Perfect summer meal

Lodhi Colony’s main market was quite, almost desolate on a warm Saturday afternoon. But our destination was conspicuous with its signature red-coloured-fork-cum-fish motif.

Without losing a minute, we headed straight to the entrance. It was from here a series of surprises popped up at this most-popular contemporary Japanese bar and kitchen —Guppy by ai. First was the choice of wall colours: mint-green, cool-blue and silver grey; second: its excellent design aesthetics, with clever utilisation of space, and third, undoubtedly — the food.

The intimate dining space was buzzing with conversations. Inside, the mood was upbeat and music restrained. We chose a table adjacent to the live sushi counter. As the restaurant is celebrating Hanami, traditional Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival, Metrolife was here to review their Hanami summer menu.

Sous chef Nitin Bhardwaj took us through the menu and noted down our preference. Before food arrived, we ordered two cocktails: Sendai and Cucumber Cooler. While the former is a concoction of vodka, fresh kiwi, melon and lime; the latter is a mix of gin, fresh cucumber, thyme, lime and sugar. Both do justice to the word ‘fresh’. But it is addition of thin slices of melon and kiwi in Sendai that we loved the most. With each sip, one savours freshness.

In between drinks, we were served Japanese snack — ‘edamame’ which is boiled soyabean in the pod, sprinkled with salt. This healthy snacking option reveals the secret of Japanese way of life. Our contemplation ended with the arrival of the first meal — Tomato, Edamame, Gingo Nut and Konjac Jelly Ceviche which basically is a combination of three-day cured tomatoes, konjac jelly, palm hearts and is served with chuka sauce. It was the sweetness of palms that blended well with citric-soya taste of the tomatoes, and balancing these two extreme flavours was konjac jelly (made of seaweed) and gingo nuts.

The burst of flavours had given us a good start. It was followed by Mango and Tuna Roll whose hero indeed was Alphonso mango that gave the usually-bland sushi a sweet, summery twist. The space was almost full by now, with people of different nationalities and age groups flitting in and out. It was the soothing Japanese music that was our constant companion.

It was time for some technique now. The moment Smoked Pumpkin Salad arrived on our table, we knew the simplicity of the dish was belying. The salad is an interesting combination of sakura(cherry blossom) wood chips, home-smoked pumpkin, palm hearts, crumbled tofu and is served with chilled seaweed and miso-mustard dressing. Thin slices of raddish and cress rolled in smoked pumpkin(which gets smokiness from sakura chips) highlight the finesse with which the menu has been thoughtfully created. That wooden smokiness stays on the palate for some time, after all not every day you get that flavour.

After this we settled for Hiyashi Tanuki Cha Soba, a vegan dish. It is a combination of chilled green tea flavoured buckwheat noodles, topped with tanuki tempura fritters in a soy flavoured dashi broth. The combination of cold noodles with crunchy fritters worked really well for the dish.

The lone desert on the menu didn't disappoint us. It was the only dish on the menu that just had a touch of Japanese flavour, or ingredient in this case. Mango, Liquorice with Coconut Ice-Cream was dusted with sansho (Japanese pepper). It played cameo in the desert where coconut and mango were in the leading roles. As the meal ended, it reinforced one thing: there is more to Japanese cuisine than raw food. This place is all about masterstrokes and techniques.

The festival is on till May 30.

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