BY Keyser Saucey
The first thing I notice when I walk into Inca’s Kitchen, located in the Pavillion across from Mercato, is the piece of Peruvian folk art nestled behind the bar of the sleek, modern space. Surrounded by flowers, the carved figures seem to depict mortals looking up toward the sky while the heavenly hosts peer down at them. The antique was brought from Peru and lovingly placed amongst the contemporary décor. The piece is a true testament to the commitment to preserve and introduce Peruvian culture to the area.
Originally opened in 2008 by owner and Chef Rafael Rottiers, the current location of Inca’s Kitchen debuted in 2014 and features an impressive event space. I am a big fan of international cuisine, so I was excited to give Inca’s a try.
The entirety of my previous experience with Peruvian food was crafted by a sweet Peruvian grandmother visiting her family, friends of mine, a few years back. The dish I remember the most was Potato a la Huancaina, a boiled potato dish smothered in a yellow pepper and cheese sauce served with hard boiled eggs and black olives. So naturally, when I saw this on the appetizer menu, I had to give it another shot. Think queso over potatoes; yes, please. The flavor is simple, but well matched. I think that my friend’s Peruvian grandmother would have approved.
The only other starter that I sampled was the complimentary Cancha, toasted dried chulpe corn, that is brought to the table along three tasty sauces. I asked the server three times what the names of the sauces were throughout the meal. Each time she patiently explained them to me, but I still have no idea what they are called so I’ll just call them tasty. Apparently, Cancha is a very popular Peruvian snack and I can see why. It’s crunchy, salty and addictive.
The lunch menu offers several dishes that are served at dinner as well. The lunch selections are well-priced; all of the dishes are below $12. The Tallarin Verde con Churrasco immediately caught my eye. It’s a simply seasoned 6 oz steak served with linguini in a Peruvian pesto. I love Italian pesto, but this pesto offers some stiff competition. The fresh creamy basil pesto is the perfect pairing to the tender steak. All I can say about this dish is I wish I could’ve gone back for seconds. Tallarin Verde con Churrasco just may be my new favorite food.
The last item I tried was the Lomo Saltado. This plate features beef tenderloin sautéed with tomato, red onions and yellow pepper flambé with pisco in soy sauce in addition to white rice and French fries. The beef was buttery soft while the onions maintained a perfect crunch. With the soy sauce, it reminded me of an Asian-style stir fry. French fries are a traditional staple of the dish that was surprising to me, but certainly not unwelcome; I’m not too proud to admit that I dredged the fries in that sauce until I couldn’t possibly take another bite.
5/5 Saucey’s on this one. The delicious and meticulously prepared food, modern furnishings, friendly staff and reasonably-priced menu will keep you coming back for more. And next time you’re shopping at Mercato, skip the restaurants pop across the street to Inca’s Kitchen. You won’t regret it.
8955 Tamiami Trail North,
Naples, FL 34108 Lunch Hours: Monday to Saturday 11:30 AM – 3:00 PM; Sunday 11:30 AM – 4:00 PM
Dinner Hours: Monday to Thursday 4:00 PM – 9:00 PM; Friday to Saturday 4:00 PM – 9:30 PM; Sunday: 4:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Phone: (239) 631-5954
Keyser Saucey is a psuedonym for Naples Herald and Lee Herald’s food critic. Keyser’s trips to area restaurants are unannounced and anonymous, and are paid for by the company. Yes, the staff is very jealous.
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