400 varieties of corn, 85 kinds of potatoes and a heritage of cultural influences from around the world make Peruvian cooking exotic, at Inca’s Kitchen.
The only thing Inca’s Kitchen hasn’t done to give you an authentic Peruvian experience is replace the luxury SUV’s in the parking lot with a herd of llamas.
If servers like ours, named Ximena, who speak perfect English with melodic, mesmerizing Spanish accents, haunting folkloric music from guitar rhythms and flutes called Quenas, made of reeds in different sizes held together by knotted string, so soothing you’re surprised when you eventually notice it was there all along, and opulent wall décor sculpted by hand from bronze, sterling silver and copper, or handwoven from luxurious fibers, using ancient Incan techniques isn’t the real flavor of Peru, I don’t know what is.
Unless it’s the mouthwatering food on the menu at Inca’s Kitchen, at prices just as good. Huacatay, a Peruvian sauce made from blackmint found only in Peru, roasted red and yellow peppers, and mayonnaise, is already waiting for you when you are seated. Dip Gancha chips, made from fried corn, in it just like the Incas do.
“85 different kinds of corn grow in Peru, and 385 kinds of potatoes,” says Inca’s Kitchen owner Rafael Rottiers. “Yellow potatoes, purple potatoes, and shrimps that live only in the rivers of Peru. They are purple, too, until they are cooked.
“This is why food in Peru has such amazing flavors, and why I have such a passion for Peruvian cooking. The beauty of Peru is the influence of French, Asian, English and Italian cultures, and the ingredients that are completely different from what we eat here.
“There are whole regions in Peru, with the coast, mountains and jungle, that have their own cultures. They mixed, and brought their cooking. Now the world knows what was mystical, and has been hidden,” says Rafael.
Try the traditional Ceviche, madewith fish, or octopus and calamari, $13.95 to $15.95. Or take Ximena’s recommendation, Anticuches, at market price when available. “It’s very popular in Peru, a cow heart with special sauce,” says Ximena. “Sometimes, Americans open their eyes wide, as if to say, ‘oh,’ but when they taste it, they want it.”
For dessert, try the wonderful Picarone, a Peruvian doughnut made with sweet potato and honey. Top it with Lucuma, a butterscotch flavored ice cream made only in Peru, $8.95 for both.
“The best is yet to come,” says Rafael, and smiles, leaving us to wonder, does he mean the second location opening in Naples soon, or the excellent Peruvian wines, made from the best grapes in South America, already ordered and expected to arrive, straight from the coastal valley wineries of Peru?
IF YOU GO: Inca’s Kitchen is located at 11985 Collier Boulevard, phone: 239- 352-3500, e-mail: info@incaskitchen. com. Open Tuesday through Saturday 11:30 am to 9:00 pm, Sunday 12:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Closed Monday.