Inka Kitchen on 1228 Lincoln Way East isn't exactly easy to spot. If you check the photo below, they have an unpretentious storefront with a small emblem above the door, a roadside sign you see when getting off I-81 to turn towards Gettysburg, and that's about it. Easiest way to remember their location? They're the place beside Kentucky Fried with chicken that tastes much much better.
I'd written about them before but hadn't had the chance to return these past few months. So when we checked them out again recently we were surprised to see that they'd renovated. Maybe not major construction work but woven Peruvian textiles, strange new spices, new dishes, and so on.
Still got to order the classics of course: the Ceviche Mixto, or raw fish and shrimp marinated in lime chilies and onions, served with a side of yucca fries and Peruvian corn. If you're wary of eating sashimi or raw fish this is actually the safer bet: the hot peppers and tangy lime kill bacteria (while adding life to the dish) and you still get the brightness and crunch of fresh seafood.
This though was new: Chorros a la Chalaca, morsels of steamed mussels rendered tangy by a relish of chilies tomatoes red onion corn and cilantro.
Chuluetas de Cerdo is Colombian-style pork chops marinated in cumin garlic oregano onion thyme and lime, then panfried. Served with Arroz Chaufa, or Chifa-style (Peruvian-Chinese style) Fried Rice. "Peruvian what?" The Chinese apparently were longtime immigrants (from back in the 19th century) and this is one of their more popular contributions to Peruvian cuisine: old rice (all the better for being dry and ready to absorb cooking juices) fried in a wok with soy sauce scallions Chinese cinnamon and egg. By turns familiar delicious surprising.
Of course the star of the establishment: Pollo a la Braza, The Marinated (in lime garlic cumin oregano, among others) and Roasted Chicken That Causes Traffic Jams in the Suburbs of Washington DC. Here served with aji (a spicy cilantro flavored mayo sauce) and plantains (a starchy cousin to the banana) done two ways: twice-fried and sweetened. Love plantains twice fried for the texture (sweeter but no less crispy than boring ole tater chips) but also love the dark caramel flavor of the sweetened version. So which to choose?
For dessert: Peruvian Ice Cream, served prettily in a bowl with a pair of wafers and spoons for sharing (course I share--if I ate everything I ordered I'd weigh twice what I do now). Ordered two flavors: mango and something called Lucuma--an avocadolike ultranutritious fruit with yellow flesh that tastes like a sweet potato dipped in maple syrup (despite which the fruit is hypoglycemic, and can be eaten raw by diabetics). Full of beta-carotene, protein and all kinds of healthy goodies or so I'm told but forget all that: it's simply put a tasty creamy dairy product.
Talking to the owner/manager we found that they had returned to their home country recently, had visited Machu Picchu, had brought home gorgeous brightly woven cloths (see above photos) and new spices dishes and cooking techniques, had re-immersed themselves in their home culture and come out revived, re-inspired, reincarnated so to speak.
We were given parrot key rings (apparently parrots are plentiful in South America of which fifty-one species live in Peru) brightly colored little charmers which we hung on our car rearview mirror. Figure it had multiple uses: as lucky charm, as charming ornament, as ornamental carfinder, in case we find ourselves in a big lot and forgot where we had parked.