Potatoes and chiles from the Incas. Limes, cheeses, and olives from the Spaniards. Soy and ginger from the Chinese. Seafood from the Japanese. Combinations that at first may sound like a gimmick in nouveau cuisine are in fact the savory-sweet (and little-known) hallmarks of Peruvian food.
Peru’s eclectic cuisine blends the centuries-old influence of the conquistadors with the more exotic flourishes of the Far East—but what happens when it is uprooted from the Andean peaks and South American jungles and submitted to the temperate evergreen climes of the Pacific Northwest?
Perhaps the next era in an already dynamic culinary evolution.
Ignacio del Solar, with his wife, Erin, opened the sky-blue restaurant del Inti (or “of the sun” in the language of the Incas) last September on NE Alberta Street. Ignacio, former head chef at the Pearl District gem Andina, runs the kitchen with a staff of two, while Erin often manages the front of the house. An open kitchen and a copper-surfaced bar bookend a dimly lit dining room bathed in burnt ocher and cream tones, and accented by dark wood, flickering tea lights, and a smattering of Peruvian prints. In many restaurants, an open kitchen introduces clanging pots and bustling commotion to the dining atmosphere, but at del Inti a quiet, casual intimacy pervades. The polished cork floor further reduces noise pollution, though there isn’t much to contend with here on a sleepy Wednesday night. “If you drop a glass, you can’t hear it, and it doesn’t break,” a waiter tells me in a Spanish accent thick enough to spread on my slice of olive bread. “And it’s good for my feet,” he adds.
I’d say his feet were well worth preserving, seeing how readily he refilled my bread basket and my bowl of creamy garlic-and-green-onion dip. (When I returned that weekend, I was disappointed to find the dip replaced with a bland fava bean curry). When I ask what he recommends, he doesn’t hesitate: ceviche.