Tuesday, September 19, 2017


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.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Peking Duck Noodle Soup

One of our favourite dishes to order at a Chinese restaurant is the Peking Duck. This dish is frequently ordered in two courses to make the most out of the bird - the crispy skin is wrapped up in a thin flour pancake and eaten with a sweet bean sauce, while the fragrant meat is stir fried with crunchy vegetables and wrapped up in a fresh lettuce leaf. 

Less frequently ordered is the third course - a soup made from the duck bones. The roasted bones impart a smoky flavour to the soup and is sometimes served with tofu and Chinese cabbage. At Quanjude (the Peking Duck restaurant in Beijing), the bones from all of their ducks are cooked for a long time to create a flavoursome soup. 

Chop the duck bones so they fit in your pot
If you don't order this third course, most restaurants will let you take the roast duck carcass home. I usually go for this option as it leaves room for a different menu item, and it provides the base for an easy meal later on in the week. Creating the broth is as simple as cooking the duck bones in boiling water for an hour and enjoying the lovely aroma that wafts through the house. 

Peking Duck Noodle Soup Ingredients:
bok choy, duck meat (from the carcass), noodles, and bone broth
Instead of making a soup to accompany a meal, I like to add noodles to the broth to create a hearty one pot meal. There is usually a lot of meat left on the carcass which, too, can be used as part of the dish. What I like about this dish is that there are no limits to what you can add - the ingredients I have listed are merely what I had on hand at the time.

You can use any noodles, but these are my fave
You can also use any kind of noodles, although I think the firmer types like egg noodles are the most suitable. My favourite are these Taiwanese style noodles which have a chewy texture and hold up well in the broth. A thin pasta, such as spaghettini, would also work well.

Do you like Peking Duck? Have you ever had the third course?

Peking Duck Noodle Soup  (Serves 2)


1 Peking Duck carcass
10 cups cold water
salt to taste
1/2 packet Taiwan style noodles
2 bok choy
marinated eggs and other noodle toppings to serve (optional)


1. Break down the duck carcass in to smaller pieces and place into a large pot.
2. Add cold water to the pot and bring to the boil. Once the pot starts boiling, reduce the heat and let the stock simmer for one hour.
3. Remove the duck bones and set aside to cool. Add noodles to the boiling stock and cook according to packet instructions.
4. While the noodles are cooking, carefully remove any duck meat from the bones and set aside as a noodle topping.
5. When the noodles are almost cooked through, add in bok choy leaves to cook for the last minute or two. 
6. Add salt to taste.
7. Place noodles, bok choy, and duck meat in a large bowl, along with any other toppings you have chosen.
8. Ladle the hot broth over the other ingredients and serve.

Thursday, September 7, 2017


During my pregnancy, the one thing I really craved was sashimi. Unfortunately, raw food was something I had to avoid so I spent a year watching longingly as others consumed bite after bite of delicious salmon and tuna. So large was my craving that, as soon as I brought Charlie home, I was on the hunt for the perfect place to have sashimi. I had heard about the excellent food at Kushi so I decided that this would be the place. 

Expectations were high.

Inside, Kushi was dimly lit, with high ceilings and a spacious interior. The dining area was cleverly sectioned to form a few different spaces - large private areas, smaller intimate areas for small groups, and booths for an even more private feel.
Suntory - $11.00, Plum Wine - $9.50
We started with some drinks while we perused the menu. Jason had a Suntory, a malt beer which was smooth and easy to drink.

I ordered a plum wine which was syrupy but not overly sweet. It reminded of a childhood cough medicine, but in a nice kind of way. 

Edemame - $6.95
We ordered edemame to have while we waited for our food although we didn't make much of a dent before our first dish arrived.

Takowasabi - $8.95
The Takowasabi involved little pieces of raw octopus marinated in a wasabi dressing. There was a sweetness to the octopus flesh which was complimented by the light dressing. I enjoyed each bite of the slippery yet chewy octopus that was accented by delightful pops of caviar.

Small Sashimi - $20.95
Our order of small sashimi came nestled within a Paua shell. We were treated to thick slices of salmon, tuna and kingfish. I closed my eyes and made sure to savour each bite - the fish was so fresh that it had a sweetness to it.

Beef Tataki - $14.90
The beef in this dish was very nicely marbled and sliced delicately. I felt that it was a little light on dressing so the beef tasted a bit bland. The flavour of the beef was lifted when eaten in conjunction with the salad but I thought the dish would have been nice with some sort of dipping sauce specifically for the beef.

Kani Tempura - $20.95
The tempura batter for the soft shell crab was incredibly thin and crunchy. The crab itself was quite meaty and well seasoned. The mild wasabi mayo made for a great dipping sauce. The fresh radish slices were a bit bland compared to the rest of the dish and may have been a nicer addition if they were pickled (this, of course, is a very minor issue in an excellent dish). 

Buta Ko Kakuni - $16.90
The pork belly was our favourite dish of the night. Kushi's special soy marinade fully penetrated through the pork. Each piece was impossibly soft and melted as soon as it reached my mouth - it was actually made it a little difficult to pick up with chopsticks! 

By the end of our meal, we were in a near food coma. Each dish was impeccable in both presentation and taste that, at times, we couldn't decide what to have for the next bite!
My very high expectations were certainly met.

Kushi can be found at 22 Durham Street West, Auckland.