When I was growing up, I had a Peruvian best-friend whose mom always cooked us meals that I could not even pronounce. To be honest, I was so young, that I never knew exactly WHAT I was eating, I just knew that I LOVED it. As I got older, I never really sought out any Peruvian restaurants, because I knew it wouldn’t be what I got at that friend’s house. Now that I am the Ethnic-food loving, adventurous, try-everything eater I am now, I decided it was finally time to find some good Peruvian food. After searching Yelp thoroughly, I knew I wanted to try Inka Grill in Costa Mesa. Yesterday, I FINALLY made it in, and left stuffed, satisfied, and addicted.
What I respect most about Inka Grill (aside from the amazing food and amazing prices) is that it was established TWENTY years ago and still run by a mother-daughter team: Anna Sr. and Anna Jr. Anna Sr. was born in a Northern Province of Peru where she discovered her culinary love. She has brought these authentic family recipes to Inka Grill in Costa Mesa and Lake Forest for us all to enjoy.
The menu is MASSIVE, but you cannot go wrong with any dish you order. With every bite you take, there is no mistaking the fresh ingredients and simplistic nature of the authentic Peruvian flavors. To compliment each of those bites, Inka Grill prides themselves with their “famous” Aji Green Sauce: a unique blend of chile Serrano, garlic, and lettuce- made in-house, multiple times daily. When I saw and heard about this special sauce, it was one of the main reasons that I was so intrigued by Inka Grill. It definitely was like nothing I have ever tried before. Bursting with flavor and spice, the green sauce will not only highlight the flavors of everything you eat, but open up your sinuses as well!
Another aspect I must highlight right off the bat is the house-made bread served at the beginning of every meal…: fluffy, warm, make-you-smile type bread. Smother it in butter, dunk it in the green sauce, or whatever you please… just make sure to eat at least ten pieces because it is SO good and is sure to brighten your day. (Please excuse me, you should know by now that I am a bread-aholic.)
Now, on to the actual dishes that I tried….
- Rotisserie Chicken with Mashed Potatoes and Steamed Vegetables – The chicken was EXCELLENT! Lots of good, flavorful white meat. Perfectly seasoned, cooked, and easy to cut. The mashed potatoes and steamed veggies made for perfect compliments as sides. The meal, as a whole, was a very healthy option that will fill you up but not stuff you!
- Empanadas Nicole – 4 mini empanadas served with a spicy lime dipping sauce. A perfect snack while waiting for your meal to come out! My favorite was the spinach and feta cheese.
- Inka Chicken Salad with Avocado – A nice, big, refreshing salad with lots of chicken, avocado, and delicious Huancaina cheese sauce. This sauce boss LOVED that sauce!
- Paella – I am usually not a big fan of seafood Paella, because seafood is usually only good in small amounts to me. This, however, was AMAZING! The actual rice in the dish was a cilantro lime rice, as opposed to the typical saffron rice used in paella. This definitely made for a different flavor-profile, which I loved!! The seafood was all very fresh, but not overly fish-y; if this makes sense. The calamari rings were probably the best asset to the dish.
- Beef Saltado – This is a traditional Peruvian dish (meat, fries, and rice), yet I still think that the combination itself is crazy. Despite the crazy combination, however, it makes for a SUPER yummy dish. It’s almost like you don’t realize there are french fries mixed in with the meat.
- Juanita’s Crepes (dessert) – French style crepes filled with dulce de leche and fried bananas served with “Lucuma” (Peruvian fruit) ice cream. The perfect little sweet-treat to top off your meal. Some of the best caramel EVER. And the ice cream was super good!
Inka Grill is a Costa Mesa & Lake Forest staple. There is no question as to why so many locals are regulars. Many people see “Inka Mama’s” and get it confused with Inka Grill- these are two, unaffiliated restaurants that are VERY different. Inka Grill is the ORIGINAL Peruvian restaurant in Orange County. I have not been to Inka Mama’s, but I have been to their fast-casual concept, Brasa, and that is no where near comparable. The chicken at Brasa was flavorless, portions were small, and the sides were not very good. I’ll stick to Inka Grill for my Peruvian cravings.