I'd noticed El Inka Deli before, but had never the inclination to try them. They serve mainly Peruvian food, as well as some burritos and tacos. Anyways, they've been in the neighbourhood for a couple years now, so a visit was due.
We ordered a variety of plates to share, and were offered a complimentary salsa. It went well with everything we ordered. To start, we had some yuquitas (cassava "fries"). The cassava was starchy, homey, and HOT (temperature-wise). It was a preview of what would come with nearly every dish afterwards...
The tamale, is traditionally made with masa (acidified, pounded corn meal). We were told by Kim (our resident latin food expert, due to his roots in Panama...) that the masa / available corn flour here in Canada is significantly different from what is available in Latin America. I've yet to meet a tamale that really lives up to my perceived hype (I've read about them so so SO many times over the years that I'm sure I have an unbelievable expectation of them) - but a family friends' mother makes fantastic El Savadorian food. Her version, along with Chef Whittakers' upscale version at Odouls during the Playhouse Wine Festival last year were quite good (very different, but good). My portion of the El Inka tamale didn't have a whole lot of filling, so I couldn't tell what it was. Perhaps a re-taste is in order?
Next up was the Anticuchos / grilled beef heart, served with corn and potatoes. This was my first time eating beef heart. It was juicier than I expected, and El Inka had seasoned it well. There was no perceived gamey-ness, nor was the meat grainy. Something I can cross of my "list of things to eat", although I don't forsee myself developing cravings for it either. The dish above on the right is the Ceviche Mixto / mixed ceviche. Portions of scallop, shrimp, calamari, and other seafood combined with a light vinaigrette right before serving. Garnished with the "house" red onion pickle. Again, as with the tamale, I would like a larger portion to really taste what the dish is all about.
The next dish was the winner of the night. Jalea Mixta, a mixture of lightly breaded and fried calamari, fish, and other seafood topped with the house / red onion pickle and tomatoes, served with lime wedges and deep fried cassava. From what I had, it was enough for me to plan to come back. The fish and seafood was done *just right*. and the pickle added a nice tang and moisture to the dish.
The dish above, Picada Criolla, consisted of a pork chop, ribs, cassava, sausage, fried plantain, arepa and potato. Again, I'd like to order this again. The two sausages (different kinds) were interesting. One had almost a rice-like filling, while the other was akin to a loose / Mexican Chorizo-like sausage. I didn't get to try the ribs, but this dish would surely satiate a meat lovers appetite.
I'm always curious as to how fish is prepared around the world. Mojarra, whole tilapia was prepared by a light dusting of seasoned flour, and was served with an avocado and tomato salad, as well as a shredded deep fried vegetable (cassava? plantain?) cake. Mijune picked up earthy / spoilage notes on one side of the fish. Although we (M and I) had first eaten the exposed / top part of the fish first, we had detected the typical earthy tilapia flavours already (not indicative of spoilage). However, it was definite that the bottom side of the fish was starting to spoil / possess quality defects. This could be due to old / dead fish, or improperly cleaned fish. Improperly cleaned or improperly gutted fish allows the stomach and organ acids of the fish to come in contact with the flesh, and thus eats away at the meat and causes it to spoil faster. Another cause of the spoilage flavours would be the temperature abuse - not on El Inkas' part, but perhaps on the supplier / processers side. New tilapia suppliers needed!
The service was very hospitable, due to the fact that the owner recognized Kim on his repeat visits. While we were dining, the owner stopped by to joke around, tell us the origins of a dish, or to answer any questions we had. One of the drinks he / Kim decided to order was the "purple drink" / Chicha Morada. It was a rich berry-coloured drink that Degan, Mijune and I decided tasted like a combination of Ikeas' apple cider mix and Ribena (black currant concentrated). Not bad, but not what you'd expect from the appearance. The owner listed the ingredients - corn (?), peach, apricots, cherries, clove, cinnamon, and a variety of other fruit. It was unlike anything else I've had in my life. :)
A little later, he presented us with the "concentrate" for the drink. As expected, from the cooking of the various fruit together, a lot of the natural pectins had "gelled" the concentrate. We were told that it could be eaten as is, or sprinkled with ground cinnamon and enjoyed. Personally, I'd like the concentrate on some grilled or roasted pork, with turkey, or as a spread on my morning toast.
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Kim & revisited
3826 Sunset Street