Liz O’Reilly took her taste buds on an Andean adventure without leaving Bahrain.
When the Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay invites you to try a new pop-up, it’s an opportunity not to be missed, especially when you learn it’s al fresco dining, in the gorgeous surroundings of the Azure Pool and the menu is from Peruvian Chef Yovani Guevara, who’s seriously excited about showcasing her country’s cuisine to Bahrain’s ever-eager and knowledgeable foodie community.
Inti, named after the Peruvian word for the sun, enjoys a pictureperfect setting. The sparkling waters of the pool glittering in the light of a giant fire bowl and the limited number of tables giving a true sense of exclusivity.
I headed there with my dining companion early on a weekday evening and enjoyed an effusive welcome from both servers and Chef Yovani, who was keen to tell us this is her first opening. She had prepared a tasting menu for us and we were eager to dive in. We began, much to my delight, with the Ceviche Platter which not only looked amazing but also offered the chance to try a selection of the ceviches all in one go.
Before I talk about the food, tiger’s milk is mentioned several times and I must point out, for the uninitiated, that it is, of course, not real tiger’s milk. Absolutely no tigers are harmed in its production! Rather, it’s a combination of lime juice, sliced onions, salt, pepper and chillis – the heat from which ‘cooks’ the raw fish that it usually accompanies.
The Tradicional ceviche featured sea bass, tiger’s milk, lemon, roasted corn nuts, coriander and sweet potato. I loved the combination of salt and heat which is so very moreish. A Chef Yovani signature, El Apasionada is something a little bit different. Shrimp is mixed with passion fruit, tiger’s milk, aji charapita (a rare chilli), plantain chips, sweet potato puree, wild mushrooms, aji amarillo (a different type of chilli) and corn. The addition of passion fruit really makes this dish stand out, the sweetness refining the chillis’ heat and taking the taste sensation to a new level.
The Ceviche Al Carbon was a new experience for me since it is, as the name suggests, served warm, the fish accompanied by smoked yellow chilli sauce and sweet potato shavings. The sauce was almost comforting in both its consistency and very mild heat, perfectly offset by the sweet potato.
The menu explains that Tiradito is ‘the spirit of Japanese sashimi Peruvian style, flavoured with tiger’s milk’. We tried the version with thinly sliced salmon, aji amarillo sauce, chalaquita cancha (corn with onions and vegetables) and torched sweet potato. I was surprised and delighted to find the giant corn kernels, so beloved of South American cuisine, and these were imparted a very slightly smoky flavour through the cooking. If a sashimi-type dish could ever be described as comfort food, then this would be it.
Another exceptional dish was Causas, a traditional Peruvian favourite with potato and aji peppers. Chef Yovani explained that they remove the spiciness from the chillis by blanching them three times and changing the water, this leaves the flavour without such an intense heat. Served with salmon tartare, yellow potato, black olive sauce, spicy mayo, avocado and salmon roe, the combination of flavours and textures surprised me. I’m not usually a fan of black olives but this brought them together so well, pulling out a subtlety of flavour I hadn’t thought possible. Much as I loved the ceviches, I have to say the Anticuchos – Traditional Peruvian Skewers – were probably my favourite dish of the night. Tenderloin of beef marinated in a selection of herbs and grilled so perfectly that they achieved the consistency of braised or slow-cooked meat. I feel slightly spoiled for any future barbecue!
The last of our main courses was Arroz Con Mariscos – aji panca rice with a selection of seafood and parmesan. This is like a Peruvian version of paella, only a bit hotter, and came with a delicious, spicy Creole salsa. To be honest, we were saving space for dessert and didn’t do it justice, but, in just a few mouthfuls it was easy to appreciate the bursting flavours of the fresh seafood.
We had two types of dessert of which I must mention Lucuma Al Fajor, another chef’s signature. It’s baked dough filled with dulce de leche and lucuma, ice cream and mixed berries. Lucuma is a sweet fruit, native to regions of South America, which is creamy with a caramel-like taste. The combination with the berries and the delicious, sweet, crunchy dough discs, was like heaven on the tongue and the perfect end to a perfect evening. ✤
GO: CALL 1711 5500 FOR FURTHER INFORMATION OR TO MAKE A RESERVATION.