Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Inti

Prior to last Wednesday, my knowledge of South American cuisine was limited to tacos, quesadillas and salsas. So, when I was sent a preview of the menu at Inti, I inadvertently received a lesson in exciting new ingredients and flavour profiles. 



I was impressed by the sleek modern interior. The warm lighting, dark floors and modern South American music made for a trendy and inviting atmosphere. 

I felt super hip.


We were greeted at the door and were immediately offered drinks when we arrived at our table. The wait staff were very friendly and eager to share their own dining experiences with us. With unique ingredients such as cactus and black ants, I had a hard time deciding which dish excited me the most.


The Venezuelan - $21.00, The Brazilian - $20.00
We started our evening with some cocktails from a list of interesting sounding mixes. Jason had the Venezuelan which included Diplomatico 'Exclusiva' rum and flavours of coconut, vanilla, and a raw egg. The drink reminded me of a classy eggnog with a hint of spice.

I ordered the Brazillian, which was a refreshing blend of Cachaça, guava, and passion fruit. Cachaça, I have since learned, is a spirit made from distilled sugarcane and is mostly used in tropical drinks. The drink was very refreshing and well balanced from the get go (unlike most cocktails which are too sweet).

Salsa Tarasca - $14.00
Mexican breads (top to bottom): nixtamal corn tortilla, cricket panucho, concha
The Salsa Tarasca, made from pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, was accompanied by a selection of Mexican breads. The salsa was nutty and had a warm tangy flavour from the roasted tomato and onions.

The soft corn tortilla had a very mild flavour and made for a great vessel for the salsa. The panucho, a puffed fried tortilla, had a nice crispy outer a slightly gritty texture from the cricket flour. Like the tortilla, it was mild, with a little saltiness provided from the sprinkling of cheese.

My favourite of the bunch was the concha - a sweet bun topped with a cookie crust topping. The bun was incredibly fluffy and its sweetness was perfect for balancing the savoury salsa and its crunchy topping was a welcomed texture change.

Cactus "Guacamole" - $16.00
The guacamole had a light saltiness from the rehydrated seaweed and wakame powder and its creaminess was cut through with a touch of citrus. The addition of epazote gave it a fresh "green" flavour. Texture-wise, this dish was a treat - the crunchy almonds little bites of cactus (which tasted similar to aloe vera) dispersed throughout, and the chewy seaweed all worked to give the smooth avocado a bit more interest.

The warm crunchy tostada was a great base for dipping into the cool guacamole. We were impressed with the deep fried avocado leaf - lightly salted, it tasted very similar to a crispy nori sheet.

Green Chorizo - $19.00
I was excited by this modern interpretation of the classic chorizo and egg pairing. The chorizo was reinvented as a pork mince mixture, with pumpkin seeds and very fragrant spices. The 65 degree egg had a custard-like texture which was perfect for mixing through and mellowing out the heat of the mince, while the wood sorrel and spinach puree provide a little freshness to the dish.

Tostada - $16.00
The hero of this dish was the morcilla, the Spanish version of black pudding. Served atop a thin crunchy tostada, the morcilla was intensely flavoured with many spices that danced on the palate. Chef Carmona orders the morcilla in liquid form from the Grey Lynn Butcher in order to get this layer so thin.

To accompany the strong spices, the morcilla was layered with creamy peanut butter, sweet dragonfruit, refreshing watermelon radish and topped with a sprinkling of black ants and wild flower. All these different textures and flavours enhanced the sausage and were in perfect harmony with each other.


Lamb Pibil - $32.00 (photo provided by Inti)
In my haste to devour the lamb pibil, I neglected to take a photo. Each succulent piece of slow roasted lamb was beautifully paired with hints of beeswax and pomegranate. A topping of fushia flowers provided a refreshing crunch to the hearty dish. The highlight for me were the purple carrots which had spent hours cooking in a jus. 

Cebiche - $24.00
I felt that it was a bit odd to finish on a cold main, but it worked well after the heartier lamb dish. The generous slices of trevally were cured in a citrusy red cabbage marinade and accompanied with dehydrated sweet potato strips, salted tamarillo, and pickled onion. There was a good amount of heat from fresh and dried chillis and I was happy to learn that they do not skimp on the heat!

Vanilla Queso - $15.00
It was a real delight to dig into our dessert to discover its contents. Beneath the vibrant cucumber ice was a layer of thinly sliced roast pineapple and a vanilla cream cheese base. The fresh cucumber balanced out the rich cream cheese, while the slow roasted pineapple provided the gentle sweetness in the dessert. The sunflower seeds added a welcome crunch and the lemon verbena provided little bites of acidity.

Executive Chef Javier Carmona
With each dish, we were lucky enough to have the executive chef, Javier Carmona, explain the ingredients and flavours in each dish. His passion for Hispanic cuisine was very obvious and I was blown away by how much thought went into the menu. Each ingredient is in harmony with its accompaniments and his care is reflected through each meticulously presented dish.


Everything about Inti impressed me. From its modern interior to its dishes that are too pretty to eat (almost), it is truly a great dining experience. I can't wait to come back and try the rest of their menu.

Lucy and Jason dined as guests of Inti.

Inti can be found at 2 Chancery Street, Auckland.