All About Japanese Cuisine and Food at Guppy: What’s the first word that pops up in your head when someone says Japanese food to you? Sushi, right? Well to dispel that exact myth we were invited to this almost a year old Pop-up at Olive Bar and Kitchen, in Mahalaxmi that funnily enough is named after a tropical fish called Guppy. Guppy by ai, a delhi based Japanese restaurant popped up in Mumbai last year, bringing along with it some good Japanese food.
Chef Vikram Khatri, Delhi based chef, visits Mumbai every month to run the pop-up. He is the brains behind the Guppy menu, with the knowledge he has gained about Japanese cuisine for over a decade (14 years). He extended an invitation to us, to tell us more about his focus on vegetarian Japanese cuisine and all about the food that is served at Guppy. All this helped us get rid of the taboo that it is all about the raw fish. No it isn’t. We learnt how Japanese was 80% vegetarian due to Buddhist influences, and is definitely much more than just sushi.
He talked about how much attention is given to the quality of meat used in their dishes, as in the past, he did face some inconsistencies. Japanese food is also very healthy. His menu gives you an option to choose Uramaki Sushi made with black rice, which is unpolished and highly nutritious.
Why fixed lunches and table brunches? We were explained how Chef Vikram wanted the visitors to try more than just one particular dish and get a complete feel of a Japanese meal. Bento boxes are usually an answer but while bento boxes could be a good idea, considering Indians are used to the thaal format of eating, Chef Vikram did not sound like he was thrilled with the idea of serving tempura which had a risk of getting eaten cold. Therefore the set lunches which will help foodies get a clear idea of what the cuisine is all about, without having to worry about ordering extra or less.
Our tasters on duty! The Chef has been a little busy with work, therefore we had a new taster on board! Along with the Foodie, who will help you understand the flavors that you will experience at Guppy, we have The Techno One. His love for gadgets, dicovering good food in the city, is quite known to all of us. After reading the set lunch menu, he seemed to be an appropriate choice for the tasting. Even though Japanese food is not something he is familiar with, spotting a good steak, is his area of expertise. Did the food at Guppy turn him into a Japanese food lover? We shall find out at the end of this review.
On the menu: Vegetarian Salad in Wafu dressing Miso Soup and Mushroom Suimono Uramaki Sushi: Black Rice California Roll with Crab and California Roll with Salmon Main Course : Spicy Tenderloin and Grilled Jumbo Prawns. Chef’s Recommendation: Slow Braised Pork Belly with Mustard and Miso sauce. Dessert: Petite Four.
The Foodie: The city has been filling up fast with Japanese restaurants in the last couple of years. A lot of Asian restaurants around the city helped me develop that taste. I have to agree there is a gradual increase in my appreciation for Japanese Food. Guppy by ai that popped up at Olive bar and kitchen last year, contributed to my always growing knowledge in that area.
The Salad that came up first was one with a Wafu Dressing, which is a vinaigrette based dressing. Wafu translates to “Our dressing” therefore a typical Japanese dressing. Nice and tangy, the virgin sesame oil, rice vinegar, peanuts and sesame seeds, added that crunch and some major flavor to these very fresh lettuce leaves that were mixed with grated Diakon and carrots. I finished the entire bowl of that salad and was one step away from licking the bowl for that lip-smacking dressing.
The Sushi along with wasabi and nice pink gari, was good too. Although the jar, in which the soy was kept, wasn’t the easiest thing to serve soy with. Firstly I almost passed it off as a part of the table décor and even though it was the cutest little kettle ever, it wasn’t the friendliest when it came to pouring the soy on to our little bowls. The black rice California roll with crab meat and California Salmon roll were very tasty. The Salmon roll had roe studded to the rice layer, which burst in your mouth and added great flavor to the sushi. For me, there are only two ways of describing sushi, good or bad. This was good, for the simple reason that it did not break when I tried to lift it with my chopsticks AND it was delicious.
The soup shots that arrived at our table were very cute to look at. Those soup shots are usually how they are served at their lazy table brunch. Here is a pic of the actual portion.
The Miso Soup, is a traditional Japanese soup with a salty and rich flavour. It is basically miso paste (fermented soya bean paste also made with fermented rice) dissolved in dashi which is a stock that lends the umami flavor to the soup. The soup also has wakame, an edible sea weed, tofu, season vegetables and spring onions. You have to let this one grow on you; there are chances that it might not be your favorite if you are having it for the first time. I really liked it, after having acquired a taste for it. If your soup starts separating, don’t worry, just stir it right back to its normal self. Miso soup is a very nutritious soup though a little high in sodium. The Mushroom Suimono tasted like a good mushroom clear soup should taste. Made with five kinds of mushroom, that included shiitake and button mushrooms. The soup left that delicious lingering taste in my mouth.
Moving on we were served our main course along with udon noodles and garlic rice.
The garlic rice was sticky rice tossed in garlic soy and had fried garlic flakes on top. Udon noodles in the tonkatsu sauce, with generous amounts of sesame seeds, mushrooms, baby corn and other vegetables. I liked them along with my main course, which was the Grilled Jumbo Prawn, in pepper garlic sauce and assorted seasonal veggies.
The dish was beautifully plated, with the prawn shell placed on the side. The prawn was beautifully cooked in one of my favourite sauces along with what looked like Edamame greens, cherry tomatoes and sesame seeds. I enjoyed it way more with the noodles and the rice on the side.
