When I heard there was a new Peruvian restaurant in Sarasota, I was very excited about it. Longing for my NYC days of frequent meals at Pio Pio, (https://bigforkinmouth.com/2010/04/22/pio-pio-1746-1st-ave-new-york-ny/) I was hoping to find inexpensive prices, plentiful food, amazing roasted chicken, crispy/chewy tostones, solchipapas and delicious, spicy, green sauce. Aside from the solchipapas and spicy green sauce, Inkanto proved to be totally different than my beloved Pio Pio. That said, it’s unfair to go into a restaurant with such high expectations, especially in my hopes to find something to replace what I’d left behind in NY. In all fairness, this experience was still enjoyable, interesting, and seemed to be authentic. The service was excellent, the atmosphere cozy and welcoming, the food creative and tasty, and the prices reasonable for a fancy-ish meal.
When we sat down with our friends, we were given a wine list and menu, and ‘cancha’ (or basically browned, puffed corn). It was kind of like inside-out popcorn- and not too disimilar from what we know as corn nuts. It’s crunchy, salty and you are supposed to mix it up with the spicy Aji sauce (a mix of black mint, jalapenos and debatable other top secret ingredients which I think probably includes mayo, cilantro, olive oil and who knows what else). Yum! What a fun start to the meal, and potentially one that I could eat far too much of.
We decided to share 2 appetizers between the 4 of us. One was (I totally forgot what it was officially called and the website does not have it listed. Sorry!) made of sliced prawns, mashed yellow potatoes, avocados, red peppers, lettuce, topped with a creamy sauce. The combinations of flavors, temperatures, and textures was unusual and interesting and all of the ingredients were fresh and bright. The presentation of the dish was eye-catching and vibrant and we all really enjoyed it. It was just enough for about 2 bites each- perfect for a little taste. We also shared the salchipapas, because whether young or old, who can really resist a place of french fries and chicken hot dog slices? Not me- or apparently anyone else at our young-at-heart table.
For our entrees, Gabriel and I shared their specialty, Lomo Saltado (filet mignon with onions, tomatoes, and peppers) and the Pescado A Lo Macho (mixed seafood in a creamy saffron sauce). We both substituted fried yucca for french fries (since we’d already had plenty of those), and also asked for the other sauces to dip them in that were offered with the yucca appetizer. Our waitress was more than happy to oblige, and although all of them were excellent and each quite different than the one before, I ended up back where I started with the spicy green sauce that I love so much. The seafood dish was my favorite with such a flavorful sauce and a great assortment of fresh calamari, scallops, fish, mussels, and shrimp. The plain, white rice that came with it was the perfect way to mop up all of the extra sauce once we had eaten everything else on it. If they bottled that sauce, I may very well have come home with some.
Overall, the service and presentation here were standouts, and the food was definitely better than average. We spent about $35 each- which included wine, which I felt was slightly more than it should have been. The restaurant has only been open for 2 months so far, and was fairly empty on a Saturday night. Hopefully once the snowbirds return to the area ready to try something new, their business will pick up a bit. For us, it was definitely an enjoyable evening with friends, but we aren’t totally sold on going back. We’ve been to far too many area restaurants with excellent food for closer to $25-$30 per person, and the reality is that we will be more likely to return to those. I am fine with a splurge for a way-above-average experience, but this one was only a ‘very good’ in my book, not a ‘great’. We shall see…