Friday, August 14, 2009

Inca's Kitchen One of Naples and Florida's Finest Cuisines - Peruvian or Otherwise - Review

Inca's Kitchen has superb cuisine and great service, that is why it’s one of the top 10 spots in SW Florida.

Professional chef Rafael Rottiers, has, over 8 months, consistently served the fine quality of food and service that you'd expect at a "high end" spot at Naples 5th Ave South or Miami. The decor at Inca's is warm and attractive, with subtle gallo (rooster) motif. Dress is “nicer casual.” Inca's is nicely lit, with pleasant, soft music at a good level for conversation. This is a great spot for lunch, and perfect for a "date night" dinner. Bring friends, and share many selections. Some Park Shore, Pelican Bay, and North Naples friends have been dining here for months. I’ve been twice, and will return again and again! This review incorporates both visits.

Drive east to Inca's Kitchen; it’s well worth the visit. Chef Rafael's fine cuisine holds its own against any chef, any cuisine around. Your palate knows a fine example of a cuisine, even on the first try. How? Your taste buds smile, and proclaim the balance of spicing to be enjoyable. You recognize the fresh quality and the tenderness of the fish, beef, chicken and properly gilled vegetables. Inca’s Kitchen delivers!

Claudio Serves Sandra and Brendan and their Pet Sugar Apple
The prices are amazing-nearly all on the menu is under $15, with the Golden Jalea platter, which feed three, the "priciest", at $17! The prices are ~half of what you’d pay for similar fine quality in Naple$. Executive Chef /co-owner Rafael Rottiers and co-owner Alfredo Ruiz have created a magnet for lovers of the freshest fish and meats. Some guests came from North Fort Myers, one couple returned from Miami, for seconds, and the table/party of 14 celebrated a birthday!!

Chef Rafael has years of experience in the food and beverage business at Coconut Grove Sonesta Resort. We are fortunate that he offers Peru’s finest cuisine in Naples.As you sit down, a ramekin of traditional seasoned, baked large corn kernels comes, with a tray of three dipping sauces-the Rocoto Peruvian pepper sauce, a lighter mint sauce, and a yellow pepper (aji amarillo) sauce.

Peruvians hold the traditional huancaina (wan-kai-eena) sauce as a "measuring stick" standard. If it’s good sauce, the rest of their food will be good. Inca’s sauce is excellent. Try the vegetarian Papas a la Huancaina ($8), with its classic cheese and pepper sauce.

I love the incredibly savory Loma a la Huancaina (10), with a tender, lightly spiced sliced tenderloin, on a bed of the huancaina’s creamy white cheese (queso blanco) and yellow pepper (aji amarillo). The red onion strips are nicely marinated. This is a gourmet meal for a lighter eater, at only $10. Highly recommended!

Anticuchos de Corazon is a special treat! These succulent slices of beef are traditionally marinated overnight in olive oil, garlic, mild chili, vinegar and spices.Then they are skewered, grilled, and served slightly charred, and superbly tender. Highly Recommended! We started with a nice glass of Sangria (4.25 ), a light Pilsner Callao beer (4.25) and a slightly fuller Cusquena beer (4.25). My favorite is Franca Peruvian beer, here with a sugar apple, like Peru's cherimoya. The best ceviche is created in Peruvian hands. The Ceviche de Pecado (12) with fish, or the Ceviche Como te Gusto’s (14) perfectly marinated mix of calamari, shrimp and fish, bathed in key lime juice. A huge portion! The sides of crisp toasted corn, and the larger tender corn are a traditional ceviche accompaniment. Recommended.

Scallops get a place of honor in the Conchitas a la Parmesana (10). This is a simple and rich marriage of four large scallops on the half shell, with dash of butter, cheese. and a touch of lime juice, covered with melted parmesan cheese. Mmmm good!Continuing on a super fresh seafood “roll”, the Inca’s Duo Tiradito (13) is two sashimi like portions of fresh fish, served with two different mild chile sauces-aji amarillo and the orange-red ricoto sauce, separated by a row of fresh corn. Delicious! The bonus is the exquisitely seasoned sweet potato quartet, glazed with lusciously caramelized chancaca, perched at the plate’s corners. Highly recommended for sashimi lovers.

