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.