Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Inti Raymi: Shifting Our Culinary Compass

Our Jackson Heights’ compass normally points west of our apartment, toward the vicinity of 74th Street’s Little India. Last night, however, we ventured east and ended up at Inti Raymi, a Peruvian restaurant.

We stayed on the first page of the menu and ordered only entradas (appetizers). Often when I order an appetizer as an entrée, I’m left hungry and cursing my attempt at thriftiness. However, my ceviche entrada came with generous sides: two types of hominy—cancha (large, toasted corn kernels) and mote (boiled corn) —as well as a white potato and a sweet potato. I enjoyed the slightly sweet mote, and the crunchy, parched cancha could make its way into my regular snack rotation. Already full of starch, I left the potatoes.

My ceviche mixto arrived blanketed under so many onions that I wondered if I had misread ceviche as cebolla ("onion"). But underneath this purple layer was a liberal serving of fish, calamari, octopus, and shrimp. The seafood had a clean, fresh taste, accented by a lime marinade, which was also served on the side. It is one of the best ceviches I’ve had in New York and reminded me that we really are near the ocean.

Adeet ordered a tamal wrapped in a banana leaf. It didn’t come with any sides, but it proved filling on its own. As he discovered chicken, boiled egg, and olives in the corn masa, he commented that each bite was like a treasure hunt.

We’d also ordered a serving of fried sweet plantains and gamely dipped them in a fiery rocoto sauce, which our waiter cautioned us would be hot. We tend to react smugly when people warn us about heat, since we consider our taste buds well tempered by Indian spices. We discovered, though, that our tongues aren’t ready for Peruvian chilies.

Inti Raymi has been in Jackson Heights since 1976, and I doubt the décor has changed since opening day. The stucco walls are decorated with quaint paintings of village scenes, and a large, metal Incan god dominates the front window. The place has a homey feel, and the number of diners there on a Monday night attested to its welcoming nature. Customers sang along with a strolling, serenading guitarist and people clapped after each number. We joined in the applause. After all, we'd learned we could find good food on both ends of the neighborhood map.

Inti Raymi
8614 37th Ave. • Jackson Heights, NY

photos by Adeet Deshmukh

1 comment:

aaron said...

Keep eating and we'll keep eating vicariously through you guys! The selection thins out when you get further west...say around the Mississippi.