Food + Dining Main

Dining Review: Inca's Kitchen

This new Inca’s Kitchen, true to its native roots, offers novel ingredients and exotic flavors.

BY May 4, 2015


You could feel the enthusiasm reverberate when word spread that a new Inca’s Kitchen would be opening in the Pavilion shopping center in North Naples. The original location on Collier Boulevard has been a fan favorite since 2008, enticing hungry Neapolitans east with the promise of tantalizing ceviche, authentic meat and seafood dishes, and unique displays of the chef’s creativity.

Having now dined once at each outpost, I offer this preliminary advice: Be prepared to cede some control. The cuisine is Peruvian, not Americanized Peruvian. Many menu descriptions are hard to follow and feature ingredients novel to the standard palate. Armed with a spirit of culinary adventure and a Pisco Sour ($10.25)—a popular South American cocktail invented in Lima and reminiscent of a margarita—I dove in.

Another word of advice: The ceviche, if you’re inclined, is not to be missed. It is bright and fresh and flavorful. The Mix Inca Ceviche ($15) combines fish, octopus, calamari and shrimp in a dynamic citrus immersion. If we had a real winter in Naples, this would surely be the antidote. Fried calamari ($13) was satisfyingly crunchy and paired well with a side of vinegary, sliced red onions, but it was disappointingly lukewarm, an unexpected temperature for something coming from the fryer.

Of Peru’s more than 2,800 potato varieties, the Causa Meztiza ($16) introduced four, each with its own pairing: chicken salad, crab salad, fish escabeche and an olive cream with octopus. This is an eminently shareable dish. Flavors were mild but inviting, and I was particularly a fan of the escabeche, though, again, the fried fish was not piping hot. 


Only midway through the appetizers, entrées were enthusiastically delivered (the only service flaw throughout the meal). Concerned that the temperature issues would persist, my dining companions and I pressed on, Peruvian smorgasbord style.

I’d recommend the traditional Lomo Anticucho to any steak lover ($26). Mouthwatering beef tenderloin, well-seasoned and slightly smoky, was grilled and served simply with steamed greens, potatoes and an enticingly tangy sauce. Be advised that the default cooking temperature here seems to be medium-well—as evidenced in part by notations on our check at the end of the evening—so if you prefer things on the rarer side, you’d best speak up. To the credit of the quality of the steak and skill of the kitchen, however, even at medium-well, this steak could be cut with a fork. 

The Mancora Sea Bass ($32), a dish of the chef’s own invention, was rich and satisfying. A beautiful filet was served atop a flavorful broth and adorned with scallops and mussels, all melding in a nice stew. An uncomplicated duck leg with cilantro rice ($18) is what I imagine Peruvian comfort food might look like. The fall-off-the-bone meat, generous mound of fragrant rice, crisp fried plantain slice and same pickled onions that joined forces with the calamari earlier felt true to the dish’s billing on the menu as a “classic.”

Our attempts at dessert were less fruitful. While our server happily rattled off several options, only two remained available on this busy night in season. Inauspiciously, there was plenty of a mousse made from the lucuma ($7.95), a native Peruvian fruit, which we were told resembled butterscotch in taste. Sadly this was a miss in both texture and flavor. A cookie with a caramel filling and a scoop of vanilla ice cream ($6.75) didn’t leave us wowed, but it did satisfy our sweet craving. 

Despite the obvious hiccups, our overall impressions were positive. Our server was affable, approaching to ask how our food was several times per round of plates. This restaurant is much larger than its sister and the décor is more upscale, trending noisier in the main room but quieter in the corner we inhabited. Packed as it was on an ordinary Tuesday, it seems that version 2.0 of Inca’s Kitchen has found its audience and will continue to draw in curious newcomers and steadfast customers alike. 

Inca’s Kitchen   

8955 Tamiami Trail N., Naples, 631-5954, Closed Monday. Open Tuesday through Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday noon to 8:30 p.m. Wheelchair accessible. Reservations recommended.  


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