One of my favorite places in the world where I’ve eaten is Peru. From the fine gastronomy of places like Central and Maido to pollo a la brasa shacks, it’s almost impossible to get a bad meal in Lima.
Back in the U.S. though, Peruvian food can be uneven. There are dishes, like lomo saltado, that I tend to avoid entirely because they’re so rarely done really well. Enter Inca Social. There, I had a version of the Chifa (Peruvian-Chinese) dish that made me take notice.
The secret, for me, was in the steak. Marinated to ample softness, but charred with a crisp crust and pink interior, these chunks of beef were treated with respect worthy of a steakhouse. Sweetened with onion and tomato, the saline oyster-soy sauce was able to sing. Luckily there was enough on the plate to soak it up with a pile of rice and some crispy fries. But the brown stir fry sauce didn’t do all the magic on its own. Dipping the beef in a red hot sauce, brought to the table along with aji Huacatay, gave it an extra lash of spicy character building.
The lomo saltado was the standout, but every element of my lunch at the greenery-filled Vienna restaurant was an excellent representation. The ceviche was hard to stop eating, even though I knew more was to come. The puckery liquid soaked into the chunks of fish and slivers of raw purple onion, but it was particularly fun to eat on the roasted slice of sweet potato that brightened one corner of the plate. My dining companion couldn’t get enough of the aji de gallina, braised chicken in a lightly spicy cream sauce.
Everything was prepared with a care hard to find outside of Peru. It’s enough to make me want to order lomo saltado everywhere I try Peruvian in the area. But I know that it will be hard to find one that stays on my mind like the version at Inca Social. // 2670 Avenir Place, Vienna
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