I'd been to Inka Anaheim a long time ago when it was still El Pollo Inka and really enjoyed their roasted rotisserie chicken. After reading Elmomonster's raves about their pollo saltado these last few months, I decided it was time to give it another try, this time for saltado.
At first I was impressed by the rather extensive menu (which I don't remember being as voluminous on my prior visits). While I was tempted by many other dishes, I remained focused on two of my benchmarks for Peruvian food ceviche mixto and the aforementioned saltado.
The waiter brought over some small, steamed dinner rolls and a squeeze bottle of aji. The aji was a big letdown - very mild (it tasted of pickles) with no discernable heat. Aji is Peruvian for chili pepper, yet I could not taste any peppers in the sauce whatsoever! Nor did I detect the richness of cream and walnuts (or almonds) - instead it tasted like mayo with pickle juice.
The ceviche looked impressive and the portion was reasonably generous. It was comprised mostly of squid, although there were a few pieces of octopus and half a dozen medium-sized shrimp, accompanied by potato, yam and a small cob of corn. The ceviche was garnished with a strange but tasty artificially yellow citrus marinade, thin slices of red onion and some fresh herbs, but it was missing one key authentic Peruvian ceviche ingredient - cancha, which is a roasted corn that falls somewhere in between an underpopped piece of popcorn and a corn nut. It was a tasty ceviche with tender fruits of the sea, and it would have been close to perfect if only they included the essential cancha for textural contrast.
The freshly prepared saltado arrived at my table shortly thereafter. Before I go into any more detail, I have to admit that my favorite places for saltado are Nory's #2 in Stanton (corner of Knott and Cypress - not the one further down Euclid from Inka Anaheim, which is horrible. Nory's #2 has incredible aji - both green and brown - with a nice, spicy kick, too, and cancha always accompanies the appropriate dishes like ceviche and jalea.) and Mario's on Melrose in Hollywood, in that order. Unfortunately, I could tell just by looking at the dish that I was due for a slight letdown.
The portion was skimpy in comparison to what I get from Nory's #2 and Mario's. The plate was dominated by a large mound of white rice (which was fresh and nicely prepared). The french fries were not a gorgeous golden brown but pale white (they were just on the verge of crispness, as if they needed to be fried another minute or two). The portion of chicken was scanty and probably amounted to the equivalent of a medium-sized thigh or less.
The various ingredients (red onion, chicken, french fries, green onion, herbs, etc) were very fresh, but the sauce was a bit too mildly flavored to leave much of an impression. The saltado was good, but I'd only classify it as slightly above average - the kind of dish I wouldn't refuse, but also that I wouldn't go out of my way to try again (especially since Nory's #2 is closer to where I live - and given a choice between Inka and Mario's I'd make the much further drive to Hollywood first).
My fiancé ordered a tallarin dish with beef (can't remember the sauce) - I had only a small taste, but we both were underwhelmed (she felt the same way about my saltado). The meal was good, the service very personable, and the restaurant's atmosphere is decent (in a tacky, Miami Beach sort of way, although the pan pipe Beatles covers blasting from the boom box were a bit much), but as we left we both said, "We should have gone to Nory's." Her summary of the experience was "Peruvian for tourists. It just doesn't have the authenticity or the powerful flavors of Nory's." I felt the place could be a serious contender if only the flavors weren't toned down so much. I might go back again one day for the rotisserie chicken, but since Nory's makes a pretty good rotisserie chicken as well it may be a while (sorry Elmomonster).
Just to make sure I'm clear on this, I'm not recommending the Nory's just down the street at Euclid and Ball. This place also lacks the requisite cancha (although Nory's #2 always has it), and I once got violently ill for three days after eating there. Just as there's no sex in the champagne room, apparently there's no cancha on Euclid Blvd.
400 S. Euclid
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