Whether it’s the culinary culture of Tokyo or the unique flavours of Lima you’re craving, you’re in luck – Clay seamlessly brings the two together for Nikkei cuisine like no other in Bahrain.
They say practice makes perfect, and nowhere does the saying apply more than Nikkei cuisine. Yes, this moulding of Peruvian ingredients by Japanese cooking techniques has only been dubbed a gastronomic sensation in the past few years, but the reality is it has continued evolving since the dawn of the 19th century. It’s the food of the Japanese diaspora in Brazil and Peru, immigrants who found themselves having to adapt to a new country and unfamiliar ingredients while staying true to the cooking methods they knew from home. Just don’t refer to Nikkei as fusion food.
In Bahrain, it has a new residence at Clay, a newish eatery that will have us returning to The Terminal time and time again. We say newish because, technically, Clay opened its doors back in mid-January, only to be forced into closure mid-March. Hearts were broken, but a curiosity about Nikkei cuisine grew, making its recent return to Bahrain’s dining scene cause for celebration. The FACT team walks into the 7,500-square-foot restaurant with ceviche and sashimi on the brain, only to be truly captivated by its interiors. Here, countless design elements compete for your attention – think: tufted banquettes, marble-topped tables, an open kitchen, an overhead art installation, a hand-painted monochrome mural, ceramic figurines, and lush foliage aplenty. And if you think all that will jazz up your Instagram account, wait until your food arrives. We start with the Ceviche Platter, a humble name for a truly decadent offering. It pairs a selection of Clay’s signature ceviches with little nibbly sides such as quinoa crackers and crunchy corn. But the crown jewel is obviously the tuna, salmon, sea bass, sea bream, octopus, and even scallops, all marinated in a citrusy tiger’s milk marinade and boasting varying flavour profiles. Did we mention the touch of theatrics lent to this dish by dry ice? It’s a tough act to follow, but the Niku Bao is up to the challenge.
The soft, steamed bao buns are even ‘stamped’ with the Clay name. It’s the tender short ribs filling that make them delectable, and the addition of criolla salad (a simple salsa found across South America) that adds a sense of place. Ready for more seafood, we proceed to the Moriwase Clay, a chef’s selection of mixed melt-in-the-mouth sashimi. Red snapper, salmon, scallops, octopus, prawns, tuna – we can’t get enough. You’d think sashimi is simply raw fish on a platter, but the truth is it’s an art form all on its own. From selecting the freshest fish possible to delicately slicing it and serving it with a size of wasabi and tobiko, head chef Jolbi Huacho and his team get it just right. So right, in fact, that we notice the little dipping bowl of soy sauce is still untouched, long after our empty plates have been cleared.
And just like that, we’re back in carnivore mode, ordering the Wagyu Anticuchero from the robatayaki (which literally translates to fireside-cooking) section. Not only does this long-standing cooking method originate in Japan, but so does the prized Wagyu beef. This particular dish entails skewered beef striploin brushed with a sweet-spicy glaze, cooked over hot charcoal, and served with burnt lemon. It’s an easy choice for meat-eaters, as is the Tori Lemongrass if you prefer chicken. Oven in the mains, we trust the experts at Clay and order the highly recommended Black Cod Yuzu Miso Kosho.
It’s celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa that put miso black cod on the map, and we’re not complaining because Clay’s version is pescatarian perfection – tender, flaky, buttery perfection. It has a hint of sweetness, courtesy of the miso marinade, and arrives on a bed of mixed quinoa in keeping with the Nikkei cuisine concept. A bit of trivia for the food nerds amongst us: not only is quinoa a crop native to the Andean region, but Peru is also the world’s largest quinoa producer. We’re stuffed and satiated, but is a feast even finished without dessert? Here, it’s practically art that you’ll be hesitant to tuck into, but should. Opting for elevated takes on beloved classics, we try the Yuzu Cheesecake and Chocolate Amazonico. The former feels like an edible tropical holiday, complete with mango-ginger foam and lime confit. As for the latter? Well, just picture the most sophisticated molten chocolate cake in existence, one that caters to adults. But this is a dining experience at Clay – an element of surprise is always just around the corner. ✤
GO: CALL 1755 4545 FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TO MAKE RESERVATIONS.