were brightFernando!). As we made our way upstairs to the restaurant, we were greeted by a sound unfamiliar to the area. It was the sound of silence. Unlike the wait we had endured the first time around, there were plenty of seats and options to choose from this time.

(Past) As we awaited our seats, we were handed the menu cards by the waiter, who gave us the option of placing our order beforehand; this would save us the wait for our food after we got our table. The menu did not seem too extensive – as is the case with most restaurants – with the choices being limited to authentic Mexican food. We placed our order as the waiter made his rounds to check upon those waiting. 

(Present) We were seated at the table and were immediately handed the menu cards. The wait during my previous visit had me well acquainted with the items on the menu, and it did not take us too long to place our order – a Virgin Margarita each, a sharing plate of Vegetarian Nachos (sans guacamole), the Grilled Chicken Tacos for my sister, and the Grilled Chicken Burrito for myself – dishes that we hadn’t sampled during our first visit to the restaurant.

 ( From left to right ): Vegetarian Tacos; Grilled Chicken Tacos; Grilled Chicken Burrito; Churros
(From left to right): Vegetarian Tacos; Grilled Chicken Tacos; Grilled Chicken Burrito; Churros

It wasn’t too long before our starter was brought to our table. A large oval-shaped plate of Vegetarian Nachos. The presentation of the tortilla chips on the plate was surprisingly amusing, with the chips placed in a manner similar to the ends of a Shuriken (throwing stars). The chips, in of itself, were freshly baked/fried (the detail escapes me) and crispy – even the ones buried under the copious amounts of salsa and beans. Quite impressive! The abnormal mound of salsa that enveloped more than half of the plate was well-balanced. The tanginess of the tomatoes was well complemented by the spiciness of the beans and the juice of the chopped jalapeños. The dollop of sour cream was a welcome addition to the dish. The only ingredient missing from the dish was the white sheet of melted cheese, which would have truly completed the dish. As I munched down on my share of the nachos, I couldn’t help but realize that I had grossly overestimated my appetite, which had slowly started to diminish. I was afraid that I had made the most common of dining errors – I ordered too much too early. 

We had barely finished the tortilla chips on the plate, when our main course arrived – the Tacos and the Burrito. Each dish served with a side of tortilla chips (barely a handful) and a lime wedge for that everyday kick! The tacos – two lightly grilled corn flour tortillas, each with a filling of grilled chicken shreds well coated in salsa and topped with a spoonful of sour cream and a handful of chopped jalapeños. While the tacos and the filling were both cooked perfectly well, with the former not being too floury and the latter being soft and moist on the inside, I felt the filling to be quite disproportional to the size of the tacos. There wasn’t enough on the inside as much as there was on the outside; this was particularly felt when my sister took bites of just the corn tortillas. Fortunately, there was still an abundance of salsa left from our nachos, which my sister gladly dipped her tacos into in order to get some flavour in those dry bites. 

The same (concern) could not be said for my Burrito. Presented inside tightly wrapped aluminium foil, my first impression was of home-packed lunches for school that my mother used to prepare. However, the proof of its quality lies in its taste and not in its appearance, which when I slowly opened the aluminium foil wrapping resembled – to quote Gordon Ramsay, “a bison’s penis” (to be honest I’ve never seen one!). As I picked up the burrito, the weight was a clear indication of the struggle I was to endure for the next twenty minutes or so. The filling inside – grilled chicken, salsa, cilantro rice, sour cream, and jalapeños – was enough to bloat not only the burrito but also my stomach. If there was one complaint that I had about the dish, it was that the flour tortilla could have been grilled for a longer period, as there were times during my meal when I felt that the tortilla got too soft and damp and eventually gave way to the filling inside. This made for a very messy meal! Messy yet satisfying! 

Bloated like the burrito that was placed before me, I was unsure of whether my stomach could digest not only the food I had just eaten, but also the idea of me ordering dessert. I looked over at my sister, and we both contemplated whether we had room for dessert. Of course, there’s always room for dessert! So, we went ahead and ordered the Churros (what’s Mexican food without Churros). It was the first similarity in both visits to the restaurants.  The menu clearly stated that the dessert would take fifteen minutes to prepare, enough time for our stomachs to make a little room, keep a little space, show it a good time! Fifteen minutes later, our churros arrived. In splendid fashion, the churros resembled an untouched, unsharpened pack of Staedtlar pencils – all placed in a mug. Served on the side, was a creamy, rich chocolate sauce.We each grabbed a churro and began to lather it with as much of chocolate sauce as we could get. Now, I have made churros at home and I can safely tell you that it is an art to get them exactly right (I’m not here to tell you about my experience). Well, churro making is definitely an art that the chef at Chinita has perfected. The deep fried dough was cooked at the right temperature (and for the right duration) so as to get the outside coat hot and crispy, while the inside was still soft and oozing with sugary delight. We were down to the last churro, with both our stomachs unable to take much more. However, food like this can hardly be wasted. So, with every inch of my body and every muscle in my stomach, I managed to chomp down on the churro.

With the only functioning part of my body – the hand – I waved to the waiter to get us the cheque. I don’t know whether it was the meat sweat or the rising heat from outside, but by the time the cheque had arrived, I could see drops of water drip down on to the bill, and my fingers slipped through the numbers on the card machine. As I looked around, I noticed the crowd coming in and lining up at the doorway. Ah! The unfortunate souls, I feel their pain. We wobbled our way past the queue, down the stairs, and into our air-conditioned Uber. If Chinita was ever made to stand in court before a judge, who was asked to verify the veracity of their claim to authenticity, I can safely say that it would hold water. After my second satisfying meal at Chinita (and my sister’s third), it is safe to say that the restaurant clearly is “Numero Uno” when it comes to Mexican restaurants in Bangalore. Chinita may be “Little Chinese Girl” in Spanish, but it only proves correct the saying “Big things come in small packages”. 

Chinita Real Mexican Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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