Magically headlining Block 338’s highest point at the Terminal building, Sara Waddah headed to Clay to explore a journey of heritage, that was all about embracing our differences.
Alavish restaurant that truly captures the essence of both Japanese and Peruvian cuisines, Clay Bahrain also brings forth and celebrates the two very different cultures in a space that is emotive, engaging and beyond Instagram-worthy. I had expected just a regular Tuesday night but I can honestly say that, from the moment we walked through the door, I was a little overwhelmed by the wonderful décor and ambience.
With a warm and earthy colour scheme, the restaurant’s interior design certainly lives up to its identity. Everything was strategically created to emulate Japanese-Peruvian vibes, from wooden furniture to parquet flooring and marble tabletops.
With a live DJ playing cool tunes by the already-busy terrace, my dining companions and I opted to sit inside (near the kitchen because we were ready to eat), where we were able to gaze at the different art installations as we prepared for an eventful dinner.
Referred to as Nikkei, the cuisine they continue to explore at Clay was developed over many generations, inspired by the descendants of Japanese immigrants living in Peru. Focusing on bringing the best of both worlds, the freshest of Peruvian flavours are combined into dishes using Japanese techniques, concluding with an explosion of flavours.
The talk of the town at Clay is the range of ceviches, and we were pleasantly surprised to see a Carretillera (type of ceviche street food) come out in one of the most charming, fancy-looking dishes I’ve come across. Almost too pretty to eat – the ceviche was prepared with yellow chilli, choclo corn and sweet potato purée, giving it a distinctive colour, all intended to be enjoyed together with a quinoa cracker.
We also got to sample their new take on nigiri pairings: rice with scallops; rice with truffles and salmon; and rice with Foie Gras and tuna. The talented chefs behind the scenes offered a whole new perspective on how to enjoy these dishes using different flavours. And they had certainly mastered the art of food presentation.
Next on the menu for us was the Short Ribs Steamed Niku Bao Buns. The buns were fluffier than ever and stamped with Clay’s name and the tender filling with the meat literally falling apart to the touch was particularly delightful thanks to the addition of the Criolla Salad, which gave a sense of something new and flavourful.
The Tako Nikkei was a sheer work of art. From preparation to presentation (and even consumption), the grilled octopus was absolutely perfect and was complemented by a very special Chimichurri Nikkei sauce. All these different flavours were honoured beautifully, embracing two cultures in a single cuisine that I was slowly, but surely falling in love with.
Another one of my favourite dishes was the Tori Al Grill, made with Peruvian yellow chilli paste and panca chilli paste, garlic confit, soy sauce, mustard and fresh oregano. This brings me back to my earlier point, that Clay has not only created a whole new take on some of our favourite dishes but consciously surprises us with the most complex of tastes in the simplest of forms.
You know I can’t go anywhere without ending on a sweet note, and the Yuzu Cheesecake did that for me. An absolute staple classic taken to another level with the prime choice of ingredients and blended to offer a mouth-wateringly creamy and satisfying texture.
My appetite sated, my soul elated and my senses heightened, this night provided a gastronomic journey that honoured the heritage of the Nikkei. I won’t forget it in a hurry and can’t wait to go back.