The quiet, upmarket and staid Lodhi Colony, New Delhi is a diametrically contrasting location for Ai, which in its earlier avatar ruled the roost at a mall in Saket. Having shed its lounge theme to don the vibrantly coloured, anime and manga inspired and decorated restaurant hat, Guppy by Ai is funky and cool, appealing to the youth and the young-at-heart and it does it well. Colours clash but with no dissonance- whether in chairs and tables, the table service, the lighting, the wall decorations, soothing at the same time in your face. Guppy’s décor shall definitely be talked about among the dineratti. Giving décor competition is Chef Vikram Khatri of Olive Beach fame, who holds court here with a varied menu that showcases a number of delectable dishes besides the usual Japanese suspects, sushis and sashimis.
Pawan and I sported an expression of dismay, as if someone had snatched our favourite ice lollies, when Chef Vikram, regretfully informed us that the famed Guppy signature Black Cod and the Yuzu Lemon Cheesecake were out of circulation due to their oven being on strike. But the alternatives that were on offer made our evening a thoroughly enjoyable one, yet.
The Snow peas, Beans and Kikurage Mushroom was delightful, the crunchy, shredded juliennes of the vegetables and the fungus drizzled with the nutty, tasty walnut dressing with hints of crushed flax seeds in sesame oil. Guppy Signature Pork belly is perhaps one of the best pork bellies ever, slow braised and glazed with sweet soy honey, sesame crusted and topped with chopped spring onions and served with mustard miso sauce. It was exceptional, the pork both crispy and soft, every mouthful a culinary journey by itself. The dish is served with pickled carrot, ginger to ease any resultant acidity that such a rich dish may lead to. This is a must try.
The Miso Soup was slightly denser and spicier, the fermented soy-bean soup garnished with tofu and spring onions. The Scottish Salmon Sahimi was buttery and melt-in-the-mouth with the pickled capers giving it a tangy edge while the Andaman Tuna Sashimi, the deep red, rich, velvety fish unusually spiked with burnt garlic and accompanied by Japanese berries called Yamamu. But it was the Spicy Salmon Special roll that had us on a roll, the salmon rolled perfectly in sticky rice with the spicy mayo and the wasabi glazed tobiko – pearly green, bursting in the mouth, releasing the extraordinary flavour of the flying fish roe.
We found the wasabi that was served separately, to be less pungent and less flavourful. Sharing this feedback with Chef Vikram had him bring forth the wasabi tube that was being used and small dollops squeezed out for us to taste and pronounce the right flavour. The immediate and enthusiastic fashion in which our feedback was handled goes to show that at Guppy, food and patrons are taken seriously in equal measure.
The Teriyaki glazed Artichoke and Tofu is a main course extraordinaire, the grilled soft, juicy artichoke and tofu garnished with crunchy sprouts and pakchoy, with the chilli-lemon glaze giving it a spicy tangy twist- a veritable vegetarian gem. The Tenderloin Cube Steak of Bangalorean provenance was given a magical makeover by Chef Vikram, the slightly chewy meat rendered highly palatable by artful searing, giving it a smoky crisp outer layer and a just right meaty texture. The spicy Japanese sesame sauce converted this ordinary meat dish into a gourmet delight. The Fried Rice, flavoured with ginger juliennes and prawns played a satisfying second fiddle to the delicious main course.
By the time it was the turn of the Chashu Ramen– Homemade egg noodles in a pork and soy broth simmered on fire for 72 hours, we both were full up and really could not do justice to the meal-in-a-soup-bowl. The ramen was done al dente, the whole dish a medley of textures and flavours with boiled egg, pork crackling, spinach, seaweed and corn garnished with sprinklings of ginger, white sesame seeds, chopped green onions and nori leaves that vied with one another to take the honours for a wholesome and satisfying meal.
The Warm Carrot Cake was an apt finish to a delicious meal, the cinnamon and nut flavoured cake, spongy and resplendently buttery, the mascarpone frosting a true icing on the cake in more ways than one. The tiny marzipan carrot sitting atop the cake reminded us of the fun element that runs through the ambience of the restaurant and which spilled over in food too.
Special mention must be made of the wait staff at Guppy. Rarely does one see such well-trained staff- friendly, warm, helpful, honest enough to admit their limited knowledge of certain dishes but promptly scampering off indoors to consult and come back with their lack of knowledge corrected and information shared with the patrons. It is a trait shared by the much-lauded Chef Vikram too that despite his busyness that evening, he kept coming back to seek our feedback and discuss the dishes being served.
The end of our meal populated the restaurant with young people, loud and effervescent but thoroughly having a wonderful time. With a fun and colourful ambience, selective dishes and varied flavours, Guppy has all the makings of becoming a favourite hangout of the yuppies in town.
Disclosure: This review was done upon the invitation of the restaurant.
Ratings (Out of 5):
Food: 4.0 | Ambience: 4.0 | Service: 4.0 | Overall 4.0
Meal for two: Rs. 2000/- (Without alcohol) | Credit cards: Accepted | Alcohol: License Awaited
Address: Guppy by Ai, 28, Main Market, Lodi Colony, New Delhi | Tel: +91 11 24690005/24690006