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June 13, 2024

Gigi brings artful Japanese-European dining to Mumbai

Ismat Tahseen
At a time when fine-dine fare is increasingly at the convergence of food and theatrics, it becomes a thin line between what is gimmicky and what is actually great food. The new restaurant Gigi, casts away that doubt. It’s essentially fabulous flavours everywhere you look on the menu, thanks to its Michelin restaurant-trained chef Beena Noronha and her team. So much buzz has been created around this new place in Bandra by the Chrome Asia Hospitality trio – Dhaval Udeshi, Pawan Shahri and Nikita Harisinghani (who have successfully launched Eve, Kyma, Demy and Kaia) in partnership with Afsana Verma. And it does not disappoint. Expect a mix of delicious Japanese-European fare served with a side of panache, here.
Old-school vibes in the décor
Gigi restaurant presents beautiful, old-school aesthetics
Photo courtesy: Gigi, Bandra
Gigi (yes, this place does give a nod to the supermodel in a way that we’ll reveal later) is in two levels, both of which have a singular theme — a lavish sense of space encompassing 6,000sqft. Whether it’s the brick-walled foyer with wooden accents, or the upper level with main and private dining areas, it is driven by warm, chic tones that border on British private club-aesthetics. Clearly, the architecture and elements have played a key role and Nikita Harisinghani, co-owner who has conceptualised the design, affirms this. “Gigi is very old-school British; there is that grandness as soon as you walk in. We previously mused over having a patisserie or small coffee space between the two levels, but then we decided to just leave it as a larger lobby.
The sense of richness also comes from the furniture and fabrics and we’ve used a lot of candles for warmth. We felt the upstairs had to have a club-like vibe, along with being comfortable and lounge-like, almost like you’ve entered someone’s living room,” she says. I settle into one of the elegant private dining areas with floral arrangements, porcelain ware and pretty, handcrafted candles that are inspired by one of Nikita’s earlier trips to Istanbul.
Unexpected flavours come together perfectly
Of course, the food also does the talking. The menu’s focus is on ingredients and techniques and this is where Beena’s French Michelin-star restaurant experience shines through. Gigi’s menu is a trapeze act between Japanese seamlessly sliding into European fare, pausing enough to whip up a surprise, before the next turn happens. For instance, in the Ahi Tuna Nachos with 24K gold leaf dust, the nachos don a Japanese avatar – they’re are made out of nori sheets and wonton, along with a wasabi-avocado drizzle, spicy chipotle and sweet habanero sauce! In the mains, you’ll discover a Ramen-Lasagna, there’s a Jap-Teriyaki pizza, she also whips up a wicked beurre-blanc sauce using dashi seasoning, and the lamb chops are marinated with gochujang and served with miso balsamic glaze.
Hamachi Crudo. Photo courtesy: Gigi, Bandra
Salmon-and-tuna-ceviche
Salmon and tuna ceviche. Photo courtesy: Gigi, Bandra
For starters, I go with the recommended salmon-tuna ceviche and it’s such a burst of flavours! In Japan, yuzu is used as a seasoning, but here the chef has combined mulberries and orange to make an orange-chilly dressing for the leche de tigre base. It’s sweet-sour-tangy and something that you haven’t experienced before.  The hamachi-crudo with and tobiko (flying fish roe) is spicy with fresh halapeno and also has a hint of sweetness with the addition of raw mango along with fried quinoa for a slight crunch. Vegetarians could opt for the tropical ceviche, a clever assemblage of kiwi, mango, dragon fruit, pears and rose apple with a mango-passion fruit base, making for unexpected flavours that come together well. Chef Beena is also coming up with a beetroot carpaccio made with golden beets and a purple potato gnocchi in burnt pumpkin puree tossed in butter sage-garlic and chopped hazelnuts.
The chef doesn’t call this a fusion, preferring to place the focus on produce and flavours and she admits, “We wanted to create a platform where both the cuisines can be mixed and matched well. I feel people can get a little lost with Japanese, so the idea was to give them a better understanding of the two cuisines. Of course, I didn’t want to feed people traditional ramen or fried rice; it had to be different. But while you’ll see so many different flavour profiles, the dishes are also very approachable.”
Up ahead, I notice the large island bar is buzzing, with craft cocktails are whipped up by bar expert Fay Baretto, including a number of Japanese cocktails that he’s keen to introduce to the city.
Blueberry pizza with lavender cheese? Why not!

 

Blueberry Cream Cheese Flatbread. Photo courtesy: Gigi, Bandra
Blueberry Cream Cheese Flatbread. Photo courtesy: Gigi, Bandra
The flavour-texture play continues in the other sections of the menu – Sushi, Small Plates and Pizza. While holding onto its authenticity, the sushi also gets a spin here. The Truffle Avocado Maki with truffle cream cheese, avocado and spicy mayo fried lotus stems is topped with gold leaf and in the Enoki Inari Mari, you’ll find inari with yellow habanero sauce and chipotle mayo; unique alright! And the Sake Avocado Maki is deep-fried, sliced and served with mango salsa.
Gigi also offers an extensive a choice of crispy Napolitan pizzas made with finely-ground, double zero flour. Among these, do not miss the Blueberry Cream Cheese Flatbread – a pizza with glazed onions and the unique addition of blueberries on top that is innovative and delicious. “You won’t believe the number of people who love this,” says Beena. Two more flatbreads will be added to this lineup, one with peach and the other, with fig jam and ricotta.
The Spanish creole spaghetti gets the delicate flavour of lavender cheese specially flown in from a vendor in Chennai and it enhances the zucchini, asparagus and tomato in it to another level.
The-large-island-bar-in-the-upper-level-
Photo courtesy: Gigi, Bandra
Another, The Gigi Vodka Pasta is the only alcohol-based savoury pasta, and it’s there because of Gigi Hadid. You may recall how the supermodel whipped up the dish in the covid lockdown and shared it on Instagram. It went viral and got folks on social media to make their versions. Well, this Gigi gives it another twist where the pasta is made really spicy using dried habanero chillies, to tune in with the Indian palate. The Pearl Cous Cous Risotto with crispy skin salmon and glazed asparagus, takes the elaborate theme ahead as Beena shares, “As a chef, I want to give people the experience of what they would eat in a Michelin-star restaurant.”
Japanese Souffle with crème anglaise and black sesame ice-cream. Photo courtesy: Gigi, Bandra
Japanese Souffle with crème anglaise and black sesame ice-cream. Photo courtesy: Gigi, Bandra
All that flavour needs a sweet ending and I round off the repast with Black Rice Pudding, fired up by mango and refreshing gari ginger. The Japanese Souffle with crème anglaise and black sesame ice cream emerges is another molten treat, where the chilled ice cream placed into the warmed, creamy custard and as it slowly breaks into the crisp top layer to merge with the ice cream, it makes for a totally comforting bite.
Coming up: Seasonal menus, four more restaurants in Mumbai
It’s been a few days since Gigi has taken off and Nikita shares how plans for seasonal menus and themes are already being chalked up. She shares a peek into what’s coming up. “For Christmas, we want to do something that hasn’t been seen yet and we’ve begun working on that,” she smiles as Pawan adds, “We’re incredibly enthusiastic about the promising future for Gigi. We will be expanding our presence across India, starting with the metro cities. In Mumbai, where our journey began, we’ve accomplished the successful opening of six outlets in just three years! The next few months will be exciting as we’re gearing up to introduce four new outlets in the city.”
While you keep an eye out for them, here’s to Gigi that won’t lose time establishing itself with the food cognoscenti in Mumbai.
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