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Tortilla, the ‘San-Francisco’ style burrito chain has recently opened in Cambridge, located just off Market Square. It is actually a surprisingly large restaurant, with a spacious upstairs which can easily accommodate people even when its particularly busy (as it was when I visited). The décor is nice in a sort of soulless chain restaurant way – inoffensive but never a place you’d choose to go to because of the vibe. Nor would I choose to go there for the food.

Starting off was the burrito, which is what Tortilla is known for. I would say on every level the burrito failed. Let us consider the constituent parts on their own: the chicken filling I got was the best part of the burrito, it had an actual bite (something which often the pre-cooked chicken at places like this lack) and hints of a good smoky flavour. The rice, however, was very disappointing – flavour wise it was largely lacking, having only a generic tomato taste, but more problematic was its texture. Good rice in a burrito should have some moistness and congeal together (think of how rice in a paella acts), but here it was far too atomised – I could (and should not have been able to) feel the distinct dry texture of each individual grain with every single bite. The same issue was apparent with the beans, which were largely just mushy round blobs which stood out and hit against my cheeks.

The burrito I got also had, in theory, cheese and chorizo – however these must have been served in such miserly portions as to mark them as effectively absent. This was a shame because I actually located a piece of chorizo which had fallen out of the burrito afterwards, and it was actually pretty solid– good smokiness, a bit of heat, and a lot of fat. The construction of the burrito was also lacking, as the ends weren’t turned up as they should be, with the result that sauce and filling were leaking out of both ends – by the end of the burrito the entire structural integrity had been lost. All these issues would be problematic in isolation, but made much worse when considered in combination – the hallmark of good burrito is the mouth feel and all the ingredients should combine in such a way that the flavours work together. The opposite happened with this burrito; all the different ingredients were alienated and isolated, less a symphony working together and more a discordant mess.

“It’s cheap, convenient, and relatively quick”

I also tried the quesadilla, which I found to be better. It had a good texture: the outside was crunchy, which gave way to an oozing, cheesy interior. Whereas the burrito had a disappointing lack of cheese, the quesadilla delivered on this regard. What really let down the dish was the carnitas (pork) – it was dry and lacking any real flavour beyond generic ‘porkiness’, and it had the taste of something that had been cooked a few hours before and had just been sitting around – which it probably had been. Also included were some Pico de Gallo, which was a solid effort, the raw tomato having a nice sharp bite and a bit of acidity which works well with the fatty cheese. I think the quesadilla, combined with the chicken I had in the burrito, could have been a pretty good combination, but in its form I got it, with the pork, I’d stay away.


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The quesadilla was served with nachos. The nachos themselves were passable, if maybe a touch on the dry side. They were served with two sauces, sour cream and a salsa verde. The sour cream was almost completely tasteless – it honestly had no discernible sour notes and it could have just been called ‘cream’. Its only positive quality was a reasonable satisfying cold, viscous texture which worked not too badly in combination with other bolder flavours. The salsa verde was better, with a good combination of acidity and heat.

Overall there are positives to Tortilla – namely it’s cheap, convenient, and relatively quick. However, literally right outside Tortilla is Cambridge’s market, which has a whole selection of food options which are all around the same price (or in some cases cheaper) than Tortilla. I really cannot think of a reason why I’d ever go back to Tortilla by my own volition when within a thirty second walk exists such great options as the Paella stand, Sarah and Shelly, or the Merguez sausage stand, all of which are cheaper and infinitely superior to Tortilla. Go to them, explore the excellent independent food options which exist right next door – instead of supporting a soulless and disappointing corporation.

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