Apple Sharma savours the exotic flavours of Andean cuisine at the Peruvian pop-up, Inti, as it returns to Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay.

I couldn’t have asked for a better finish to the hectic work week than a pleasant Thursday evening with friends, tasting Peruvian delicacies at Inti, the intimate pop-up at the lush Bahrain Bay Kitchen terrace. 

As we enter Inti, which translates to ‘sun’ in Peruvian, we’re warmly greeted by the waiting staff. The Restaurant Manager, Jeson D’Souza, joins soon after, giving us a brief introduction to the cuisine and the menu.

As you walk in, the relaxed atmosphere and captivating ambience instantly put you at ease, with colourful carpets welcoming you into the inviting space. Dimly lit table lamps and surrounding candles cast a warm glow over the entire setting, with hints of tropical accents evident in the entire décor, including the pineapple patterned cushions. The air is filled with the soft melodies of South American music, setting the stage for the culinary journey to come.   

Despite the windy evening, the surrounding frangipani trees and illuminated bushes provide a cosy retreat, while the gentle sound of a trickling water fountain adds to the mood. Nestled in an intimate area next to a mini garden, we are serenaded by live music courtesy of a solo guitarist, adding to the tropical holiday vibe.

Bringing the essence of Peru to the heart of Bahrain, Inti is headed by Peruvian Chef Yovani Guevara, who first introduced the pop-up back in 2022. As she briefs us on the myriad of dishes we’re about to taste, her enthusiasm resonates with ours. Starting with delicious nibbles, we tuck into plantain crisps and roasted corn kernels, sipping on Chicha Morada, a refreshing Peruvian drink made of purple corn.   

Our gastronomic adventure begins with a platter of ceviches, showcasing the freshest seafood delicately marinated in zesty tiger’s milk – not real tiger’s milk, of course, but rather a traditional Peruvian citrus marinade infused with lime and aji peppers. From the Ceviche Tradicional, featuring sea bass with hot, citrus limo pepper, to the chef’s signature dish, El Apasionado, starring shrimps and passionfruit tiger’s milk, every bite is a burst of freshness, with perfectly balanced sweet and spicy elements. Beautifully presented on a bed of dry ice and flowers, it creates a feast for the senses. With just the right amount of heat, our taste buds are well and truly ignited at this point.

Moving on to Tiraditos, a Peruvian take on Japanese sashimi, we are presented with two versions – thinly sliced salmon infused with delicate flavours of aji amarillo (a delicious yellow pepper sauce) and red snapper with creamy coconut tiger’s milk. Displayed in the colours of the Peruvian flag, this is a hit on our table, with the creamy elements juxtaposed deliciously with the crunch of the crispy red quinoa, offering a harmonious blend of textures and tastes.

Next up are Causas, highlighting the versatility of the humble potato – Peru being home to the widest variety in the world. Showcasing Nikkei cuisine (a Japanese and Peruvian fusion), the innovative Maki Causa, combining purple potato and crab with togarashi mayo, elevates humble ingredients to gourmet heights. The standout, Con Salmon, features tartar salmon layered between yellow potato mash and is topped with a flavourful combination of black olive sauce, spicy mayo, avocado and salmon roe – the addition of crispy salmon skin adding a delightful crunch to the dish. For the vegetarians amongst us, the chef prepares a simplified version, which is equally delicious.

The culinary journey continues with hearty Anticuchos, traditional skewers, grilled to perfection and served with various condiments. The Pollo anticuchos feature aji amarillo-grilled chicken thighs, complemented by chalaca (a type of salsa) and rocoto mayo, creating a symphony of smoky, spicy and tangy flavours. Meanwhile, the Carne skewers of grilled beef tenderloin, paired with charred choclo carretillero (street cart corn) and spicy aji amarillo sauce, offer a succulent and robust taste, reminiscent of the bustling streets of Peru. This has to be one of our favourites, with the melt-in-the-mouth tender meat aptly described as ‘steak on skewers’ by one of my companions.

As we anticipate the main course, the pièce de résistance arrives in the form of Pulpo a la Parrilla – grilled octopus accompanied by crispy baby potatoes and an array of sauces. A spectacular dish, the tender texture of the meat pairs perfectly with the vibrant flavours of chimichurri and spicy rocoto carretillero sauces, leaving our taste buds craving more. Meanwhile, the vegetarians amongst us are treated to Quinoto Verde, a creamy Peruvian risotto featuring a mix of quinoa, wild mushrooms, asparagus and basil paste, offering distinct pesto-like flavours and bringing out the versatility of Peruvian ingredients.

No Peruvian feast is complete without a selection of sweet treats, and Inti does not disappoint. We indulge in Picarones, Peruvian donuts served with kiwicha pop (a superfood grain also known as amaranth) and passionfruit sorbet, drizzled with a decadent blueberry syrup. Last but not least is the chef’s family recipe of Cachanga, a traditional cookie topped with dulce de leche and fresh fruits. Delivering just the right amount of sweetness with a crunchy base, this delectable pastry is a fitting finale to our wonderful evening – leaving us with a lasting impression of this vibrant and flavourful cuisine.

Running until March 2, Inti is open from Wednesday to Saturday, 7pm to 12am.