We didn’t forget our vegetarian foodies in all this, though. We requested the chef to help us with a Vegetarian main course. In response to which he promptly sent out
a Tofu with a Teriyaki glazed and grilled artichoke, topped with asparagus and cherry tomatoes. It was served on a bed of seasonal greens, in this case sprouts. Healthy, yes. Tasty? Meh. The chef mentioned the Artichokes are canned so have a flavor to them that didn’t need much work. It did add some tang to the dish. Overall, the dish to me felt like it was a little too light to be on the main course. Maybe when accompanied it with rice or noodles it makes for a more filling dish.
The Pork Belly was incredible. Slow braised pork with honey-soy, giving it just the right amount of sweetness and the mustard-miso sauce, giving it just the right amount of punch. This dish is definitely why I would come back to Guppy. This is not a part of the set lunch menu and was sent out to us, by the chef.
About the drinks, I ordered a Saketini, I’m guessing they make it with Sake. I quite liked, it came with a lemon leaf, in it, which added a lemony essence to the drink. The Wasabi Bloody Mary was something I couldn’t finish, as not only was it a little too strong but I couldn’t get the wasabi taste for which I ordered it initially.
As a hard core, regular reviewing foodie and an enthusiastic home-chef, I like to break down everything I eat and understand each flavor. Hence the lengthy review. However, if you want to know how this food would taste to a foodie who doesn’t always care about the ingredients and just wants to try something new, our Techno One sheds some light in that direction. In a simplified manner, of course.
The Techno One: My experience with Japanese cuisine has been limited at best and far from fun. Guppy singlehandedly took all those notions I had and kicked them in the nuts. Now I don’t know how true to its roots the cooking is, and frankly I don’t care. All I know is, my taste buds were having the equivalent of an orgasm. From the very first bite, all the way through to dessert. Yes that’s how much I love my food. I relate it to s*x. The menu hit the spot the moment it read Spicy Tenderloin. Surprisingly though, almost every other item on the list was one hit after another.
First up – A veg salad with Wafu dressing. The sound of veg excites me as much as exercise does, but that dressing was tangy and full of flavour while the vegetables were fresh as can be. Next arrived the Mushroom and Miso soup. Clear but certainly not watered down, it was warming up the appetite just right with its tasty slices of mushroom.
Sushi came right after and considering I’ve never been of the fan of the food, I was completely shocked by how fast my opinion was changed. I tried two kinds: one with Crab and Black rice, the other with Salmon and white rice. Both topped with caviar, both fresh and the melt-in-your-mouth variety. Dipped in soya sauce and just a tiny bit wasabi, it all just worked brilliantly together. Then came the one I’d been waiting for. The pièce de résistance: the Spicy Tenderloin in spicy Japanese sesame sauce and vegetables. I’m not a huge fan of any food that’s just plain spicy, and luckily the steak was balanced out with a just hint of sweet and a torrent of flavour. In three simple words, it was Tasty. As. F*ck. The meat was done just the way I like it – medium rare. The flavours worked together beautifully. My only complaint? I wanted more! But that’s just the glutton in me talking.
It’s a tiny little monster in my belly that wakes up on rare occasions such as this. The meat feast continued with some pork belly on a stick. Again, excellent quality of meat complimented by some stunning flavours. I picked a Sagetini off the cocktails menu to wash it all down. I wouldn’t say it was noteworthy, but the little drink served its purpose. Mains also included some garlic rice and udon noodles. Again, not my favourite part of a meal but these were cooked well and flavoured generously.
The meal ended with some Petit Fours that included frozen chocolate-coated strawberry, green tea macaroon, baked raspberry cheesecake and some almond chocolate. Cheesecake is usually my dessert of choice but in this case, the macaron was the best of the lot.
Overall, a very memorable Sunday afternoon it turned out to be. The chef’s tweaked the taste to our palettes and for me, he’s nailed it. If there’s a place in town that can warm you up to Japanese cuisine, Guppy is it.
Our impression so far: Chef Vikram has done a great job, and his culinary skills are evident with the way he talks about his food and the different kind of dishes, on his menu. The attention to detail, facts he shared with us about the cuisine, made it an interesting affair.
And here’s some more: There is a special winter menu, which is listed below which can be tried, if you go there. A good amount of options for all the vegetarian foodies too!
Options for Set Lunches: (Mon to Sat)
Teriyaki Glazed Artichoke and Tofu (v)
Teppanyaki Stir Fried Vegetables (v)
Grilled Tomato and Scamorza (v)
Grilled Jumbo Prawn
The Price List:
Rs. 900 plus taxes for the Vegetarian Set Lunch
Rs. 1050 plus taxes for the Non-Vegetarian Set Lunch
Sunday Table Brunches, with their live sushi counters, fresh tempura and robata grills in place, cost around Rs 1850+taxes without alcohol and Rs 2500 +taxes with alcohol. A little on the steep side, this brunch.
You make Miso happy: (trivia) On asking the server a little more about the miso used, he shared a story about how miso soup is a very popular soup in Japan, and young girls on being proposed ask the guy if they can make them the perfect miso soup. That’s some standard one has to live up to, phew!
Value For Money: -NA-
Special Mentions: A big thank you to the staff of Olive for having us and Farhan for his pictures and review!
(The Bombay Foodies had been invited to check out the Guppy Pop-Up. The staff and Chef knew of us coming but honest reviews have been given by the reviewers.)