The Calamar Imperial a la Olla (11) looks great, with calamari, Japanese eggplant, aji mirasol and garbanzo beans, simmered in a seafood bouillabaisse.
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Jaime Ziadie's Sister Margie Schnute Celebrates Her, um, 29th Birthday with 12 Other Friends! The Papa Rellena (8) is mashed potato filled with seasoned ground beef, onions, garlic and sliced egg, then deep fried. It is served with classic salsa criolla-a bright mix of feather-cut red onion, cilantro, mild yellow chili pepper and lime juice.

Several peppers- the aji amarillo (dried-aji mirasol), aji rocoto, the hotter aji lomo, and aji panca are the heart of Peruvian seasoning. They contribute more berry like flavor than heat, creating the culinary backbone, the essential, unique taste of Peruvian cuisine. These peppers do not grow well in the USA; they and their paste are imported from Peru.

I recommend having a Pisco Sour. This classic Peruvian drink, modeled on the Whiskey Sour, has Pisco,the quebranta grape brandy (Santiago Queirolo and Quebranta are good ones, an “acholado” may do fine), lime juice (called “limon” in Peru), some fresh egg white to build froth, and a little sugar syrup, shaken to a froth. It's topped with a few drops of bitters, sometimes a touch of nutmeg. Like the Mojito and Caipirinha, the Pisco Sour is popular in the USA. Time for some main courses.

The Aji de Gallina (12) is wonderful comfort food, a fricassee of shredded chicken bathed in a creamy golden-yellow mild aji amarillo sauce with chunks of golden potatoes. It’s topped with black olive, hardboiled egg and pecans. Put this over the white rice. Enjoy the crisp, slender flame shaped fried plantain slice.

Golden Jalea, South American Fish and Chips, at $17, is the "priciest" item on the menu. You get the picture! Our great server, Claudio, warned us that it was large enough for two people. It’s also perfect as an appetizer for 4 to share! The plate is brimming with perfectly fried shrimp, calamari and fish, with a shot glass of tasty Inca aioli dipping sauce. Sides are crispy fried yucca logs, and a delicious criolla salsa-sparkling bright lime juice- marinated sliced red onions and yellow pepper. I think it can feed three people!

My favorite fish is the Pescado Inca’s Wari (16) a grilled delicate fish, served tender and with crisp edges on a chalhua reduction, topped with a sweet Peruvian salsa of corn, red chili and cilantro. The fish is masterfully cooked! The grilled red and green bell peppers and slender asparagus could make a great vegetarian meal. The sautéed fresh spinach is lovingly prepared. This is one of the top fish offerings in South Florida. Highly, highly recommended!

The Chupe de Camarones (14) is a very, very large bowl of tender shrimp and fish. This Peruvian- style bouillabaisse is as rich and tasty as any from Marseilles, France, with rice, potato, egg, Peruvian corn, and green peas. Enough for two people. Highly recommended. Some of the Chupe's Fish, Shrimp and Broth, in a Small CupThe special Costa-Sierra (19) is a must-have when it is offered! It is a wonderful trio sampler. The tenderloin is delicious-properly grilled and perfectly spiced. Next to it are two seared diver scallops, atop a bed of pureed sweet potato, butternut squash and onion. Then two fresh large succulent shrimp, perfectly grilled, and wonderfully spiced, are perched on a a creamy bed of quinoa mixed with onion, garlic and two creamy cheeses. On the side is spinach and sliced mushrooms in olive oil. The pyramid of crisp golden potatoes, has a mango marinade on top. It’s large for one person, and a great tasting plate. Highly recommended.

Another special is the Beef Tenderloin (18), expertly cooked, served atop creamy quinoa, rimmed with a mushroom reduction, and garnished with crisp green asparagus and sliced carrots, with baked potato slices and mango-corn salsa. Recommended.

