Tuesday, March 27, 2007


It’s rare that I am at the front of the queue, trying out a new eatery before a single review is even posted. I’m just not that together. I say a lot of “we should try that new place…” before I actually do try that new place.

But, I got a rather insistent call from a person who rarely insists on this sort of stuff. We’re eating out at the new Peruvian place on Park Street tonight.

We are? I’m set to eat a salad with a bagel on the side.

No, really. We are.

And so we do.

And now I can say this: I know (“know” is a relative term) Peruvian food. Heretofore, I knew South American food. In our usual myopic fashion we lump foods from “over there” into something we ascribe to tremendously vast regions. African food. Continental cuisine (that would be Europe; would you believe it? Europe as a style of cooking!). South American. Asian. And the thing is, we sort of kind of think we know what we mean by any of that.

But Peruvian food – now that’s a stumper.

Not anymore though. Not if you live in Madison. You can break out of your Machu Pichu ideas about this country and try something truly authentic. At Inka Heritage, on Park Street.

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I, myself, started with the mushroom cerviche (adorned with HUGE kernels of corn and sweet potato, in a tangy sauce)…

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… and then proceeded to the dish I always ask for insofar as it is on any menu – seafood stew, or soup, or casserole, or soup, or something brothy like that. Described variously, it is a dish that speaks to me: bits of seafood in a liquid that is seasonaed with the imagination of the cook.

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Inka Heritage is a family run place. True, our waitperson was herself not Peruvian, but had I not asked, I would have guessed otherwise. Something about the way she pronounced the items on the menu… And yes, I know that not all Europeans speak Polish and not all South Americans speak Spanish. But to me, she sounded Peruvian Spanish. I am easily influenced by the circumstances.

Let me go back to the food: it is really quite good. Don’t be one of those who only goes in if the entrance is lavish and has valet parking. In case you've not been on Madison's Park Street lately, it's not Park Avenue-like. Go in anyway and focus on the menu. Have a glass of reasonably priced wine. Maybe another. Then discover the Peruvian in you.

And don’t forget to send me a thank you email, once you try the food.