Tasting the Hanami-Inspired Spring-Summer Menu at the Guppy Pop-up by AI, Olive, Mahalaxmi Racecourse
Chef Vikram Khatri, the person behind the Guppy Pop-up by AI at Olive, is one of my favourite chefs in Mumbai. Both his traditional and contemporary ways of dishing up divinity inspired from Japanese cuisine, makes me drool. The way he styles food has a touch of minimalism and sophistication, and he does justice with every ingredient he uses. In each of his dishes, there is an interesting medley of colours, textures and flavours. The Spring-Summer menu (#SS15Menu) this year at Guppy is inspired by the Japanese Hanami (watching cherry blossoms). As the dishes are carefully planned keeping the season’s heat in mind, you can expect vibrant, “easy-on-stomach” dishes and drinks just perfect for the Mumbai summer.
Among other ingredients, the #SS15Menu has Yellowtail Sashimi, Kabocha squash (Japanese pumpkin) and different seaweeds. Traditional Japanese cold noodles and cold noodle soups are a must try here as these cool Japanese dishes are apt meals to beat the Mumbai heat. Chef Khatri has used Sakura (cherry blossom) wood to smoke some of his dishes in this seasonal menu! I also love the fact that this #SS15Menu at Guppy focusses on vegetarian dishes as well, and you can see a good number of vegetarian dishes in the menu. I would say that even the most ardent non-vegetarian must try some of their vegetarian dishes, and I strongly recommend this.
Tucked away in Mahalaxmi Racecourse, Olive is relaxing and a perfect place to enjoy a leisurely meal with friends and family, without worrying for parking space. As I mentioned in one of my initial blogposts this year, I really appreciate the rustic interiors every time I come here. The ambience is amazing, although I do have an issue with a few houseflies hovering around, but the staff here assured that this will be taken care of. I have no doubt saying that the Guppy by AI pop-up at Olive, serves delicious Japanese food in Mumbai. Food is a delightful adventure here and the summer menu will definitely “wow” you!
When AN and I were invited for an exclusive summer-menu tasting, we recalled our last experience and already knew that good food will follow. When we entered the peaceful Olive, Chef Khatri greeted us and explained about the #SS15Menu. We were excited as he said that he himself would cook for us. The kind of food that landed on our table soon after that, made us crave for each of these dishes for the next few days!
When the chef told us that the first dish that he would make for us was the Seaweed and Mesclun Salad, frankly, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. When we lived in Hong Kong, I was pretty much used to eating Kelp, but the problem was that although these are super-healthy, I always hated its strong smell. Surprisingly and admittedly, this was the first time I had a seaweed salad so delicious and crunchy. Most importantly, it did not have any unpleasant smell! Young mustard, different kinds of seaweeds and baby greens were tossed in an amazing plum vinaigrette. The acidity of the vinaigrette played the trick and made the seaweed salad extremely flavourful. The presence of small amounts of chopped Nori sheets and Agar agar strips in the salad made it stand out. We loved the salad very much and could have eaten a few more platefuls of this.
We had a mind-blowing vegetarian soup with smoky flavour at Guppy, called Sakura Wood Smoked Pumpkin Soup. It was garnished with crisp pumpkin seeds and Sanso dust. It was simple, but brilliant. This pumpkin soup was balanced in flavours and was very satisfying. We strongly recommend you to try this, even if you are a non-vegetarian.
We loved the Salmon Tartare. Based on the classic combination of salmon and avocado, this tartare was creamy and umame! Served on cucumber slivers with Tobiko and Bonito mayo, this was a complete gastronomical experience in itself. Together, the tartare and the sour-n-spicy cucumbers were an explosion of flavours! And those salmon roe on the top added lovely texture to the tartare. This was our favourite among all the dishes served. They also have a vegetarian tartare with slow-cooked tender beetroot. But with a Salmon Tartare so good, I am one happy person.
We tried two kinds of Gyoza (potstickers) here. The Exotic Mushroom Gyoza was better. These vegetarian versions of Gyoza were gluten-free, crisp-bottom steamed potstickers, served with Chilli Ponzu Soy dipping sauce. The Prawn Gyoza was made with organic flour and had black Tiger prawn filling in them. These were pan-fried and served with the same sauce.
The Guppy-style sushi and sashimi are very popular among Mumbai foodies. The delightful Futomaki Sushi Roll (large sushi roll) had fresh salmon, tuna, Tamago and crab: a celebration of seafood.
The vegetarian sushis are very interesting here and worth trying. Do check out the addictive Black Rice Vegetable California Roll. With a covering of perfectly cooked black rice, the interior of the sushi had a winning team of cream cheese, avocado, Takuwan cucumber and asparagus.
The cocktails were lovely, too. While AN sipped a Cosmopolitan, I tried three different drinks, and all of them were good. I would recommend the summer cocktails Cucumber Saketini (Gin, Sake, fresh basil leaves and cucumber juice), Mango Daiquiri (Sparkling wine, Bacardi and fresh mango) and Hibiscus Punch (Vodka, Hibiscus tea, sugar syrup, lime juice).
All these cocktails pair perfectly well with the kind of food they serve at Guppy. These are absolutely relaxing drinks to cool you off!
They have wonderful rice and cold noodles in their menu, including Zaru Soba / Zaru Udon (cold soba or udon noodles served with Tanuki, scallion, wasabi / ginger and chilled bonito soy broth) and Hiyashi Somen (Japanese thin angel hair noodles served on ice with ginger soy dashi). The Hiyashi Chuka (chilled ramen noodles topped with prawns, crab stick, fresh cucumber, Wakame seaweed, served with flavoured vinegar and soy broth) is another great option.
In such cruel Mumbai heat, won’t you love a cold, relaxing green tea soba noodles? What we had was an absolutely light and summery, chilled green tea noodle dish called Hiyashi Tanuki Cha Soba. It was served with Tanuki, scallion, wasabi and chilled soy-flavoured broth. Very humble and tasty, this dish will give you the true taste of Japan!
The Chicken Katsu Curry Rice is a very flavourful dish and suits the Indian tastebuds well. Panko-fried succulent chicken leg was chopped into long, thick pieces and served with Japanese curry and steamed rice. Yum!
We tried two kinds of neatly presented Japanese desserts. We were mesmerised with the colours, as much as we loved the deluxe and delicious desserts. The Mango, Liquorice and Coconut Sorbet with five-pepper Sansho dust was absolutely refreshing. The Matcha Pudding is a must-try. A perfectly made Matcha green tea pudding matched perfectly with a sweet toffee sauce and sweet red beans. The elements in this Japanese dessert were a meld of symphony. Although we loved both the desserts, their amazing Matcha Pudding was the one that I would love to eat again and again.
The summer menu at the Guppy pop-up at Olive is full of interesting flavours. I loved the fact that some dishes were very traditional and some were modern. The service was unrushed, casual and easy-going. Since none of the dishes disappointed us, it was a refreshing Japanese lunch experience for us. If you haven’t been to the Guppy pop-up yet, now is the time.
(The Guppy by AI / Olive Bar & Kitchen is in Amateur Riders Club Building, Mahalaxmi Race Course, Mahalaxmi, Mumbai.)