The pop-up trend in Mumbai is fast catching up. Restaurants and chefs from other cities are gearing up to pop-up here for sometime to showcase their best creations. For instance, if you want to try the food and drinks in Delhi’s Guppy by AI, you don’t actually have to travel to New Delhi for that. It is here in aamchi Mumbai, right in Olive, Mahalaxmi Racecourse! The Guppy pop-up, which started in August last year, is doing amazing Japanese contemporary set lunches and making waves in the media as well. AN and me decided to “pop-in” and check out their set lunch menu last weekend, as we received an invite for an exclusive tasting session at the serene Mahalaxmi outlet.
The seating was comfortable and inviting and the place was well-lit, with natural light coming through the glass windows.
As I grew up in Delhi, the word “Guppy” sounded familiar and related me to that of a cute child. Guppy is also the name of a tropical Rainbow Fish. Whatever is the meaning, the Guppy pop-up is surely as adorable as a child and as vibrant as a Rainbow Fish! The interiors will give you a feeling of sitting inside a rustic cottage, with interesting patterns on the walls. The vibrant, tastefully done interiors is soothing to the eyes. We loved the little hearts all over the walls. Even the mat on our table had instructions on how to make an Origami heart while you wait for your food to arrive. There was a small Japanese kimono framed on the wall, which was attracting my attention.
The décor is charming and not loud. The cushions looked cute with Japanese doll prints. Red-painted window panes and door, and green walls in the exterior were perfectly complimenting the overall vibe. The simple green curtains in the outdoor space also added to the quirky appeal.
Chef Vikram Khatri won many awards and accolades to the Olive restaurant in Delhi. These include the best Japanese restaurant, best sushi chef, top 100 dishes of Delhi and International Chef of the Year for two consecutive years, including one at the 7th International Chef’s Award in 2010.
I was impressed by the fact that Chef Vikram Khatri, the brains behind the Guppy pop-up, has made sure that the vegetarians have enough choice here. Chef Khatri has over a decade of experience of working with Japanese restaurants. Having seven years of experience at Sakura in Delhi, as well as a stint at the Ocean Room, Sydney, Australia’s finest modern Japanese restaurant, here’s a confident chef, who understands Japanese cuisine to its roots and loves giving it his own contemporary twist while playing with bold flavours. Japanese food is not just raw fish and through the Guppy experience, the chef will prove you that. Chef Vikram Khatri explains, “The concept of organising a Pop-up is to have a better understanding of an existing product in an alien market. The best part of this pop-up was to work with an existing team of chefs and managers and translate their knowledge of cooking and serving Mediterranean/European food into a Japanese product of consistently high standards – and as it is said, half the battle is won if you have good soldiers on board!”
The special menu created by Khatri is quite interesting. They have six kinds of vegetarian and non-vegetarian Japanese set menu. The meal is just right for a light working lunch or a relaxed afternoon with friends. Sharing his thoughts, the chef further says, “It’s been very exciting to test out a mature market like Mumbai and having the Guppy Pop-up at Olive, Mahalaxmi, is an ongoing learning experience, constantly innovating with unique dishes, the freshest ingredients and the most sought-after global concepts.”
We kicked off with a healthy serving of Edamame: one with sea salt and the other a bit spicy. The Edamame beans in the pod were very fresh, and this simple and healthy dish was a great nibbler, before we started our actual meal. Thumbs up for this!
Holy Basil and Wasabi Mary.
Going through the drinks menu, we ordered a mocktail (Holy Basil) and a Japanese-inspired cocktail, called Wasabi Mary, a marriage of Bloody Mary with Sake. Lookwise and tastewise, the mocktail was very refreshing and a must-try. The Wasabi Mary was an interesting combination and I enjoyed each sip, though I did feel that adding a little more wasabi to it would have given an extra pleasant kick to this cocktail. Other signature cocktails in offer were Kafferini, Saketini, Pineapple Saketini, Gari and Mint and Cucumber Saketini.
We tried the Spicy Grilled Tenderloin Set and the Grilled Jumbo Prawn Set. The Green Salad with Wafu dressing came first, with a tasty sesame touch.
The Mushroom Suimono and the Miso Soup.
The Miso Soup and the Mushroom Suimono soon arrived. The Miso Soup was average, but the Mushroom Suimono had a depth of flavours. We preferred the latter soup more than the miso.
We tasted both the sushi options. The Japanese Veg Roll was yum and I was more impressed to find yamagobo (a kind of Japanese pickle) in the sushi. Both the kinds of sushi served were inside out, with the nori in the inside part, rather than outside. The serving staff told us that some people (especially the vegetarians) do not like the fishy taste of nori seaweed hitting their tongue first. So they prefer serving the inside-out sushi for the set lunches. The interesting thing was the crushed, crisp tempura scattered over the vegetarian sushi, which added a unique texture. The sushi of the day was Tuna Sushi, which was also good. The fish used for the non-veg sushi is either tuna or salmon, and they make sure that the fish is very fresh. Their fish doesn’t come from local markets, but from the Andaman and Scotland, as the staff explained to me.
Next, we were served the Garlic Fried Rice and Udon Noodles with Exotic Mushrooms. Both these dishes were great and the flavours were balanced.
We paired these up with their amazing Spicy Tenderloin and the Grilled Jumbo Prawns.
The Spicy Tenderloin was simply delicious. It was medium spicy with a slightly sweet note and coated in a soy-based sauce. The meat was soft and succulent. The grilled prawns were juicy and delicious. These went very well with both the udon and the fried rice. We recommend you to try both the Spicy Tenderloin Set and the Grilled Jumbo Prawn Set: these were fabulous!
Now we were expecting the dessert. But the chef had another surprise for us. He served us one of his signature dishes: the Slow Braised Pork Belly. Slightly charred from outside and glazed with soy honey, this was heaven! Pork belly of such good quality and cooked to perfection made our day. As I write about it, I am craving for the Pork Belly once again. This is definitely one of the star attractions in the Guppy pop-up menu! (Please note that the Pork Belly is not a part of their set lunch menu.)
The dessert in the set menu followed. The Petite Four looked beautiful and sophisticated! This looked light and had a plenty to offer. We liked the Wasabi Green Tea Macarons and the Hazelnut Cake the best, although the Chocolate Mousse, the Cheesecake and the Chocolate were also very good. What an awesome way to end a meal without even feeling overstuffed!
This is the year’s first restaurant review in my blog and I am glad to experience the Guppy pop-up set lunch menu. With enough options available for the vegetarian as well, the set lunch is surely going to rock!