Thursday, March 22, 2007

Otherworldly Peruvian food at La Posada Del Inca

The big screen TV at La Posada Del Inca was showing a rock concert. Well, not exactly rock. The band was wearing American-style clothes and playing guitars before a huge, pulsating crowd of adoring women. But the music sounded like a speedy version of a Sergio Leone spaghetti western soundtrack -- topped with Incan-style flutes.

Peru is the point of collision for many cultures -- Incan, Spanish, Gypsy, Japanese, and even Italian. It makes sense that the cuisine of Peru is regarded by many as one of the world's most varied and best. Some say it is on par with the food of France, Italy, and China. Although I am just getting my feet wet with Peruvian food, I am already a big fan.

Perhaps the best Peruvian food in Houston is served at La Posada Del Inca, a new restaurant on Long Point just west of Blalock. The huge menu has a variety of Peruvian dishes. For Americans new to Peruvian food, some dishes will seem fairly safe and familiar. Other dishes will be extremely exotic.

On my first visit, I ordered safely, despite my best efforts. I asked the waitress -- a fair-skinned English-speaking woman -- which item on the menu was "really unusual." She recommend a rotisserie cooked chicken. "No, no," I said, "I want something unusual, something different." Then she describes a dish of marinated meat, "much like fajitas mixed with french fries." She just was not getting it, so I tried a different tact: "Perhaps some seafood?" She responds, "we have ceviche." I asked, "is it marinated in lime juice, like Mexican ceviche?" "Yes," she admitted. "Ok," I said, "what about this yellow dish pictured on the menu?" "Oh," she said, "that's Aji de Gallina -- chicken in spicy milk. It's one of my favorites."

The aji de gallina looks exactly like a plate of French curry. Pieces of chicken are swimming in a bright yellow sauce next to a beautiful mound of perfectly cooked rice. Yet the sauce -- the "spicy milk" -- does not taste like curry. Nor is it all that spicy. It does have a wonderful creamy flavor and tastes like a concentrated chicken broth. The dish is subtle, emphasizing the flavor of chicken.

The waitress explains that I can make the dish spicier by adding some aji sauce -- which is a salmon-colored paste served in a separate bowl. This is a bit confusing because my chicken is called "aji de gallina. Apparently "aji" is a generic word for "pepper" that comes in different colors and spice levels. The "spicy milk" is yellow because it uses a mild, yellow-colored aji. Yet the aji sauce on the side has a pinkish color and is extremely spicy. The flavor is a salty,greenish pepper flavor, more like jalapeno than habanero. But the sauce is as spicy as habenero. After a few bites, my mouth is burning.

The aji sauce is, quite simply, one of the two or three best hot sauces I have ever had. I mix as much as possible into the chicken dish. And I leave the restaurant in some serious pain.

On my next visit, the waitress is gone and no one speaks much English. I try to communicate in Spanglish with a man in a chef's apron. He points at some photos on the wall of some dishes he seems to like, including one called anticuchos. Anticuchos are skewers of spicy marinated beef heart. Altough I do not always like organ meat, these hearts have a texture similar to beef tips and a flavor that is less like liver and more like the strong meat flavor of very rare beef.

The anticuchos are accompanied by a pan-sauteed boiling potato, plus the strangest corn-on-the-cob I have ever seen. The corn kernels are enormous, bigger than hominy, and their color is pale white. Their taste and texture are more like potatoes than corn.

Once again, they serve the glorious aji sauce, but this time with some commercially-manufactured tortilla chips. I am not impressed with the chips, but they do their job of conveying the spicy aji to my mouth.

As I leave, I pick up a small desert called alfajores. It consists of a filling of molasses sandwiched between two layers of very soft pastry, made from a mix of flour, lemon rind, and powdered sugar. It is so good that I wished I had bought a second.

Apart from some unusual ingredients and the spicy aji sauce, the main appeal of this food is a purity of flavor. The chicken dish really tastes like chicken. The beef hearts really taste like beef. This purity of ingredients reminds me much more of French cuisine than Mexican, or Italian, or Spanish.

I beg you to try to La Posada Del Inca. My reasons are selfish. I need this restaurant to survive because there are so many menu items that I want to try. And yet on both of my two lunchtime visits, I was the only customer. It deserves better. The food is out of this world -- or at least out of this hemisphere.


Anonymous said...

sounds good, how about an address?

anonymouseater said...

I think it is 9504 Long Point Drive.

