Ceviche at Inca Restaurante Antigua Guatemala

Antigua Guatemala Travel Blog

Inca Restaurante Antigua Guatemala

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There’s a ceviche war on in Antigua Guatemala.  People in town seem to have a preferred ceviche spot and Antiguenos and gringos alike are prepared to argue passionately on behalf of their favorite.  Our latest contender for a top spot on the ceviche maven list is Inca Restuarante.

This is a prettily-appointed restaurant set a few blocks south of the Parque Central and a few thousand kilometers from its Peruvian roots. Many historians agree that Peru is the mother of ceviche as we know it today.  Though many New Word countries, from Mexico to, well, anywhere there’s fish, claim to make the best ceviche, few can outdo Peru’s devotion to and reverence for this citrus rendered, not heat cooked, seafood supreme.

In fact, Peru has a national Day of Ceviche, which is celebrated each June in a way that only Peruvians can muster when they are in a party mood.  Inca Restaurante owner, Luis, offers a wide ranging menu of Peruvian cuisine specialties, including a ceviche section with seven selections.

I ordered Ceviche Number One, a basic platter, which Luis had the kitchen adjust to my gringo palette, a.k.a. not very spicy, just a bit for a frisson, rather than a thunder clap, of excitement.  It came in the classic Peruvian, style, that is, accented with sweet potatoes, white potatoes, and corn, including a light scattering of toasted corn kernels and red onion to enhance the citrus infused white fish.

While we waited for our food Luis told us about his native Peru in excellent English, accented with New York and Miami influences.  A brief personal history includes details of leaving Peru when he was 14 and growing up and coming of age in the Big Apple and Miami.

Of course, we asked the classic question. How did you wind up in Antigua?  Here the French, though not known for their ceviche, have it right. Cherchez la femme.  Literally, the expression means, look for the woman, if the man is happy or sad.  Happily, Luis met a woman from Antigua Guatemala and fell in love with her along with her hometown.  They set up their restaurant around the corner from the Palace of the Captains about 4 years ago and now have a solid reputation in town.

And, whenever the debate about the best ceviche in Antigua Guatemala comes up, they are always cited and for good reason.  Their offering passed my ceviche criteria, including:  use of a citrus infusion that has a sharp acidity, but not one that is overwhelming the taste of the fish; the sweetness of the fish is allowed to tango with the citrus zest; the seafood is neither rubbery or over burnt from the lime, but pleasingly soft and perfectly textured.

Inca Restaurante is located at 4a Avenida Sur #10.

Helen Kohl | I dream of Pisco sours

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Pisco Sour

Image by monkeysort via Flickr

dream of Pisco sours

I recently spent two weeks in Peru to hike the Inca Trail and explore Macchu Piccu. It was one of the best holidays of my life. But I have to say, the highlight was the Peruvian national drink – liquid ambrosia – Pisco sours.

I’d first heard of Pisco sours from my friend A., who’d hiked the Inca Trail many years ago, powered solely on Pisco sours and peanut butter. In those years, you didn’t have to hire a guide and porters, etc., so she was able to select her own menu. When she first heard I was going to Peru, she’d gotten a dreamy look in her eyes even at the thought of those Pisco sours.

Then, a few days before we left, my 23-year-old son asked us to buy him a bottle of Pisco so he could make Pisco sours. He was in a bartending frame of mind and said it wasn’t available here at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) – the vendor for liquor where I live. Not available? I was now officially intrigued.

We ordered Pisco sours to accompany our first dinner, in a little restaurant in Lima that specialized in ceviche. The cliché is true – I thought I’d died and gone to booze heaven.

The bartender poured fresh lime juice, sugar, Pisco (a clear, fortified grape brandy), egg whites and ice into a blender. After a whirl, it all went into a glass. It creates the best lemonade in the universe, capped with a peak of meringue and a few dots of bitters.

Every restaurant in Peru makes a Pisco sour. Some serve them up as an appetizer, for free. As you can imagine, it was a nightly treat – except on the Inca Trail, where we were dealing with altitude and stuck to cocoa tea. Pisco sours were sometimes an afternoon delight as well.

We bought two bottles of Pisco home with us, and I made the mistake of handing one of them over to our son. Within days, our bottle was half-empty and I was contemplating Pisco sour withdrawal. I had to peel my son’s fingers off his Pisco bottle one by one, but it was worth it.

The pleasure goes on. A few weeks after we returned, we shared slides of our trip and Pisco sours with some friends, including A. All agreed it was a drink fit for the Gods. The only downside was that the egg whites spilled out of my Cuisinart and glued it onto the counter. A small price to pay.

We haven’t gotten to the terrible day when we’re out of Pisco yet. But when we do, we’re going to have to persuade the LCB0 to order it for us or shuffle down to Buffalo for it.

I’ve been to the mountaintop and seen paradise – why wouldn’t I want to return again and again?