Suffice to say, Peruvian food has certainly been a cuisine of interest since I started reading food blogs. Yet, it happened to be chance when I actually decided to visit one. During another recent trip to the Orange County, I stumbled upon Inka Mama's when looking up restaurants nearby South Coast Plaza. Then I read a glowing review of it from Goei. It was definitely settled-- I had to fulfill this 5+ year old desire that day!
Inside, we enjoyed the large drawings, which effectively provided a virtual transport to Peru itself. And not much longer after receiving our menus, came some complimentary bread, butter, and aji sauce. Oh yes, there it was!
Yet it wasn't just all about the aji sauce, whose creamy, piquant pepper, guacamole like taste kept luring us to have more of it throughout the entire meal. The bread was also fantastic-- lightly crispy on the outside, and so soft and tender on the inside, like the french bread at Golden Deli. We enjoyed the bread so much that we had three baskets of it before our appetizer arrived!
"I know you guys are hungry!" our waitress commented as she dropped off our appetizer, ceviche mixto (12.95 USD), on our table. This was an easy choice, after reading Edwin's commentary that "Inka Mama's ceviche is also very good" Inka Mama's version of ceviche mixto came with sliced fresh fish, shrimp, and calamari mama’s spicy chili- lime juice (also known as leche de tigre-- tiger's milk), served with with sarza criolla (thinly sliced onions and chopped cilantro), potatoes, sweet potatoes, and cancha (crispy corn nuts).
Here, the seafood was "cooked" expertly, at least for the shrimp and squid. On the other hand, the fish was still quite raw; we submurged it into the marinating liquid to cook it further-- and cook it did! The remaining leche de tigre didn't go to waste either-- it went fantastically with the bread and rice in our entrees.
The Ajiaco de Vegetales (9.95 USD), was equally large and had a great spicy garlic sauce (we requested no spice, but it was tasty nonetheless) and a variety of vegetables-- green beans, broccoli, peas, carrots, red bell peppers, white beans, potatoes-- but with one blunder: most of these vegetables were most likely either frozen or canned. I'd suggest ordering something else, or ask for only fresh vegetables.
This was a bit like a fried rice in terms of texture, but with more toothsome rice and more complex, deeper flavors. The sarza criolla and again, aji sauce, helped to provide some brightness between selected bites. As for the seafood, they were cooked further than the ceviche's and were still equally pleasant.
I liked the nice contrast between the savory from the picarones, which were lightly crisp and pleasantly chewy inside, and the fruity sweetness from the fig syrup. Enjoyable, but only at its optimum when it is fresh, so bring along some friends to share the entire platter (serves 4)!
This meal was a great, exciting introduction to Peruvian food! But now, it's time to learn and try more of this fantastic cuisine.
3930 S. Bristol St #107
Santa Ana, CA 92704
Tel: (714) 557-6262