Peruvian cuisine is not nearly as prevalent in the Valley as some of its Latin American brethren. Mexican restaurants are practically ubiquitous; Salvadorean joints are becoming more commonplace; there are a number of Brazilian churrascarias; and Viva Las Arepas has cemented Venezuelan food in our lexicon.
But Peruvian flavors have remained in the shadows despite being diverse and accessible. Sure, small Peruvian restaurants can be found, but they’ve always been isolated niche destinations. This cuisine has generally stayed near the bottom of the local pecking order even while it has appeared on numerous lists as the next breakthrough ethnic cuisine.
If you’ve spent time in the South Bay area of SoCal, you might be familiar with El Pollo Inka, a mom-and-pop Peruvian chain with about a half-dozen locations. Las Vegas’ new Pollo Inka Express is a fast-food version from the same family, with a condensed selection of offerings. So while you might not be able to get aji de gallina or papa a la huancaína, you can still get a meal representative of the South American country.
First and foremost, Inka serves the famous pollo a la brasa. As soon as you enter the converted Taco Bell space, you’re bowled over by the aroma from the open rotisserie near the rear of the kitchen. Skewered chickens spend their day rotating on spits, and the result is crisp and juicy, seasoned with cumin, paprika and smoke. You can order the finely flavored fowl in a variety of manners (quarter, half, or whole bird with two sides starting at $6.99)—from there just dip the crispy chicken into the addictive, creamy aji sauce built on mild Peruvian pepper.
I highly suggest choosing the buttery cilantro rice as a side—it’s good enough to order on its own—while the sweet charred platanos are worth an additional dollar. Other choices include yuca, steamed vegetables and brown rice. And the complimentary cilantro soup, which accompanies most orders, is strewn with pulled chicken and rice.
Other aspects of Peruvian cuisine are highlighted here. Chinese influences appear in a selection of wok-fried dishes ($7.75-$8.75) including saltados (stir fry), chaufas (Peruvian fried rice) and tallarines (stir-fried noodles). The lomo saltado is popular, mixing beef with vegetables and French fries (yes, French fries!), and the tallarines would be at home anywhere on Spring Mountain. But if you want to go more compact, Inka offers a pan con lomo ($7.25) beef sandwich topped with shoestring fries, and its version of chicken salad in the Inka sandwich ($4.50). I prefer the former, but both sandwich rolls surprise with freshness.
The staff is fluent in Spanish and English, and the service is levels above what you would expect from a typical fast-food joint. Pollo Inka Express may not be a harbinger of a South American culinary revolution, but it’s doing a lot to bring delicious Peruvian food to the local masses.
Pollo Inka Express 2440 S. Maryland Parkway, 702-522-7871. Daily, 10:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m.