Okay, forons. I enjoyed a big-ass meal at Inka Heritage on Sunday afternoon, and while it wasn't overly remarkable, I do look forward to eating my way through the menu eventually.
The space is absolutely gorgeous. I'm no architecture expert, but it comes off as colonial to me with the white trim accenting the bright orange walls. Floor, tables, and chairs are all warm tones of wood, and it needs that warmth to give a little intimacy; a space this bare of this size reflects a lot of noise. Whether this annoys you or contributes to a celebratory atmosphere is purely subjective. I dig it, and I would go in a heartbeat if they ever have live music and dancing.
So, upon the recommendation of my server, I drank chicha for the first time. It was described on the menu as, roughly, a purple corn drink with pineapple, apple, and a wedge of lime to garnish. It was delicious, if slightly warm for my taste; the warmth tends to heighten the natural sweetness. I like a different balance. The lime was the perfect touch -- inhaling it while sipping was a sublime combination.
I read a lot of food books, and I'm just beginning to familiarize myself with South American cooking. I saw some familiar dishes and combinations on the menu as a result. Because I've been eating more and new-to-me seafood with a friend lately, I started with ceviche mixto. It's a beautiful plateful (probably at least a pint) of squid, crab legs, octopus, shrimp, and (I think) mussels, garnished with a heap of red onions, chubby hominy, a little Romaine, and two big cooked carrot wedges. I'm no judge of seafood, but everything tasted as fresh as one could want here in the Midwest, and it absolutely screamed with lime juice. You want to grab my attention? Give me limes. I did like the balance provided by the bits of carrot and hominy, though. That earthy sweetness was just right.
So I was happily plowing my way through the ocean of my plate when my entree arrived: seco de cordero, a bit of roasted lamb with a cilantro sauce, accompanied by (I think) pinto beans and a timbale of plain white rice. To be honest, I was a little underwhelmed by the sauce, but then, cilantro is my second favorite herb and I like both being walloped by its freshness and enjoying it as a subtle accent. Its consistency was somewhat between that of chimichurri and pesto with less of the punch of well-made versions of those sauces. Perhaps, too, my palate was shocked by the lime juice and wasn't appreciating the lamb's subtlety as it might've otherwise. The beans were okay -- very tame, tasting of chicken broth, but forkfuls with the lime-y red onion salad on the side (same as on the ceviche, I think) were quite good. And the rice was just the right, less assertive counterpart to the stronger flavors on the plate. The lamb itself was a touch dry, but that seemed to give it an earthy toothsomeness that, again, was a good contrast to the textures of the seafood I was still (!) eating.
No dessert this time -- no room! -- but they did have several on the menu. And it's a nice big menu, too, with several options for my vegetarian pals. As for prices, expect to pay an average of about $10 for starters and $15-20 for entrees. Desserts, if I recall, seemed to be in the under-$10 range.
Please don't let my warm-ish review deter you from going. Having worked in several restaurants myself, I realize it's not always fair to go this early on. But I couldn't resist going its opening weekend. Plus, the place seemed full of the owners' friends, family, and well-wishers. I like that atmosphere. And -- I can't lie -- it's kind of fun to be one of two or three Caucasian faces in a crowd like this. I love to watch families and friends eat and enjoy one another, especially when it's a culture with which I'm a bit familiar. And besides, someone has to be the guinea pig, right?