Mumbai’sslice of Japan

Eat street: (Clockwise from above)The colourful interiors of Hello Guppy; chilli lime dressed Agedashi tofu; and sushi rice crisp.  

As the need for scalability increases across the restaurant industry, the buzz is often around existing brands opening in new locations around the city. For AD Singh, of the Olive Group, the goal is, “to stick with four to five brands and see how they can grow, across the country”.

The opening salvo in this mission is Hello Guppy, a Japanese restaurant that isn’t intimidating with interiors by Anshu Arora Sen and Singh’s wife, Sabina. The establishment provides a sensory overload that a walk through Harajuku or Shibuya in Tokyo are known for. But this brand extension, of Delhi’s Guppy by Ai, which is also owned and run by Olive, is a way to democratise Japanese cuisine at a time when the country has well and truly taken to sushi, ramen and katsu curry (all of which incidentally, are found on the menu at Hello Guppy). As for drinks, you can look forward to traditional Japanese spirits like shochu and sake, in addition to signature cocktails and a full bar.

A sprawling spread

It’s no surprise then that the new eatery has opened first in Bandra Kurla Complex, where time-starved office workers can sample a menu that ranges from a regular California roll to excellent, moist on the inside, crisp on the outside chicken karaage. Plus, there’s Instagram-friendly dishes like the ramen burger, and an excellent spicy salmon miso soup, with an intense depth of flavour. Singh’s hoping to roll out more variants under the Guppy brand, or then expand Hello Guppy, based on the response to this first opening.

For the restaurant, Singh says, the chef and design team flew to Tokyo for inspiration, and that is reflected in the menu’s many bowls. These are grouped under donburi or takikomi, with the latter eschewing cream and cheese, for those that want to stay away from any form of lactose. Chef Vikram Khatri’s menu features enough for seasoned Japanese lovers, as well as those being introduced to the cuisine for the first time. There are rice bowls with tomato and scamorza cheese and balsamic teriyaki sauce when it comes to getting your Asian-averse friend to try a cuisine usually associated with raw fish and pricey meals.

Behind open doors

The design influence is evident in everything from the acrylic chopsticks, which is ubiquitous in Tokyo, over the disposable wooden ones favoured in India as Singh points out. The colourful, almost kitsch interiors have hand-drawn framed artworks and even kawaii (inflatable Pikachus) and graphic elements. As for the cutlery, “they [the plates and bowls] came in from Bangkok, because we weren’t happy with what we had before,” says Singh. The colourful crockery, like the interiors of the eatery, gives you the sensory immersion that Singh is known for.

Singh says that Japanese ingredients are now easy to get from importers and suppliers, pointing out that the cuisine has gone mainstream, across the world. “At Pret [in the UK], ten percent of their menu is now Japanese,” he says looking at the international market. In India, Hello Guppy aims to broaden the scope of Japanese cuisine -- moving beyond the expensive fine-dine segment that it is associated with -- in the hopes of seeing its ingredients and flavours adapted by those stepping out for casual dining as well. An expansion, into the grab-and-go segment is something that Singh seems excited about, though he’s taking things one step at a time.

Whether the suits of Bandra Kurla Complex take to his vision is yet to be seen, but for the moment, at least they have a new eatery to take them away from the dreary office cubicle and offer them a shot of colour, and if they’re in the mood, some sake. Kampai!

Hello Guppy, Unit 4, Ground Floor, Jet Airways, Godrej Building, Bandra Kurla Complex

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 2:09:42 AM |

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