Restaurant Review: Ground Up
Updated: Jul 31
New-Age, Multi Cuisine
Food: 4 | Service: 2.5 | Décor: 3
The concept of Ground Up is unique and they make everything from scratch and use raw materials from in and around Maharashtra. Ground Up doesn’t stick to one cuisine and the menu changes from season to season depending on what is available fresh in the market.
Ground Up is an intimate 30-seater restaurant. The décor is simple and elegant with a lot of personal elements that represent global travel and food stories of Rohan and Gayatri, the owners. The seating is very comfortable and the ambience is very informal and warm. The indoor section almost feels like dining at a friend’s place. The menu, which changes regularly, is scribbled on a chalkboard placed behind the food counter. The outdoor section is filled with potted plants and is perfect to host an intimate dinner with a bunch of friends.
Ground Up is the brainchild of two young chefs, Gayatri Desai and Rohan Hastak. They have meticulously curated an ingredient forward and innovative menu inspired by their travel experiences across the globe. The menu consists of small plates where almost everything is made from scratch in-house. They make their own noodles, broths, sauces and tacos, ferment fruits, pickle vegetables and smoke and cure the meats in-house. We started on a high with a large bowl of freshly curdled Silken Tofu. The silky and soft tofu was generously doused with sweet soy and Naga peppercorn oil and topped with sesame seeds. The combinations worked amazingly well and each spoonful was an exploration. The Charred Eggplant was a successful cross between a baba ganoush and baingan ka bharta. The eggplant was charred to perfection and mixed with smoked cherry tomatoes, sweet basil, green chilies and tahini and was served with a crispy jowar lavash. We followed this with a Potato Salad. At first glance, the salad seemed simple, but the complex flavors came forward with the first bite. Warm roast potatoes are served with chintexle mayo along with a kodo millet salad topped with frozen strawberry vinegar reduction. The contrasting hot and cold elements work and the strawberry granita adds the freshness to the warm potatoes. Another seemingly simple dish with contrasting flavours was the Fried Chicken. Succulent pieces of chicken were marinated in coconut milk and coated with rice flour and fried to perfection. The chicken was topped with tangy pickled star-fruit and served with delicious smoked chili butter.
As Ground Up serves small plates, we could try almost everything on the menu. The most popular dish on the menu is the Banh Mi or a sandwich made from a Vietnamese baguette filled with a range of meats and other ingredients. We tried all the three BanhMis, Smoked Tofu, Lemongrass Chicken and Pork Bun Cha. While the chicken and tofu versions were delicious, the pork was definitely our top pick. The stuffing was an open sausage freshly made with a secret ratio of meat, fat and herbs and grilled with a fish sauce. All the meat-lovers can rejoice. The Pork Bun Cha was definitely a highlight of the evening and probably the best dish from the menu.
The desserts are equally quirky and innovative as the other dishes on the menu. The Sourdough ice-cream with figs and olive oil is one of the weirdest combinations in ice-creams, but it was delicious and unique. The Black Sesame Nut Milk Pudding was an acquired taste which I couldn’t acquire even after a few spoonfuls. The Chocolate Amaranth Tart on the other hand was delicious and the perfect end to our evening.
PLUS & MINUS
It is evident that Pune’s food scene is evolving and it is heartening to see the popularity of an ingredient-forward place like Ground Up. The concept, the menu and the food at Ground Up is unique and innovative. The contrasting taste and flavors in simple dishes is extremely refreshing. For the modest portion size, the dishes do seem slightly overpriced. But this can be justified with the quality of ingredients and the work put in to making almost everything in-house. Even though the vibe is extremely personal, the service definitely needs to improve. Investing in service staff and their training will definitely help the Rohan and Gayatri take the brand further.
Must Try Dishes: Silken Tofu, Potato Salad, Fried Chicken, Cured Ham on a Plate, Pork Bun Cha Banh Mi, Smoked Tofu Banh Mi, Chocolate Amaranth Tart
Meal for Two: Rs. 2000
Address: Shop No. 5, Viman Platinum Building, Ganpati Mandir Road, opp. Fun Fitness, Pune - 411014
Timings: 6:00 PM – 11:00 PM (Weekdays), 1:00 PM – 11:00 PM (Weekends)
Photo Courtesy: Ground Up
This review was first published in Pune Times on 27 December 2019.