I’d been hearing a ton of good buzz about a new restaurant that popped up in the Inter Pacific Business Park, specializing in Peruvian cuisine.  What exactly is Peruvian cuisine, though?  Always one that learns better by doing, we headed to Inti Restaurant on a Friday evening.

The location is fairly easy to get to and there’s ample parking available in front or near the restaurant.  The exterior is pretty nondescript (looks like any standard exterior of a strip mall restaurant), and the interior is clean and decorated in bright yellow with Inca motifs throughout.  Only a few tables were occupied (we arrived around 8:30pm), so we scored a table right by the window.

We were promptly presented with menus and a small dish of complementary toasted corn, which looked like Corn Nuts but were fresher and less crunchy in texture.  We polished these off in no time… ahem, more like, I polished off most of it.

This being our first time trying Peruvian food, we decided to stick to items that would seem at least a little familiar to our taste buds.  For the appetizer, we got the Chicharron Con Yuca Frita (marinated fried pork belly, tossed with yuca frita and served with salsa de rocoto).  I will probably eat anything that features pork belly, honestly.  The pork belly pieces were crispy but still tender, and seasoned just right.  The yuca frita looks so similar to pineapple pieces due to the striations and the golden colour, but they’re actually a starchy root vegetable (cassava root) that is used like potatoes in Latin American cooking.  They came crispy with a slight chewy texture, perfect when dipped in the salsa de rocoto (a type of chili) that had a nice kick to it.  For an appetizer size, the portion was huge!  I could probably eat this as a main.

Mark opted for the Brasa Sandwich (slow roasted chicken tossed in a pimiento and rocoto spicy sauce, topped with a creamy cabbage salad and served on a toasted kaiser bun), with a side of garlic rice.  This sandwich should be renamed the Hot Chicken Mess because it was definitely a fork-and-knife job.  It might’ve worked better if it came on a more hearty bun to hold the innards together.  The chicken, while incredibly moist and tender, was a tad too salty.  I’m not sure if it’s meant to be this salty or if it was over-seasoned.  And wow, did it ever have a kick to it!  I found it too spicy for my tastes (the heat kept building and building), but Mark with the asbestos tongue didn’t find it spicy at all (he’s insane).  The flavour itself was incredible.

Since I’m obsessed with pork belly, I went with the Pan Con Chicharron (crispy fried pork belly with salsa criolla, sweet potato, avocado mayo and aji inti served on an artisan bun) with a side of yuca frita.  You’d think it would be pork belly/yuca frita overload by this point, but this sandwich was one of the best damn sandwiches I’ve ever had.  It’s heaped with generous amounts of pork belly and topped with the salsa criolla (a Peruvian onion, pepper and lime salsa) and thin slices of sweet potato that add a nice touch of sweetness.  The avocado mayo brings it all together.  Oh, and this sandwich is GIGANTIC!  I had Mark help with me a portion, but in the end we had to take half of it to go (along with the yuca frita).

We were too stuffed to even think about getting dessert.  The value is incredible at Inti – the pork belly sandwich is a mere $10 and is enough to feed two grown adults – and we got excellent service throughout the evening.  I’ve already been back at Inti to have another pork belly sandwich and I’ll keep going back for more.

Inti Restaurant – Peruvian Cuisine
#208 3132 26th St NE
Calgary, AB T1Y6Z1
Phone: (587) 352-5599
http://www.inti-restaurant.com/

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