Alisa and David, Two of Naples' Adventuresome Diners.
Other guests at Inca’s also frequent Naples spots such as IM Tapas, Escargot 41, Blue Provence, Bha Bha’s, USS Nemo, and Trulucks. Word of mouth has propelled each customer I’ve met to come here for a first, then a second and third time. There’s a good base of repeat customers. Our reservation was for 6 pm, and by 7 pm Inca’s was nearly full. Pretty good for a gem that is fifteen minutes away from the heart of Naples!
Lomo Alo Macho ($19.95), Beef Fillet with Seafood, may well be Chef Rafael's pride and joy. An 8-ounce Filet Mignon is topped with a mango-corn salsa. It is paired with a variety of seafood such as squid, shrimp and mussels, seasoned with a splash of salsa mariscos. Highly recommended.
We picked a great trio of desserts. The Inca’s Pie de Manzana (5), is a bargain on its taste, beauty and price. It’s a wonderful Peruvian riff on an apple cobbler, served hot and sweet with crunchy nuts, and a large scoop of cherimoya ice cream. Cherimoya, a sugar apple cousin, is a large green fruit with a moderately sweet, custard like rich interior. Red Delicious apple slices and an artistic duet of sweet sauces complete an elegantly simple presentation. Recommended.

The Alfajor con dulce de leche (6) is a traditional crisp cookie, with a center of sweet dulce de leche, or caramelized milk, covered with powderd sugar. A scoop of delicious lucuma fruit ice cream’s slight caramel like natural flavor is a delight. I’ve not seen the fruit offered outside of Peru, Chile or Ecuador, as it thrives at 9-10,000 feet elevation..

Picarones (6), are the classic Peruvian style dessert. They look similar to bunuelos, served in many styles across Latin America. The ring-shaped picarones are crafted differently. The light and fluffy anise-flavored dough is made with sweet potato, and squash, rather than the typical flour of other Latin buñuelos. The dough is fried, then topped with sweet chancaca syrup, with anise and cinnamon. This molasses or rich honey like syrup is made of heated natural brown cane sugar (panella or piloncilla), and flavored with orange and cloves. Picarones have a crunchy exterior, and a wonderful rich, dense center. They (and also anticuchos) are traditionally eaten during El Señor de los Milagros celebrations in October. On my second visit, I asked to have these also served with the lucuma ice cream. I put the goofy blackberry "eyes" on the delicious lucuma ice cream.There are special children’s platters, including Salchipapa (7) with chopped hot dog with golden fried potatoes, a Mini Burger with Inca style cheese sauce ($8), Pesto fettuccini (8) with choice of chicken or fish, and others.

Meredith and Max give Both Thumbs Up!
Inca’s Kitchen is easy to get to, just 15 minutes east of Naples Coastland Mall. Take Golden Gate Parkway east to 951, Collier Blvd, and turn left.. It’s a few blocks north of the Golden Gate Parkway intersection. It anchors the north end of a small yellow strip center. There’s ample parking. Last night's cars included a Lexus, BMW, a Ford Focus, and two SUV’s.
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Senora Blanca y Executive Chef Rafael Rottiers, Cook Benjamin Dominguez, Server Claudio Gamboa
Inca's Kitchen, 11985 Collier Blvd - suite 9 Naples, 352- 3200, Tues - Sat: 11:30 am - 9:00 pm; Sunday: 11:00 am - 8:30 pm; closed Monday

9 comments:

Sherri Jones said...

Um….excuse me, Mr. Seligman, but what does your comment, “There’s ample parking. Last night's cars included a Lexus, BMW, and two nice SUV’s.”, have to do with the quality of the food at Inca’s Kitchen? Are you implying that the presence of expensive cars somehow deems the restaurant worthy of visiting? Is that that the 'stamp of approval' supporting your review? If wealthy people eat there should the rest of us blindly follow suit? I only drive a Toyota Rav4 (A red one! How trashy is that?) but certainly know, and appreciate, good quality food. The two, in my humble, practical, and grounded Midwestern opinion, have little to do with one another. Please, please tell me that you are not caught up in the superficiality that is so pervasive in Naples. Sigh.....

