Wrath of Ceviche (Luckily no Klaus Kinski though.)


As I have already posted entries on two different del Inti dinners on this blog, and have hopefully given you the flavor of the place and the food, this chronicle of our most recent dinner might be a bit briefer, and perhaps more participant rather than restaurant oriented. I don’t want to give either the food or the bodies assembled the short end of the stick though, so I will blab on about something or other in this space, since I need something to put between those purty food photos.

So has anyone out there not heard about my shed? How about those chickens?

Okay, perhaps something a bit more Restaurant Roulettesk is in order. IMG_2243As I’ve mentioned before, I like del Inti, and I love the food of Peru (and don’t they have some sort of neat river there, too? I’m not much for those multicolor knitted hats though, they scared me in one of those Werner Herzog movies.) I suppose del Inti could be called a little step-sister of Andina, as the owner and also the primary chef escaped from there. I don’t think either gentleman enjoyed their days at Andina, but really, if you are a Peruvian chef and you come to Portland, where else would you cut your teeth but at the Peruvian big boy in town? Also, the cooking at del Inti is very similar to what you would get at Andina, (it’s Peruvian, after all) not quite on such a large scale, but delicious food and really interesting ingredients.

On my last two visits to del Inti I had not visited Andina in about three years, so it was hard to compare the two eateries. Having just had a very successful dinner for 13 at Andina at the end of last October, however, and a well attended dinner for 13 at del Inti in mid-June, I can now more adequately compare the two places. IMG_2253Clientele-wise, Andina is still one of the most loved restaurants in Portland, they seem packed each time I go there, which can make having a tranquil dinner impossible.

No such problem with del Inti. We recently went there on a beautiful, summery Friday evening, and while the patio was adequately patronized, except for our large group (who was there until nearly closing) not that many people were in the dining room. In fact, attendance was so light that several people in the group actually tore themselves away from their munching and gnashing to remark on the lack of fellow non-RR diners. I think at this point, del Inti has been around approximately three years now, but it still seems like almost no one has heard of them (the name is perhaps a tad hard to commit to memory.) They have a nice website, and I’ve seen the advertise, so I’m not sure what the exact issue is. Too much competition on Alberta? Too far West on Alberta? Strange, non-restaurant looking building? As the place is bright blue though, you would think it would stick in a few noggins.

Maybe the problem is Andina itself, or the Andina mystique. People think Peruvian, off they go to Andina, especially as almost every comment you hear about it is a glowing remark.IMG_2247 I myself have been to Andina now five or six times, and to be honest, even I thought Andina’s performance an impressive one on our last visit. The menu is so large, and caters to “regular folks,” vegetarians, vegans, and even people with dietary issues. Even though the place was packed the evening we were there, they handled our group of 13 without batting an eye, and the food delivery was perfect. The service was truly professional, and the management seemed friendly. That being said, although you can order everything is several sizes, it gets expensive in a hurry, so who can afford that on a regular basis?

The food at del Inti meets a lower price point, so you can order a couple more things if you have that inclination. The food on this visit, as on previous times, was exceedingly good, and the Ceviche got rave reviews, especially from those who enjoy spicy.IMG_2255 The drinks are tasty, and the atmosphere is really nice, classy even. If there was a disappointment this evening, I would have to say it was service, something I have not experienced on previous visits. I know our larger groups can make it rough on eateries, the way we filter in in gulps and gasps, the servers never know when to start and the drink orders come in small little groups.

That being said, things really did drag near the end of this dinner, people never did get a couple of things they ordered, dessert took forever, and the check even longer than forever. IMG_2248The waiter seemed to be new, and while he started out well he seemed overwhelmed toward the end of the evening. I can understand a more lightly traveled restaurant like del Inti not being able to afford the minions of staff that the popular Andina has, but after about 8:30-9:00 (we started at 6:30) things moved so slowly I really started to squirm as hostess, people wanted out of there and just could not go until dessert was served, the check was delivered, and the individual payments were made. So in my head to head comparison of the two largest Peruvian places in town (I’ve never been to Limo in NW) at least based on these last two performances, I would give Andina an A- (too much of a crazy scene in the bar area to be an A) and del Inti a B (I really want to give them a B+ based on the food, but service was rather lacking this time out.) But how many of us average Joes and Janes can financial foot an A Restaurant every outing? Go to del Inti, it’s really good, and affordable,  just don’t go with 12 other people, and hope you don’t get a new waiter.

