Restaurant: El Inka Deli
Cuisine: Latin American/Columbian/Peruvian
Last visited: January 12, 2010
Area: Burnaby, BC
Address: 3826 Sunset Street
Price range: $10-20
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
- Husband and wife team
- Family owned/operated
- Owners from Peru
- Hole in the wall
- Authentic Latin American food
- Specializes in Peruvian/Columbian food
- Extensive menu
- Lots of snack/appetizer items
- Very home style
- Everything made in house/home cooked
- Homemade chorizo/sausage
- Authentic Latin drinks
- Service fantastic! (I want to give a 7/6)
- Ready made to-go items
- Some desserts
- Open lunch and dinner until 8pm
- Accepts Visa, Mastercard
Recommendation: Jalea Mixta
I discovered El Inka Deli a couple months before I started this blog. I was doing my usually research online and after reading rave reviews I immediately put it on my places to try list. I’m never in that area so I never got to try it until this day.
I had made plans to meet Vancouver fashion blogger Nicole, yes it was a fashion + foodie love affair! We thought we had thoroughly planned our date at Vita Bella Italian Ristorante, but an hour before meeting time I double checked the website to discover it was closed on Tuesdays. Damnit!…With last minute planning and limited selection in that area I suggested El Inka Deli. I was originally supposed to make the visit with fellow food blogger and friend Kim, however other restaurants got priority. Even in a rush, I did not hesitate to read Kim’s review and write down the order, after all Kim is from South America!
Located in the tiniest strip mall in the middle of nowhere El Inka Deli joins the list of hole-in-the wall restaurants in Vancouver. El Inka Deli relies on word-of-mouth business and it’s a place that should not be missed. I’ve never been to Latin America, so I’m writing this review from a “North American” stand point. However I’m pretty sure when it comes to food this is the closest thing I will get to the real deal in Vancouver. From the home cooked authentic Latin food, to the Latin soap operas, to the Peruvian imported table mats this place feels like home…that is if I was actually from Latin America. ;p They have an extensive menu, and I’ve only tried 3 things so I can’t make a fair review, but I am certain that I will be back to try more.
I have to make a shout-out to the owners. They are the loveliest people ever! Not only were they great at explaining the menu and making recommendations, but Nicole and I stayed way past closing time (closes at 8pm) without even realizing it, and they made no attempts to kick us out. Overall I had a fabulous Tuesday with great food, great experience and great company!
Other Vancouver hole-in-the wall restaurants include: Thai Basil, Prata-Man Singaporean Cuisine, Dhaka Fish & Biryani Halal Restaurant, “the kitchen”, Panos Greek Taverna, Sushi World, Chen’s Shanghai Kitchen, Budgies Burrito, and no review yet, but must be included the famous Phnom Penh.
On the table
- Deep fried cassava root with hot sauce (I’m pretty sure it was $3)
- The owner recommended it and said it was a very typical Peruvian appetizer.
- Cassava root or yucca root is almost like potato, but firmer, starchier and more fiberous.
- For me this was the South American version of fries. It was perfectly fried until golden brown and crispy. I liked how they weren’t dry (even though it has a naturally dry quality), and they were nicely salted.
- It’s not the fist time I’ve tried it before, but I liked the roasted Cassava frites that accompanied my Chepen Duck at Baru Latino better.
- They make it great here, but in general the dish doesn’t really do anything for me. It’s good, but something I don’t have to have.
- The hot sauce or salsa: This is pretty spicy, but I liked it! Nicole and I can handle spicy so we thought it was perfect, but for others this may be too hot. It was not just spicy, but it was very flavourful and homemade with green onions, cilantro, chilies, tomatoes and onions. The spice lingers in your mouth so I needed to wait a bit before trying the other dishes.
**Jalea Mixta – 5/6
- Lettuce, deep fried cassava roots, fish and seafood with an onion and tomato topping $15.99
- Literally meaning “seafood mix” this was another one of her recommendations. It’s a typical Peruvian dish and the owners are from Peru, so I was excited for this.
- It’s 4 rather large pieces of deep fried cod mixed with an assortment of deep fried seafood such as mussels, shrimp, octopus and squid. This mountain of deep fried seafood was served on about 4 deep fried cassava roots.
- Everything was fried perfectly with the seafood tender and the fish still moist. It wasn’t oily and the batter stayed attached to the seafood.
