I think this is my favorite of Stephani Izzard’s restaurants. The light, open, airy space is quite a contrast to The Girl and the Goat. Views are great, and although the ambiance is definitely vibrant, you can usually be heard without shouting.
Izzard’s take on Peruvian cuisine is quite successful, with fun twists that don’t obscure the original appeal of such dishes as Causas and Ceviche. Although billed as a Cevicheria, I would say the ceviches are actually the least interesting option.
We arrived at 2:30 on a Sunday, the only reservation I could find. 2:30 is the witching hour, when brunch service shuts down and a very limited menu goes in force until dinner begins at 4pm. I’m not sure why they do this, as the place never stopped hopping. Anyway, it turns out that if you arrive slightly early you can still order off the brunch menu, so we were able to try many dishes.
Highlights were the crab causa (which is tiny, so we ordered two) and the goat empanadas. Also very good were the octonomiyaki and the salmon queso. The best brunch item was the black plantain waffle.
Cocktails include a pisco sour of the day (today’s pisco was a bit too sweet) and several other Peruvian inspired choices. The Alpaca My Bags was a nice refreshing gin-based spritz.
Service was okay, focused on efficiency of ordering and delivery rather than the art of hosting, which is pretty typical of Izzard’s other restaurants, too. I would certainly return, once reservations are a bit easier to come by.
This latest location in the Pio Pio chain takes over a nice space in the Publix shopping center that was previously a mediocre BBQ place. Pio Pio is much better.
I love their rotisserie chicken, which always has a delicious golden brown crust. It comes with rice, beans, and plantains. The quarter chicken is surprisingly small, so you may want to get the half chicken. Both are very reasonably priced.
Not so reasonably priced, but also delicious, is the ceviche ($18). It’s a Peruvian style ceviche, (which is a bit confusing since the restaurant is often listed as Colombian).The Mixto version combines raw white fish and cooked shrimp with onions and lots of lime juice. It’s served with the traditional mutant(!) corn, and also cracked corn kernels.
Service was excellent.
By the way, they also have whole rotisserie chickens to go at very reasonable prices. They’re way better than the ones next door at Publix.
This is not an easy place to find. It’s inside the Renaissance building, on the second floor, and the only obvious signage is a temporary sign on the sidewalk behind the building, and another at the base of the stairs inside.
But it’s worth the effort to locate it. We were personally greeted by the owner and immediately made to feel welcome as he explained the menu.
We started with the Causa De Roca, an attractive stack of seasoned mashed potatoes mixed with yellow peppers, layered with tomato and avocado, and topped with Shrimp and a sauce made of mayonnaise and ketchup with blackened seasoning, lime and cilantro. It was delicious.
It seemed only logical to order the lunch dish called Mr. Cebiche, and that was a good move. The mixture of white fish “cooked” in lime juice was served ice cold, and my wife declared it the best ceviche she’s had outside of Peru.
My lunch was also good, the Tacu Tacu, consisting of Stir-Fried Rice with Beans topped with onions and tomatoes marinated in lime juice.
The interior of the restaurant is charming, and very clean. Many of the tables have a nice view of the shopping street below. It can be a challenge to park in Mount Dora, but there is a well-disguised public parking structure two blocks to the south.
Southwest Orange County needs more restaurant diversity, so it’s great to see Peruvian cuisine come to the neighborhood. Hopefully it will last longer than the previous restaurants in this space.
We tried El Inka for lunch, and everyone liked their selections, which ranged from chicken to steak lunch specials. I ordered the Ceviche Mixto from the regular menu, because the best ceviche I ever tasted was in a restaurant in Lima, Peru.
The ceviche was a very generous assortment of fish, shrimp, octopus and squid in an extremely limey broth. I think next time I would try one of the chef’s special ceviches instead, to see if the broths are more complex. At $17 it was a rather expensive lunch; I wish the ceviche was available in an appetizer size.
Service was very speedy, so it made a great choice for lunch. The place is already quite popular, and because the stylish interior has no acoustic treatments it can be quite loud.
We all agreed we would like to return soon and try more of this interesting cuisine.