A few weeks’ ago, I was invited to dine at Inti, a newly opened restaurant delivering freshly styled Hispanic cuisine to Auckland City.
Named after the Incan sun god, Inti has replaced Meat Fish Wine, an eatery at which I enjoyed the food and wine, however, dining at Inti is nothing like I have experienced before. At Inti, you can do two things:
- Explore delicious modern interpretations of South American ingredients, flavours and techniques; and
- Enjoy art by aerosol artist, Flox, bringing the space to life with Hispanic-inspired wall work.
Heading up the Inti kitchen is Spanish born Javier Carmona, who brings 27 years of experience and a passion for Hispanic flavours to Inti, creating a unique culinary journey for Auckland locals to experience.
On the night we arrived, Inti were hosting a special Argentinian wine tasting and we were able to join in! We tried four different organic Argentinian red wines, my favourite being the Septima Malbec 2016, an intense red with aromas of fresh cherries, balanced with toast and vanilla.
We also sampled various nibbles from Inti’s menu – we loved the mini versions of the Green chorizo with a 65 degree egg, salted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and wood sorrel. Find out more about this dish below!
After the lovely wine tasting, we were led to our table, where Inti’s restaurant manager, Carolin, explained the menu, ethos and Hispanic art work. She was very welcoming and friendly.
We then ordered further drinks – I love cocktails, especially fruity ones so I couldn’t go past ordering The Brazilian – a blend of Cachaça, guava and passionfruit. Cachaça is Brazil’s most popular spirit and is made from fermented sugarcane juice. It was very refreshing and a great start to our culinary journey…
The staff at Inti were very knowledgeable about the menu – great because we must of asked a billion questions about each ingredient – most you won’t recognise!
Inti’s menu is separated into four sections: ANTOJITO, STREETS, OLD WORLD NEW WORLD and DULCE. Out of the 17 dishes on the menu, we tried 14 of them. Each dish was beautifully presented on ceramic wares from Waiheke, and a highlight was that all the hot dishes arrived on warm plates… definitely makes a difference!
We started with ANTOJITOS, traditional Mexican street foods, which literally translates to ‘little cravings’. We enjoyed the following:
Plantain (chips, made using very green bananas) with a beautiful smoked sour cream, lime and burnt leek. Very moreish and we almost licked the plate!
Mussel Michelada – mussels marinated in a dark beer and topped with fermented celery and chili. These had a great kick!
Cactus “Guacamole” with seaweed, almond, epazote and avocado leaf. One of my favourite dishes of the night – guacamole like you’ve never had before, plus an edible avocado leaf to crunch on?! Amazing!!!
Salsa Tarasca, made from pumpkin and sunflower seeds, accompanied by a selection of Mexican breads – soft corn tortillas, panucho (a puffed fried tortilla, this one made with cricket flour) and our personal favourite, the concha – a sweet and incredibly fluffy bun – beautiful!
Next were the STREETS, our starters for the night.
Firstly, the Green chorizo with a 65 degree egg, salted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and wood sorrel. One, if not our favourite dish of the night – the herbs were lovely and the egg was perfectly cooked when we cut through the middle… just wow! Plus, check out the upside-down heart shape! The chorizo was also melt in your mouth.
Our next dish was the Tostada – the prettiest dish I have ever seen. Served with morcilla (black pudding), pitaya (dragonfruit) and peanuts, the flavours were interesting and if you look closely, the Tostada is topped with black ants! At first, I was a bit hesitant, but they actually gave the dish a nice crunch.
Our third and final dish from the STREETS menu was Anticucho, a popular dish originating from Peru, which consists of small skewered (and marinated) pieces of meat. Inti uses beef, cooked in jamon fat (Spanish ham) and served with aji Amarillo (medium to hot chilies) and lettuce juice. The beef was tender and had a spicy kick!
OLD WORLD NEW WORLD is the mains section of Inti’s menu. Our first dish was the Duck with burnt honey brine, rose petal mole and coconut horchata. The duck was succulent – melt in your mouth. We also loved the mole (pronounced mōh-lāy) which is the national dish of Mexico – a sauce usually made with onions, garlic, spices, herbs, nuts, seeds, chilies and dark chocolate. The rose petal mole was a different take on the mole that my dining companions had tried Mexico, but was tasty nonetheless.
Tip: Add a sprinkle of cinnamon to this dish – it really brings out all the flavours!
We also enjoyed the Huitlacoche with raw oca, hoja santa, lemon and rice cracker – Inti’s only vegetarian dish, with the Huitlacoche being a fungus that grows on the ears of corn, also known as ‘Mexican truffle’ and oca being similar to that of a New Zealand yam. Definitely haven’t seen this combination on an Auckland menu yet, which made it so much more exciting! We also loved the presentation of this dish.
Our third and final main was the Cebiche – raw fish, served with red cabbage, salted tamarillo and sweet potato. Although it was not a hit among my dining companions, I would happily order this dish again. I loved the striking presentation, the generous serving of fresh trevally, the red cabbage marinade and the dehydrated sweet potato chips.
Lastly, DULCE or dessert. There are four options on the menu and we tried them all.
I really enjoyed our first dessert, the Smoked Xocolate with mandarin, quajillo, chili and persimmon. Three variations of mandarin are incorporated into this dish – as a liquid in the ganache, as mandarin sorbet and as a mandarin powder (the mandarin skin is ground into a powder, with a similar texture to sherbet). Definitely not something I was expecting in a dessert, but overall it was a nice surprise!
Next was a take on the Spanish dessert, Crema Catalana. Made with goat’s milk and served with torched meringue, barley and custard apple, we couldn’t quite work out this dish. The meringue was served in chunks – not piped and the custard apple was most unusual!
Thirdly, Manchego with hibiscus, potato cracker and black quinoa. Although I loved the Manchego cheese, I wouldn’t order this dish again as I have a sweet tooth. However, if you are a cheese lover, then definitely try this!
We were then blown away by the Vanilla Queso with burnt pineapple, cucumber ice, lemon verbena and seeds. A refreshing way to end our meal and one of my dining companies exclaimed “it tastes just like a margarita!”. We agreed this would be the perfect palate cleanser between meals.
Overall, we were all very impressed by the food at Inti. We all had a similar feeling – like we had been transported to South America on a culinary holiday, surprised and excited by all the interesting flavours, tastes and presentation. If you are looking for a unique dining experience, then Inti should definitely be at the top of your list!
Side note: Don’t leave without checking out the bathroom – there are many surprises!
* I was invited to dine at Inti, courtesy of the restaurant, however all opinions are (and always will be) my own.