Signed, the Burr Under Your Saddle

Ivan de Naples AKA Ivan Seligman said...

Sherri Jones,

Good question. thank you.

I am not implying that "the presence of expensive cars somehow deems the restaurant worthy of visiting?" For those familiar with Naples dining options, many of the good spots are where the traffic is, and where winter tourists drive- along US 41, 5th Ave South, Third Street South, Pine Pidge, and othere streets-all well, well west of I-75, and relatively far away from 951, Inca's location.

I recorded the cars as they stood out to me, being clustered in this neighborhood, another world away from the tourist (and native's) busy corridor of US41. I asked the other diners where they lived, and how they found out about Inca's.

To me, it indicates that word of mouth (not any conventional advertising) has brought diners to leave their familiar routes in Naples and Fort Myers, and visit a place they would not have found by chance. Whether from Gulfshore Blvd or from Miami, 2 hours away, they left their cocoons, to visit, enjoy, and return to Inca's. This is a good thing.

Expensive cars do not validate any restaurant to me. They do not validate their owners to me, either. The cars were "out of place" along 951,and I was curious why.

What makes a restaurant worthy of visiting to me? I follow my nose and palate-I don't follow pricey cars and their owners.

Just my previous restaurant review, August 2nd, was of Mile High Burgers, where I fell in love with their $3.95 hamburger,onion rings friendliness, and service. No fancy cars here. Just great food. Great food is great food to me, at any price or location.

I, and my readers are not impressed by cars or fancy china, decor, or high prices. I've raved about tortilla spots, funky diners like Dixie Moon, and spots where little English is spoken, and one can feast on tasty food for $7.50. My kind of place! If a spot has great food, I'll find it, and tell you and my other readers. That's why I eat out so often, and blog about the most newsworthy spots. Maybe that's why this food blog averages 250-300 readers a day.

Sherri Jones said...

You should have said that in the first place. -Burr

Ivan de Naples AKA Ivan Seligman said...

I didn't know you'd ask.

Anonymous said...

Hi .I lioke the little discussion, but mostlikelly, I like the Awsome food at Inkas Kitchen! definetivelly the best Peruvian Restaurant in SWFLA. Que viva el PERU.

Chris Swiss

younona said...

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Anonymous said...

The last post looks like spam.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Seligman. You mentioned this is one of the top 10 restaurants in SW Florida. What are the other 9?

I'll be visiting Ft. Myers for a couple of weeks in Jan and I'm always looking for great local restaurants. I'm from the bay area (San Francisco) so I really enjoy fresh, authentic and unpretentious food. I love the French Laundry but just as comfortable at In-N-out burgers.

I do plan to visit Inca's Kitchen but would like to hear other recommendations.

thanks!
Duncan

Ivan de Naples AKA Ivan Seligman said...

Hi Duncan,

A couple weeks ago I ate in your neck of the woods at Bouchon, then south to Murphy Circle, One Market, Sam Wah, Zuni, Le Colonial, and New Asia for dim sum. To sum up, food quality and especially service are generally much better in the Bay area. Nevertheless, I have most of my favorites here. Some more are on this blog, there's over 100 I've not written up yet!

Below are all independent restaurants, except for Capital Grille.

Escargot 41-French,. Inca’s Kitchen, Bay House, Bha! Bha! (Persian), IM Tapas (Spanish), M Waterfront Grille (New American), Sea Salt (Mediterranean),
KC American Bistro (New American), Charlie Chiangs (Chinese), David Wong's Pan Asian, Latin Family Bakery (Chilean), Ridgeways's,
Home Thai, and A Table Apart in in Bonita Springs,
Capital Grille Mercato-Best steakhouse
Noodles for entertainment some nights, Turtle Club for Beach,
Randy’s Fish-funky
USS Nemo’s for Sea Bass, Miramare for view
Brew Babies Cape Coral atmosphere
Thistle Lodge- Sanibel romantic
Yabo –Fort Myery live entertainment atmosphere...
Mister Five for 50's style $5 food
Check my blog for niche spots like Sweet Mama's, Richies, This is a good start for you.

Let me know your SF Bay area delights!