By Prakriti Bhat
Apart from its technological prowess, Japan is also famous for The Hanami Festival. This festival celebrates the ephemeral season of cherry blossoms. Guppy by ai recreates the magic of the Hanami Festival through its dishes by introducing a special menu that captures its essence. The name comes from ‘guppy’, a fish.
It all began with ai, which was a Japanese restaurant cum lounge in MGF Metropolitan Mall, Saket that was shut down due to certain reasons. Guppy by ai was launched in August 2013 in Lodhi Colony and has since received rave reviews. Guppy by ai runs under the patronage of AD Singh along with other restaurants within the Olive brand such as Olive Bar and Kitchen, SodaBottleOpenerWala and Olive Bistro.
The interiors are reminiscent of the original Ai with red hearts all across the walls. The place also seems to have been heavily influenced by the anime and manga culture which is quite evident from the walls and the few books that are kept on the window-sill. The Olive brand has a tradition of having a courtyard-like area in all its branches and Guppy by ai is no different. It has a separate patio which also acts as the smoking area.
I was greeted by Mr. Nishant Kr. Gaurav, the assistant manager who gave me a brief history of the place. Also, he was very patient with my incessant questions about each dish. Chef Saurav Sharan was kind and courteous as he introduced dishes from the special and the extensive regular menu. The kitchen is spearheaded by Chef Vikram Khatri who has won numerous awards for his culinary expertise.
Gari Punch is a mocktail made with mint, sugar, lime, ginger ale and the main ingredient, Gari which is the Japanese ginger. Gari is pink in colour and that is where the colour of the drink comes from, by muddling ginger in the muddler and shaking it with ice. Akane is a drink made with pomegranate, orange and mint. It has a very sharp, citrus flavor. I had asked for Miso soup, it being one of my favourite Japanese delicacies and it was made well with tofu.
Next came Edamame, a dish of steamed soyabeans tossed in sea salt. This was probably the only dish which I did not enjoy much. Tofu and water chestnut Motoyaki was very appetizing and reminded me of our Shahi Paneer in a peculiar way, even though both are quite different. It was baked well in an umami rich sauce. Assorted vegetable Tempura had an array of batter fried exotic vegetables like bell peppers, baby corn, potatoes, onions served with Dashi and spicy mayonnaise.
Next up was the much anticipated sushi- California Roll packed with crabmeat, cucumber and avocado. All the dishes were served with requisite sauces and dips. The California Roll came with wasabi and soy sauce. Prawn Gyoza and Exotic Mushroom Gyoza may look like innocent dumplings but are bigger, juicier and generous in their fillings. These were served with chilly Ponzu sauce, though one can eat them just like that to enjoy the taste of tiger prawns and the mushrooms and avocadoes.
In Salmon Nigiri, a small piece of salmon is placed on a tiny rice ball. One of the waiters flamed the salmon right in front of me. It looks so heavenly that one just can’t stop admiring the detailed designing on the rosy salmon. Salmon Tartare was a vibrant combination of avocadoes between two layers of salmon served on a carpet of cucumbers! The Chicken Udon Noodles were well spiced and had big chunks of chicken along with mushrooms. Among the desserts, I tried Apple and Prune Tart and Blueberry Crepes, both of which ended the meal perfectly.
Guppy by ai keeps the spirit of Hanami alive with its sakura inspired dishes. The detailing and hard work put into each dish is quite visible. However, everyone may not savour this cuisine because unlike Indian cuisine it is not laden with oil and spices and is comparatively quite bland. But for the rest, this is one place you must visit especially during the Hanami Festival to enjoy their special menu. The festival goes on till mid may.
What are you waiting for? Pick up those chopsticks and say sushi!
Address- 28, Main Market, Lodi Colony, New Delhi
Contact no. – 01124690005, 9650185005
Cost for two- Rs. 3000