Monday, 21 March 2016

Restaurant Review | Tokyo Mon Amour: Franco-Japanese Bar Pop-up

Guppy by ai is a personal favourite for Chef Vikram Khatri’s contemporary Japanese fare that is both refreshing and comforting. Yet, he’s always willing to experiment with new dishes and flavours. This time Chef Vikram and Le Bistro Du Parc’s Naina de Bois-Juzan have created a Franco-Japanese bar pop-up in keeping with restaurateur AD Singh’s brainchild of combining the unique aspects of his two sister restaurants. Naina, who is half Parisian and has grown up in Paris, says, “I am personally a big fan of sushi and I love going to new places like these that are opening up in Paris.”

The lively interior that includes the indoor lounge at Guppy has been 
re-designed by Naina de Bois - Juzan.

Aptly titled Tokyo Mon Amour (Tokyo, My Love), the food menu remains essentially Japanese, but served with French staples and flavours. Since this is a bar, the focus is on the drinks of course, along with small plates. But I’m happy to note that a few signature dishes of both the restaurants are available too. So, Guppy's Salmon Tartare and Le Bistro Du Parc's Pan fried Calamari feature on the menu. Having had these earlier though, on this particular evening I look forward to trying the new dishes on offer. But in case you don’t want to experiment much, the full Guppy menu continues to be served at the restaurant.
But before I talk about the menu, I must mention the ambience. Guppy anyway has a fun, qwirky interior; the courtyard and lounge that have been converted into Tokyo Mon Amour have been re-designed by Naina, who has also created the playlist for the bar. I particularly love the shaded green wall sprinkled with small red hearts. It does somehow evoke the romance of Paris!

Top: Home-smoked Brie, fresh figs, rice cracker and greens.
Bottom L: Nicoise Salad inspired Tuna Tataki with wasabi soya vinaigrette;
R: Cured Tomato and Ginko Nut Salad.

Don’t Miss the Salads

Many people skip the salads and head straight to the appetisers and mains while eating out. But with fresh ingredients, and a beautiful balance of flavours and textures, the salads at Tokyo Mon Amour are quite the stars of the menu. The Cured Tomato and Ginko Nut Salad (Rs 350) features a delicious 3-day cured tomato with palm hearts, celery, grapes and the anti-oxidant rich ginko nut tossed in a ginger-citron dressing. Although the team considered using imported tomatoes from Thailand for this salad, the thought was shelved due to the erratic availability of the same. So the regular, Indian tomatoes are used for this salad, and the result is outstanding. (I so wish to the get the recipe for this one!) Nicoise Salad inspired Tuna Tataki with wasabi soy vinaigrette (Rs 400) is a beautiful representation of Franco-Japanese amalgamation. Traditionally the nicoise salad comprises tomatoes, tuna and hard boiled eggs, but this version features tuna tataki, and tamagoyaki or Japanese omelette, and actually outshines the original. Oh, and how can any French meal be complete without a cheese platter? Hence there’s home-smoked Brie, fresh figs, rice cracker, greens and artistically rolled up thin veggie slices (Rs 500).

Cocktails L to R: Painap Flip, Aomortini, Ichigo Punch, Wasabi Mimosa.

Qwirky Cocktails

Being a bar pop-up, adequate attention has been given to the beverages. While there is an extensive choice of Japanese beers, sake, wine and more, do try the heady cocktails. If you’re looking for a real Japanese kick, go for the Wasabi Mimosa (Rs 375). I can vouch that the wasabi is not just for namesake. Chef Khatri explains that the vodka has been infused with wasabi, and once the cocktail is ready a little more wasabi is added. Then there’s the tangy-sweet Ichigo Punch (Rs 375) that’s made with shochu, a distilled Japanese beverage similar to vodka, mix berry compote and fresh strawberry topped with sparkling wine. However, for the less experimental guests there’s Painap Flip (Rs 350) and Aomortini (Rs 350). I found both these very refreshing for the oncoming summer. The former is a take on pina colada, but without the heavy cream, the latter is made with gin, fresh green apple, rosemary lime and sugar.

Clockwise from Top Left: Bacon wrapped chicken sausages; Curry pan
bread; Cheese Korokke; Ramen Croquet Madame; Tenderloin cubed steak.

Small Plates and Filling Dishes
The menu features enough small plates and dishes that work well for a bar, and yet are filling enough to make a meal. Keeping up with the French tradition of bread and butter, Chef Vikram serves the Curry Pan Bread (Rs 350). This is his take on panko crusted Japanese ‘kare’ bread, with a mixed veg filling that is actually quite tasty.  There’s also a Cheese Karokke (Rs 350), cream and Gruyere cheese croquettes served with QP Mayo and Japanese Worcestshire sauce. Both these make for good bar food; but I must warn you that both these are deep fried and certainly don’t qualify for light dishes, despite being small plates. Bacon wrapped in-house chicken sausages (Rs 400), are served with thin slivers of dates and red wine and soy glaze. Even with all the complimenting flavours, the deliciousness of minced chicken ‘tsukune’ shines through. Another interesting mix of both the cuisines finds expression in Ramen Croquet Madame (Rs 650). While the béchamel, chicken ham and cheese works well as always with cracked fried egg, I can’t quite taste much of the ramen bun. Maybe the ramen burgers from the regular menu would work better in this case. And although I don’t eat tenderloin, my companion enjoys the tenderloin cubed steak from the original menu. I am sharing the picture especially for the pretty bowl that it is served in.

Top: Cold smoked Salmon with Creme Fraiche.
Middle: Bacon and cream cheese sushi roll with black rice.
Bottom: Dessert Platter.

Cold smoked Salmon with Creme Fraiche (Rs 650) and dried purple shiso salt, dill leaves and sour cream is every bit as good as the name suggests. And finally I come to the sushi. Bacon and cream cheese sushi roll with black rice (Rs 650) is interesting. Someone recently told me that “interesting” is not really a compliment for any dish. However, I don’t use this adjective in an uncomplimentary way here. Let me be honest - when one orders sushi it is primarily for the love of fresh seafood. But who doesn’t love bacon?! Hence, the Bacon sushi is interesting. While it certainly doesn’t replace my love for a California or spider roll, bacon sushi is certainly worth a try for all bacon lovers. I do love the black rice as well.

And although the menu does not feature desserts, and I cannot end a meal without one, we are served a dessert sampler that's just enough to round off a fun evening.

Tokyo Mon Amour at Courtyard and the Lounge at Guppy by ai
28, Lodi Colony, Main Market, New Delhi - 110003.
Ph: 011 24690005/6, 9650185005
Timings: Wednesday to Sunday, 7pm to midnight.


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