- It reminded me of Calamari, but with a pickled salsa on top. The flavour of this dish is savoury and tangy. I liked the salsa because it was marinated in lime juice so the onions were naturally tenderized and sweet, but kept their natural crunch.
- The batter was excellent! It was crispy and not just salty, but it had a wonderful savoury flavour. It had a orange tint and I’m not sure if it was sweet chili seafood seasoning, but it was just really good! It wasn’t spicy, but had more flavour than salt and pepper alone.
- What I didn’t like was that the seafood was frozen. I don’t really expect fresh seafood here, but the shrimp was dime sized baby shrimp, the mussels were the size of peanuts, and the squid were little ringlets. Half the time I didn’t know what I was eating unless it was the fish or the octopus. I also didn’t get much shrimp or mussels.
- It was one of their pricey items and paying $15.99 at a place like this feels kind of steep, however when I take into consideration the small family operation and labour I can understand.
- Also I didn’t pay attention to the menu description, because if I had known that there was deep fried cassava root in it I would have opted for another appetizer.
Bandeja Paisa – 3.5/6
- Red beans cooked with sweet plantain served with platter of ground beef, rice, avocado, a fried egg, deep fried sweet plantains, homemade chorizo (sausage) and chicharron (deep fried pork skin) $15.99
- This dish is hard for me to rate, because I would never order it on my own. I just had to try it though because it’s what Kim ordered and the owner stressed how authentic the dish is to Columbia.
- It was definitely served and made authentically, but I just don’t like chicharron. It’s a very hearty dish with lots of variety. It’s a Latin version of a “Hungry Man’s” meal. Everything on the platter is supposed to be eaten together – I enjoyed it much better when I mixed it altogether, like I would fried rice…I didn’t know how else to eat it.
- It was savoury, sweet, and the meats (intentionally) dry, except for the sausage, accompanied with the best creamy red bean ‘sauce’.
- Again it was one of their expensive items, but for the labour that goes into each item and the variety I got – it’s justified. It’s not gourmet by any means, but very home cooked – like mom’s…not my mom though
- I tried this dish at Marimba! So it was interesting to note the differences. The one at Marimba! was missing one huge thing that I failed to realize until nowÖthe chicharron!
- The Break Down of the Platter:
- Chicharron is deep-fried pork rind, and I am not a fan. It doesn’t look nice but I obviously still tried it.
- It’s an extremely deep fried piece of pork rind, and it’s deep-fried to the point of being dry – but it’s supposed to be.
- It was very thick and crunchy, like a hearty piece of bacon, but it wasn’t really salty.
- The reddish brown parts were very dry because it was lean, and the white fatty parts were quite juicy. (The closest thing to this that I can actually enjoy is the Suckling Pig at La Brasserie.)
- The poached egg was a bit overcooked so the yolk didn’t spill over my rice as much as I wanted it to.
- The best part for me was the ultra creamy stewed red beans. It was almost like the gravy to the meal, but it’s not meaty or salty. It was a very deep rich flavour, very subtly sweet, smooth and just perfect! It wasn’t only stewed red beans though, I have a feeling there was some pureed carrots or something in there. There was another thickening agent and I’ve never had beans like this before. I would order it as a side and eat it alone with some rice!
- The next best thing was the deep fried plantains. This wasn’t a typical banana, but also not a plantain – it’s made with a South American banana that’s in between the two. It doesn’t have a strong banana flavour like regular banana does, and it’s not starchy like a typical plantain, but it carries a honey-like mildly sweet flavour. It was soft and creamy and had a crispy thin layer. It went so well with the beans and almost enhanced the flavour of the beans. It’s such a great combination together. We also wanted to eat these plantains with ice cream too!
- I wouldn’t call this “ground beef”. It was more like finely shredded beef jerky. I’m not sure what the authentic way is, but this just caught me off guard. It wasn’t too salty and I still liked it.
- The pita was homemade and I think it called “arepa”. It was made with cornmeal and cheese, but it tastes like a very dry pita with a very subtle cheesy taste. It’s not soft or chewy but more grainy and starchy.
- I could have used more avocado. For the size of the platter, I needed at least 2 wedges.
- The homemade chorizo or sausage was good, but again not really for my taste. It was made with pork rind so it was really fatty and I was chewing on pieces of white jelly. This made for an extremely juicy and flavourful chorizo, but again the texture, is just not for me. I did love the crispy exterior though and overall it was made really well.