Restaurant Review: Hello Guppy, Bandra Kurla Complex

Neighbouring restaurants Toast & Tonic and Hello Guppy, which belong to A.D. Singh’s Olive Group of restaurants, are both hawking a fantasy through design. The former evokes New York’s East Village, home to stylised bars and restaurants, and the latter kawaii-obsessed Japan.

Unlike Toast & Tonic though, the month-old Hello Guppy is an assault on the eyes with its technicolour palate and unrestrained use of kitsch. The proprietors have consciously exploited every strand of Japanese pop culture with Manga toys, vintage robots, Pokemon characters, tables fashioned as pachinko machines, plastic flowers, neon lights, anime posters and wall art, but to jarring effect. Extreme reactions to their hyperreal environment are inevitable.

The moderation lacking in the interiors has been exercised in the kitchen, which is in the able hands of Vikram Khatri, who previously worked with Sakura, the Japanese restaurant in Delhi and the Ocean Room, a modern Japanese establishment in Sydney, before he was recruited by Singh. For Hello Guppy, he has composed a menu that is approachable and memorable for its masterful play of flavours.

One half of the narrow restaurant’s long steel-topped bar is utilised as the sushi and salad assembly station. Surprisingly, the salads make a more lasting impression than the sushi. The smoked pumpkin salad (Rs249), which is listed only on the dinner menu, checks all the boxes of a good salad; it’s fresh, crunchy and health-affirming. Thin strips of savoury sakura-smoked pumpkin encircle a delicate filling of mixed cress, green apple and heart of palm, and are garnished with mustard dressing. It’s the balance of savoury and sweet that is enjoyable.

Skip the Kewpie mayo-inflicted sushi for Khatri’s flavour-packed small plates such as the signature pork belly (Rs659), a skewered snack of braised pork belly lacquered with soy honey and miso mustard. Here too it’s the balance of sweet and umami that moved us to sing praises. The texture of the cubed pork was perfectly crisp outside and melting inside. The tenderloin tataki (Rs369), comprising rare tenderloin discs so thinly sliced that they’re almost translucent and a forest of finely shredded white onion, daikon and fried garlic chips, is as much of a treat. In the dish, Khatri explores the combination of savoury and sour tastes in a potent ceviche-esque citrus and soy dressing that complements the meat and the salad.

The tuna and avocado poke (Rs349), an appetiser with big flavour that’s also light and healthful, further proved that the small plates selection is where the kitchen excels. Blush-hued cubes of first-rate tuna are alternated with hearts of palm, pickled cucumber and sliced radish and cured in a pucker-inducing umami-flavoured soy and sesame dressing. Listed under mains, the mushroom takikomi rice (Rs549) has curative properties for an ailing mood, much like chicken soup. It’s a generous bowl of comfort and flavour imparted by a heap of shiitake and wood ear mushrooms. The thick al dente rice is soaked in an earthy, belly-warming mushroom broth containing a crunchy flotsam of broccoli florets and snow peas.

Only their greasy prawn karaage udon (Rs549) and the pedestrian spicy salmon sushi (Rs350) failed us. The oily udon over-sauced with sweet tonkatsu tasted more like chow mein. The bowl was somewhat redeemed by the tasty popcorn-sized curls of shrimp flavoured with pepper. The tobiko and spicy mayo-laden sushi was let down by a soggy garnish of tanuki tempura crumbs.

Hello Guppy’s dessert section inspired no lust. From the unimaginative selection which includes red velvet cake; blueberry crepe with seasonal fruit flambe; and chocolate fondant, we opted for the only one with a bearing to Japan, the matcha fondant (Rs310). It’s prepared exactly like chocolate fondant, but with a matcha-flavoured cake shell concealing a sweet, warm green river of matcha cream. Even though they sweeten the matcha, there’s a hint of bitter characteristic of the powdered green tea. The plate comes with a scoop of berry ice cream to break the monotony of the matcha, but it only raises the level of sugar in an already cloying dish.

Get: Smoked pumpkin salad (Rs249); signature pork belly (Rs659); tenderloin tataki (Rs369); tuna and avocado poke (Rs349); mushroom takikomi rice (Rs549).

Skip: Prawn karaage udon (Rs549); spicy salmon sushi (Rs350).

This review was conducted anonymously. It is our policy to wait at least a week after an establishment has opened before we review it.

Prices exclude taxes; there is a service charge of ten per cent. 

Hello Guppy, Ground Floor, Jet Airways Godrej Building, G Block, Bandra Kurla Complex, Bandra (East). Tel: 022 2653 4720. Open daily, from noon to 1am. Get directions here

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