Peruvian food always seems to draw some of my larger crowds, whether it’s because people think, oooh, Peruvian food, I wonder what that’s like? or oooh, Peruvian food, that’s always interesting, or oooh Peruvian food, it’s my favorite. IMG_2246This was certainly one of the most diverse groups of individuals I’ve ever had, and many of the conversations I heard taking place reflected this fact. We even welcomed three newcomers, Jeanne and Shannon, Real Estate Sales Titans who I’ve been trying to lure to a dinner for years now, and Liz’ friend Kiersi, the other half of the Kiersi/Ryan couple, Ryan joining us last outing at Olympic Provisions and Kiersi joining in with gusto for our Peruvian feast of massive food proportions (yes, Grace was here.)  You might remember me prattling on in my last entry about Ryan red-facedly chasing that errant eyeball looking Japanese Turnip around in the area of the restroom door after it escaped from his plate, but that he made even this action seem personable and dashing, because he was just such an impressive individual in manners, composure and grooming.

So I’m sure you are now asking yourself, what about this Kiersi girl, could she really be an adequate match for such a fashionable, articulate, yet friendly entity as this Ryan fellow? Well, I must say I’ve talked only briefly to both of them, but yes, they seem good as a couple, and good as individuals, as Kiersi was stylish and friendly, a good conversationalist, and a fine eater (and daring too) as she actually ate all her food, then ordered an additional entree, then followed this up with an order of some sort of Peruvian fried cheese that was really rich, ate part of Liz’ weird ice cream, and ate the top part of a habanero pepper just for fun.IMG_2265 How’s that for a new member? Also joining us for a second time, almost newbies Scott and Cherene, up from Aurora, although Cherene seemed a bit under the weather. I remember the last time these two joined us Cherene mentioned that she wasn’t overly big on fish, but if she tried any of Scott’s really spicy ceviche, I know that would have cleared a few things up, especially sinuses.

Actually, one thing that was unusual about this group was all the duos we had this evening, people who generally show up with someone in tow, be it a significant other or a good pal. In fact, there we only three of us social reject types here this night, Glenda, David, and myself, everyone else had accompaniment. IMG_2264As for those couples, there were the aforementioned Jeanne and Shannon, Scott and Cherene, and the usually tired from work but always full of energy for ordering  Grace and Frank. Other twosomes, Sam (whose real name was EXPOSED by her credit card) and Cora and the previously discussed Liz and Kiersi. The great thing about going anywhere as a duo is you always have available conversion, although when you have a dinner of 13, there is rarely any lack of conversion, even if you don’t really know the other people very well, or at all. Usually the opposite effect is true for me at these big dinners, I go home with ear whiplash. That’s the wonderful thing about Restaurant Roulette, even social weirdos like me fit in!

As summer had sprung, Glenda was wearing a briefer ensemble, so several times during the evening she gave tattoo viewings, for those newcomers or those winter joinees who hadn’t seen the latest ones.IMG_2262 I liked the new tat of Sarah Palin on her forehead (just a joke people, but if Glenda ever reads this I’m toast.) David had just returned from a somewhat spontaneous and not at all dreamed about vacation to China, and we didn’t even know he had been gone, only that he had missed a dinner. That silly fellow, he just lives to surprise people. He may seem sedate, but how many people do you know who would just slip off to a place like China when someone they knew said, oh, we’re about to visit China, did you want to join us? NOT ME! If the invitation was more like, we’re going off to Venice, would you like to join us, we’ll pay all your expenses and also for a dog, cat, and chicken sitter, then I’M GONE!

Other topics of conversation for the evening included discussion of a few foreign movies (Wild Grass – whacked out; I Am Love – boring!!!); Wieners (he had just resigned, how could he not be a topic of conversation) and the new trend David was going to try to start in low-rider pants, instead of your underwear sticking out the back, it sticks out the front (Hey, he said it, not me. I wouldn’t touch that with a ten foot pole.) Maybe it’s a trend he saw in China.

Liz and Kiersi had a drink that was not only a beautiful feast for the eye, the Sassy Condor, but had Liz so enthused she said it was the best cocktail she ever had. Several Pisco Sours were also ordered, and those appeared to be enjoyed as well. IMG_2244The other drinks on our bill included a La Rosa Royal, a San Isidro 75, a Mancora Margarita, a Pisco Pepino, and a Caipirinha. I really was not thrilled by my Basil Rickey though, I thought it would be refreshing, but it tasted somewhat watery.

Grace seemed a bit sedate this evening, and I don’t think she ordered more than six or eight items, and I’m pretty sure only one dessert. Here’s a list of lots of the things we had, although there were a few specials that were a mystery. Sorry if the list turns out formatted weirdly, with disconcerting numbers thrown randomly in (errant prices) but some folks have their online menu set up in freaky programs like Excel and such, and it’s really hard to borrow from them without making a big mess in columns and leading and such.

