Guppy by Ai is the latest pop-up restaurant to spawn at the former Olive in Mahalaxmi Racecourse.
A follow-on from the famous flagship restaurant in Delhi, the menu features a condensed version of the establishment’s signature dishes of Japanese cuisine including sushi, sashimi and mains.
Tiptoeing through the doors sees one whisked away in a proverbial whirlwind and transported to a place far from the hustle and bustle of Bombay.
Lights are dimmed to a whisper while a singer croons softly, strumming a guitar: this setting is as romantic as you can get. And I love it.
The wine list is small and not fantastic – mostly obscure labels, with storage an issue – each bottle I request comes out ice cold.
I order three dishes in quick succession, however they come out in a funny reverse order which has a detrimental effect on the taste of the final meal- wait and see.
I’m thrilled by the mention of miso marinated black cod, having been privy to a version at another establishment which induced a rush of adrenaline and left me speechless. I hope this will be the same.
The piece of fish which turns up looks huge; presented on a large stone, it sizzles away merrily.
I dig in and am underwhelmed by the taste – while it is good, very good – it has not been marinated for long enough, which means the flavour is not as intense as one would have hoped.
First-timers will be happy enough, however miso cod aficionados will be left unsatiated, waiting for the all-too familiar hit which never comes.
The size of the fish is generous and can be shared by two people.
Next the pork belly turns up. Cutely cut squares rest on skewers drizzled with soy honey and sesame seeds.
Not expecting much, I pop one into my mouth. Holy mother of… this is what I’ve been waiting for!
The combination of fleshy pork and sweetness of sauce coupled with the crunch of the sesame seeds makes for a glutton’s paradise.
The flavour punch of the belly makes up for the lacklustre cod. What perfection.
The tuna tataki is something I was expecting to arrive as an entrée, however its unfashionably late entrance means the clean freshness of the fish has been lost after the richness of the pork belly.
The artful placement of leeks, pickled onions and salad add a zingy, crunchy element to the thickly cut fish, with spicy wasabi bringing up the rear.
Certainly it would have been a great dish had it come out earlier with the palate first been subjected to its clever mix of flavours.
Normally a raw fish fanatic, I find myself drowning each piece of fish in soy sauce to wrench some flavour from it.
The service at Guppy by Ai is spectacular – each guest is greeted warmly and with genuine friendliness.
Even if the staff do not know the answer to something, they make it their priority to find out in an efficient and classy fashion.
Each step of the way, the diner is treated like royalty; this made for a happy experience, even if the food and wine were not 100 per cent up to the famous mark.
The gentle, lulling outdoor setting makes for a magical experience and brings back the romance of dining al fresco.
I’m sad this restaurant is a limited pop-up. The good ones always get away.
Service 10, Food 9.
Guppy by Ai is located at the Amateur Rider’s Building, Mahalaxmi Racecourse, Mahalaxmi.