This August, Olive Bistro finally brought the Guppy by ai pop-up to Poona. Lead by their award-winning Chef Vikram Khatri, Guppy promised fun, contemporary ‘Japaneasy’ food and delicious Tokyo-style Cocktails. I was invited for the preview and was really looking forward to it, having sampled their fare once before at a Farmers’ Market.
Occupying the front yard and inside Bar area of the sprawling Olive Bistro property, Guppy adds a touch more pop art and quirky decor to the already alluring interiors. Accompanied by a friend for this tasting, we started our night by trying a couple of their signature drinks.
The Gari Gari Kun, a combination of house-made rice wine, club soda & blue curacao, was light and refreshing, though the garish blue hue of the drink was quite unappealing to me. I loved the Tatami Cocktail, a mix of peach, pineapple juice, apricot, brandy, lemon and scotch – and ordered a second round. The Ninja Martini with mascerated mint and bamboo leaf vodka tasted as deadly as the name suggests, and I couldn’t brave more than a sip. Another favourite of the night was the Grapes Mushi Mushi, with mascerated pink grapes, house-made rice wine, apple juice & sparkling wine.
The perfect bar snacks came in the form of steamed Edamame with Sea Salt or Chili Garlic topping. Edamame are steamed soya bean pods, and as I discovered, are both extremely appetising and fun to eat. If you thought bar nuts were addictive, wait til you try this!
Contrary to popular assumption that Japanese food is all raw fish, Guppy also features a wide variety of vegetarian options. Some of the Small Plates we sampled were the Exotic Mushroom Gyoza with chili ponzu soy dipping sauce; Crisp Veg Harumaki – vegetable filo spring rolls baked in an oven, with yuzu miso dipping sauce; Rock Corn Tempura of baby corn, sweet potato and American corn with sriracha mayo; Chili Lime Dressed Agedashi Tofu – silken tofu with a crispy coat and a spicy-sweet chili lime dressing.
From the meatier Small Plates, I loved the Chicken Karaage, a Japanese version of soy & sake marinated fried chicken with a spicy kewpie sauce. The Prawn Gyoza with pan fried black tiger prawns and chili ponzu soy dipping sauce was delicious, and had no complaints from me.
Unfortunately, the Tiger Prawn Tempura, though it was perfectly crisp, was slightly under-whelming for my taste.
The dish in demand, was the Guppy Signature Pork Belly. Glazed with soy, honey & mustard miso sauce, it is a sticky, succulent mouthful of meat you definitely don’t want to miss out on.
The highlight of the entire meal for me, was the Uramaki, or ‘inside-out’ Sushi. I fell in love with sushi last year in Toronto, but it’s extremely hard to find a decent place to satisfy any cravings in Poona, or in Bombay (unless you break the bank a bit). The three rolls we tried were the Avocado, Cucumber & Cream Cheese Roll, the California Roll and the Spicy Tuna Roll.
My personal two favourites were the California Roll with Salmon (substituted for crab), cucumber, avocado and flying fish tobiko (roe) and the Spicy Tuna Roll which was layered with spicy mayo, tobiko & tanuki tempura fritters. My dinner companion and I decided to forgo the Mains and order another round of the Uramaki – so. worth. it!
drinks, sushi and great company at the guppy by ai tasting, tonight! #guppyatolive #blehEats #olivebistro #pune A photo posted by Divya (@blehlovesfood) on
Dessert was next up, but unfortunately the Nashi Pear & Prune Pie with cinnamon, cranberry coulis & homemade vanilla bean ice cream was unavailable (I was really looking forward to trying it) but the Warm Carrot Cake with Mascarpone Frosting was a subtle balance of sweet and spice and absolutely scrumptious.
They’ve played it a bit safe with their menu choices, but who can blame them, when Poona’s dining audience is not as experimental as that of say – a Delhi or Bombay. Step out of your comfort zone, and try something different for a change. Don’t expect 100% “authentic” Japanese food, this is simply Chef Vikram’s interpretation of Japanese cuisine and traditional flavours, but it’s just as good. Guppy has been playing to packed audiences since they opened and will be showcasing their food at Olive Bistro for the next two and a half months, so make a reservation beforehand.