Curiously, La Posado Del Inca is another restaurant that almost does not exist on the web, so the address is hard to find. The only mention of it other than my site seems to be on the Spanish language site, Rumbo:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review. My wife is Peruvian and we have been looking for another restaurant in Houston for a long time. The only one we know of is "Lemon Tree" but its just too far away. This one is about 10 minutes closer to downtown and it seems like it will be worth checking it out. thanks!

Anonymous said...

I'm from Peru and there is 2 more Peruvian Reataurants in Houston
PIO RICO acrros from willobrok MAll the phone # 281-477-6896
And also El Ranchito 281-820-9782 this is in 249 the addres is 2508 WestMount Houston

Anonymous said...

I've been there as well, and do agree that the food is pretty good but the place too lonely. The English speaking waitress is the owner's wife (I believe) and she is American and he is Peruvian.

Not sure about the address but it is on Long Point between Blalock and Bunker Hill. From downtown, take I-10W exit Blalock, turn right on Blalock, turn left on Long Point and it will be on the right hand side behind Mandarin Cafe.

Hope that if the place gets more clientele due to our comments we get a discount :)

Jax said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jax said...

We had bad luck at Posada Del Inca. we went in the hot summer and there was no air conditioning, and the credit card machine was "broken". After waiting some time for somebody to actually come and talk to us (the waiter was too busy talking on his cell phone), they told us to go find a bank and take out money (Banco Publico or something). We started walking but not knowing the neighborhood we felt kind of uneasy and ended up just going home. The food may have been good but the service drove us away.

The problem is, there are no Peruvian places near where we live (near Downtown). You have to drive 30 minutes minimum to find a Peruvian restaurant. Unless there are some more we don't know about.

We had a similar problem at Pio Rico. We went there for chicken with a bunch of people and the waiter said they were all out of chicken. Come on, the place has "Pio" in its name which stands for chicken! There was also food all over the floor, the place was a mess.

Why do all Peruvian restaurants seem to be poorly run? The food is just so damn good, it's a shame its hard to find a "nice" one. I'll have to rely on my Peruvian chica's cooking for now...

luis.paez68 said...

The reason some Peruvian restaurants are a mess is that the owners came from low economical levels and they don't know about customer service or cleanliness... much less about marketing!

Anonymous said...

I am from Peru and just moved to Houston from NY. So far I have tried 2 restaurants:"Parrilleros" and the "Lemon tree"
Parrilleros, which is located on 1960, has really tasty food and the portions are generous. I understand that it is owned by a Peruvian/Chilean couple. We were served by the owner himself and he did go the extra mile with our party. They have a Peruvian buffet once a month and I am taking a bunch of friends new to the pleasures of the Peruvian cuisine. It sounds just like a great opportunity to try different dishes at once. The place is Ok...but not great...but the attention they put to the food and the customers is great...
The Lemon Tree is a bit more fancy but it is really far from where we live (Pearland) Anyhow, we made the trip last week...I must say that I was really disappointed.The jalea was a bit cold and the "salsa criolla"(a sort of salad made with onions) was really salty and made with white instead of red onions; not to mention that the dish was incomplete, without the typical grains of corn and the bed of lettuce. Also the portions were smaller and a bit more expensive than the ones at Parrillero.
So far Parilleros sound like a better choice but I will definitely try the others.
Good luck to all. Happy New Year...

Anonymous said...

I live in Houston since 2002. I am peruvian. I've tried several peruvian restaurant (some of which no longer exist). To me, Lemon Tree is the best for Seafood. The owners, Margarita and her husband, are very busy managing kitchen and customers, so I have to agree that sometimes service is not great. Although if you make reservation, your time is worthy. I live in Pearland and don't mind driving to eat their "choritos a la chalaca" and the best dessert "merengue de lucuma" I've tried in my life.
Then, El Rancho, is an ok restaurant; great for rotisserie chicken, no fo much on seafood though.
The one 1960, I think it was horrible... I tried different dishes, enough for not coming back. I guess my standards for peruvian food are higher than what they serve :=)
La posada del Inca, I haven't been there, but I will go this weekend and will write my comments next week.

Anonymous said...


anonymouseater said...

Sadly, La Posada closed shortly after it opened.

Peruvian food remains hard to find in Houston.

Anonymous said...

Please can somebody tell me where I can find a Peruvian Market in Houston.

Anonymous said...

Just go to the new Latin Bites on woodway and San Felipe. Finally, the restaursnt of all restaurants in Houston. Almost as if you were dining at an upscale restaurant in Lima Peru!!