Ceviche Mixto
Spicy au, shrimp, octopus, red onion, cilantro, cancha, sweet potato, ají limo leche de tigre

Ceviche Tradicional
Au, red onions, ají, cilantro, cancha, sweet potato, leche de tigre

Ceviche de Langostinos
Prawns, spring onions, panamito beans, cilantro, mint, ají amarillo leche de tigre
EDITORIAL COMMENT – PEOPLE LOVED THE CEVICHES IN GENERAL, REALLY SPICY. Sam’s was so hot she took it home to cool it down a bit.

Ceviche Vegetariano
Peruvian white beans, asparagus, beets, carrots, choclo, red radish, onions, parsley, ají, olive oil leche de tigre

Purple potato mashed with xv olive oil & lime; chicken salad, avocado, tomato chutney
EDITORIAL COMMENT – SO FAR I HAVEN’T FOUND A CAUSA I DON’T LOVE. I was skeptical about this one at first, as it had chicken salad instead of my preferred tuna and featured purple potatoes (usually too starchy) but Glenda and I both agreed, really good, and so beautiful to look at (I’m sure that’s why purple potatoes were chosen.)

Anticuchos de Corazon
Marinated beef heart skewers, purple yam, ají-peanut sauce, pickled red onions

Steamed manila clams with white beans, smoked bacon & fennel salsa criolla
EDITORIAL COMMENT – Cora loved them, she’s such a Clam Queen

Pan fried razor clam, asparagus, spring onions, spicy ají limo leche de tigre
EDITORIAL COMMENT – Not great, razor clams are not especially good unless breaded and crispy.

Queso Frito
Fried saint andre cheese, frisee, strawberry, rhubarb & toasted almond salad purple corn vinaigrette
EDITORIAL COMMENT – Really rich and greasy. Kiersi liked it so much she had some for dessert too.

Ensalada del Inti
Mixed greens, carrots, green onions, mint, cilantro, fried corn & shitake vinaigrette
EDITORIAL COMMENT – That weird Shannon, he was obsessed with whether the greens were Bibb Lettuce!

Papa Rellena
Crispy potato croquettes filled with raisins & queso fresco; huancaina sauce
EDITORIAL COMMENT – No one could locate the raisins

Pastel de Choclo
Peruvian corn pudding with asparagus, trumpet, oyster & portobello mushrooms ragout

Stir fried hanger steak, scallions, portobello mushrooms, red onions & fried potatoes; soy glaze & side rice.
EDITORIAL COMMENT- One of Japan’s contributions to Peru. Glenda at first was dubious, as like me she doesn’t care for soy sauce, but when I mentioned it didn’t taste like soy sauce, the soya just imparted a really rich flavor, she gave it a go. Everyone was amazed by how tender the beef was, and this, as well as the ceviches, tuna tartare, and rice pudding were all judged as exceptional. I know if more people would have tried the Causa they would have been won over by that as well, as I have truly excellent taste.

Arroz Pato
Translates as “Duck Rice”. Evidently one of those fun things Peru got from the invading hordes from Portugal.

Tartare of Tuna

Grilled, and excellent. Unfortunately Liz never got hers, and we ate ours all up while she was waiting for her portion

Arroz Con Leche
Rice Pudding with strawberries on top, everyone said it was delticous

Mango Crisp
The main comment was the fruit was too crisp, and seemed like apples, not mango. The menu said mango, but the bill also said apple.

Housemade Ice Cream
Rarely would I say this about housemade ice cream, but it was kind of yucky. Most of the flavors were really obscure, like made from exotic roots or something. I had what seemed safe, coconut, but it wasn’t at all sweet and I though it had a mild fish taste.IMG_2276 Liz had two flavors, one more obscure and one more spice oriented (like Cardamom or something) but one of the two tasted vaguely fishy to her as well. Don’t go to Peru for the ice cream!!!! (Try Italy or Greece.)

I really wish the service had not broken down so badly towards the end of our meal, as almost everyone agreed the majority of the food was wonderful. IMG_2269Even delicious food appears a bit less special, however, when it takes a very long time for part of what you ordered to show up, or it never arrives, or when it takes forever and a day to get dessert (odd, because the open kitchen still seemed fully staffed) the bill, and to have your payments taken. Perhaps if you are lounging in an exotic locale in the Peruvian jungle a 3+ hour dinner is okay, but here, I can’t really think of any restaurant that can be endured that long. I still love the food at del Inti, and so hope the hoarding masses discover what a great place it is before long, so they can perhaps turn their service up a notch. I don’t know if del Inti will ever be able to emerge from the giant Peruvian shadow Andina casts over Portland, but with times as tight as they still are, why not save a few bucks now and then and visit Alberta rather than the Pearl?