FOOD: Peruvian and Japanese fusion

Saturday January 18 2020

Inti restaurant.

Inti restaurant. The first thing that strikes you at Inti, after the warm welcome, is the view from the 20th floor of the New Africa Place building where the restaurant is located. PHOTO | KARI MUTU | NMG 

KARI MUTU
By KARI MUTU
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A new fusion cuisine has been cooking in Nairobi since last July. Inti, a “Nikkei Experience” restaurant offers a blend of Peruvian and Japanese dishes.

Nikkei are Japanese immigrant descendants living in Peru. They constitute less than one per cent of the population, but Japanese cuisine has greatly influenced the gastronomy of this country.

The first thing that strikes you at Inti, after the warm welcome, is the view from the 20th floor of the New Africa Place building where the restaurant is located.

The curved glass windows offer fantastic vistas of Nairobi city and all the tables are strategically placed to take advantage of the view. Decorative bamboo and pillars painted with bright flowers add an exotic feel to the ambience of casual elegance.

A beverage menu was presented that had a large selection of wine, spirits, Japanese cocktails and Chilcanos infusions, and non-alcoholic fruit beverages.

The waiter recommended we try the Pisco Sour, a classic Peruvian cocktail of pisco brandy and sweet and sour ingredients. This clear drink has a mildly tart flavour and the foam on top had no discernible taste. The restaurant can also make cocktails to your specification.

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On the menu I noticed many famous Japanese dishes that have been reworked with Peruvian ingredients such as lime juice, avocado, quinoa, maize and passion fruit. Others included Peruvian meals with a south-east Asian twist.

We began with ceviche starters of cured raw fish or seafood marinated in lime juice and spices. I enjoyed the Peruvian Ceviche, a cold starter of red snapper, cubes of sweet potato and avocado pieces. Cashew nuts and roasted corn gave it a crunchy texture.

I was curious about the “tiger milk” in the creamy Ceviche Nikkei of tuna fish. Tiger milk is a spicy Peruvian dressing of chillies, pepper and lime in milk.

For a non-meat option they have vegetable ceviche and a Caribbean style mango ceviche or enchiladas of crispy tofu or couscous and avocado. Moving to the sushi bar, we selected maki rolls. Maki are a quintessential Japanese dish of vinegar-flavoured rice stuffed with various ingredients.

The Alo Pobre maki are called the “poor man’s maki” because they are stuffed with vegetables. My favourite were the beef maki topped with thin slices of banana, baked until crispy.

The maki were artistically arranged on long or crescent-shaped ceramic plates, accompanied by bowls of soy or teriyaki sauce for dipping. We had the maki rolls with a Chicha sour drink which has purple corn as one of its ingredients.

From the selection of main dishes were assorted grilled meats, deep fried tempura, stir fried rice with a choice of vegetables, and the Yakitori and Robatayaki selection of Japanese charcoal grilled seafood, meat and vegetables.

We went traditional with a creamy Arroz con Marisco. It is based on the Peruvian paella rice dish with seafood and cheese, but uses Japanese rice. I had several helpings of the tenderly grilled Sakanayaki fish on a bed of bright green rice that had the texture of mashed potatoes.

Sakanayaki and Arroz con Marisco at Inti
Sakanayaki and Arroz con Marisco at Inti restaurant. PHOTO | KARI MUTU | NMG

The colour comes from the chimichurri sauce of spinach, butter, oregano and olive oil. With the main course I had a red hibiscus sour drink with a chilcano infusion.

For dessert, we had an assortment that included a mango martini with Oreo cookies and fruit, a non-baked cheesecake sour, scoops of strawberry sorbet and tres leches cakes soaked in milk and cream.

We also indulged in a portion of Inca Gold, a plate of pistacchio biscuits, cherries, nuts and chocolate balls covered in edible 24 karat gold oil.