Most restaurants grow older with the passage of time. Guppy (formerly ai) has grown visibly younger.
Having the corner plot in the Lodi Colony Market means that the area comprises a courtyard, a bar and the restaurant. The bright, cheerful colours and youthful prints give the restaurant a young, non-serious look. In contrast, the food is a canny combination of what Japanese expats would like to see plus dishes that would please the ladies-who-lunch set. In a way, Guppy represents the evolution of Japanese dining in our city. The one factor that they have not thought about is the noise level: with no sound-absorbing material in the restaurant, meal-time here is a rather noisy proposition indeed. Guppy is a chef-driven restaurant, and the great part is that though the menu is comprehensive, you can order off the menu within reason and it will be made for you.
First the standout dishes. Guppy signature black cod (Rs 1750) is just as great as it was when the restaurant was in Saket: the crisp skin, melting flesh and sweet sauce makes it a must-order. It is the most expensive dish on the menu, all the others being in the Rs 200-800 range. The other must try is the chirashi salad (Rs 500) that I asked to be converted into chirashi sushi. Basically a bowl of seafood atop a bed of rice, it is a more unusual form of sushi (in our city at any rate) and usually is a cue for the chef to show off his artistic skills, because the rules of cutting and arranging the seafood are not as rigid as for, say, nigiri.
The other signature dishes are the Guppy signature pork belly (Rs 900) that is braised with soy and honey till it melts in the mouth. Served on yakitori skewers, it is one of their finest offerings. The other comfort-food-meets-meticulously-prepared stock is the chashu ramen (Rs 800). The home-made noodles have a pleasant elasticity rather than the overcooked sodden mass one usually encounters, and the flavourful stock (prepared over 72 hours, the menu tells us) has an umami appeal.
There are set menus that are worth exploring, consisting as they do of soup, salad, rice/noodles, sushi, dessert and a main course (Rs 800-950)
The combination of authentic food with total unpretentiousness; minus: the decibel level
Must try: teriyaki glazed artichoke and tofu; grilled chicken breast; rock corn tempura.
Ratings: food: 3.50; Service: 3.50; Décor: 3.50
Address– 28, Main Market, Lodhi Colony, New Delhi
Timings: 12 to 3.30 and 7pm to 1am
Meal for two Rs 2,000
Credit cards accepted; alcohol licence awaited
Tel no: 01124690005 / 6, +919650185005