If we had to nominate one street-food cart from Mumbai to feature on the popular reality TV series Eat St. on Fox Traveller, it would be Karl Kothavala’s Universal Kabab Kona (UKK). Located next to an Aarey milk booth on the quiet street behind Bhatia Hospital in Tardeo, it comes to life at 6pm daily with kebab sandwiches made with Kothavala’s home-made Boursin herb and garlic cheese, green mint chutney and caramelized onions in soft semi-circle buns.

A disco ball-like lamp, pop and jazz hits on a stereo and Kothavala’s jovial presence add to the UKK’s quirky, bare-essentials set-up, good enough to compete with the food trucks of North America and Europe that dish out everything from authentic Filipino and Jewish deli fare to farm-fresh vegan plates and gourmet burgers from trailers and vans.

Kothavala, who lives on Altamount Road, says the UKK is a result of happy accidents. He stumbled upon his maternal grandmother’s recipes for making cheese at his family’s farmhouse in Deolali, Maharashtra. The recipes, combined with “intensive YouTube sessions", led him to set up an artisanal cheese brand, Say Cheez, with his business partner Rashmin Sayani. Together, they supply Philadelphia-style cream cheese, French boursin-inspired garlic and herb cheese, mascarpone and crème fraiche to restaurants like Cheval, Khyber, F Bar and The Spare Kitchen. A midnight craving resulted in his signature dish—the pocket sandwich.

The pavement stall was set up in October 2012 as a one-dish business centred around Kothavala’s recipe, created initially from leftovers in his refrigerator. “I found a pizza base one night, so I cut it in half and stuffed it with some kebabs that were lying in the freezer and herb cheese. It tasted so good that I just knew I had to do something with them," he says. After toying with multiple ideas to sell his sandwich pockets, he decided to partner with the owner of the milk booth as it was the least risky plan. Kothavala says the business did extremely well for the first eight months but when things turned sour with his business partners, he left.

Last month, Kothavala not only brought the UKK back to its original spot, but also set up another outlet inside the food court at Sterling Cineplex in Fort and expanded the menu to include several more vegetarian sandwiches, seafood options and snacks, like French fries, prawn samosas and chicken wings.

Our favourites are all originals: the Mutton Naram Garam Kabab Pocket stuffed with four spicy mutton seekh kebabs, caramelized onions, barbeque sauce, and filled with herb and garlic cheese; the Chicken Malai Sheek Pocket; the Chicken Bacon and Sausage Pocket; and the Cross Dress Pocket that comes with two chicken and two mutton seekh kebabs.

The desserts, a chocolate panna cotta and an apple pie and crumble hybrid, arrive fresh daily from Paagal Khana, a Walkeshwar-based patisserie of the husband-wife team Milind and Rachita Shah. We weren’t too impressed by their apple dessert and remember enjoying a far better apple pie at the UKK, sourced from another baker nearby.

Two new outlets, one inside the Radio Club and another on 3rd Pasta Lane, are also in the works, as is a bigger project called Pocket Pub for beer, wine and the UKK’s pocket sandwiches, says Kothavala. He also hopes to find a few more spots for UKK street stalls in the coming months.

“Street food in the city is all about pav bhaji and vada pao," he says. “So when we started, we just wanted to show Mumbai that there’s so much more we can do on our streets. We’ve managed to turn UKK in Tardeo into an adda."

Universal Kabab Kona, at the Aarey Milk Stall, outside the gate of Wallace Apartments, Bhatia Hospital lane, Tardeo. Daily, 6-11.30pm. Vegetarian sandwich pockets start at 110; chicken and mutton sandwich pockets start at 135; seafood sandwich pockets start at 170; and desserts are priced 70 onwards.

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