I returned to El Pollo Inka in Lawndale last night. It has been a few years since I've been there. El Pollo Inka was my first experience with Peruvian cuisine. It was there that I first tasted Saltado and Pollo a la Brasa. Ever since then, I have been enamored with this cuisine, slowly trying other dishes at other restaurants over the years.
Since I live in Orange County (Irvine to be exact), I never got much of a chance to go back to Lawndale to satisfy my Peruvian jones, so it was then that I found Inka Anaheim, which itself used to be an El Pollo Inka. At Inka Anaheim, I was happy to find good Peruvian so close to me, especially because it was an exit away from Disneyland, since I am also an AP holder. Inka Anaheim has satisfied my craving for saltado, lucuma ice cream, etc. The owners treat me well, the food is good, the prices reasonable. Eventhough I have heard good things about Nory's Peruvian in Cypress, I have never been able to pry myself from Inka Anaheim's doors. I guess you can call me a loyalist, but since I have had mediocre to bad experiences at Inka Grill, Aji Grill, and Inka's in Irvine, it has been hard to convince me to try anything else than Inka Anaheim. Even Inka Si Senor in Las Vegas was subpar to me. (Note: I have heard of Mario's in L.A., and it's on my list to try - so is Nory's...I swear, it will happen soon.)
However, last night at El Pollo Inka in Lawndale, I was born again. The restaurant was PACKED to its gills by 7 pm. I had the Bisteck Apanado (~$8.95)
which is a thin breaded steak, pan fried, and served with rice. The steak was awesome, crispy and salty, with a nice caramelization. It was like a spiced up version of country fried steak, but lighter, with a kick of cumin. The rice was fluffy and had some extra flavor, a hint chicken broth. I also tried the Saltado de Pollo ($7.95). First of all, the portion size is twice as big as Inka Anaheim's. Second, my companion pointed out that the flavor was much fresher and brighter. I agreed. It was definitely like we were tasting this dish for the first time. The chicken were in bigger chunks, juicy and plump. The onions were still crispy, as were the fries. Even the green aji was better, hot and spicy, fresh and zippy. The Plantanos ($2.50), fried plantains, weren't as sweet as I am used to, but they weren't at all greasy. I also sampled my friend's Chaufa de Pollo ($7.95), which was huge enough for two. It was studded with chicken and fresh green onions. "Wow. This is really good," he mumbled as he shoved spoonful after spoonful into his mouth.
On top of that the prices were about a dollar less per dish than Inka Anaheim. I think, the one thing that this place has going for it is turnover. Since there are so many customers, the food is always consistent and always fresh. If only they served lucuma ice cream.