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[Danbury, CT] Empire of the Incas

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Please find photos to accompany this review here: http://www.girleatscity.com/2012/06/e...

At a recent lunch, I tried three items: lomo saltado, chicken tamale and ceviche mixto. The first two were lunch specials that came with soup or salad (we chose soup) and plenty of good arroz graneado, fluffy, delicious white rice cooked with a bit of oil and garlic. The soup deserves mention. It wasn't a throwaway soup from a can included just as filler for a set lunch. It was a house made chicken noodle soup with a substantial hunk of chicken (mine was part of a drumstick, I think), semi-firm potato, carrots, celery and most importantly, good broth, all topped with a sprinkle of cilantro. Even correcting for hunger, this was a good soup.

The lomo saltado included slender strips of tender(ized) beef, cooked just until medium. The peppers used in the dish were ordinary red peppers, not aji amarillo or another type of spicy pepper and there was a hint of liquid smoke flavor to mimic wok hai. But all the components were nicely cooked, retaining their shape and texture without being overly individualistic. The dish didn't knock any socks off, but it was an enjoyable version of a classic.

The chicken tamale was an authentic, Peruvian-style tamale made with ground fresh (or perhaps frozen) corn kernels, not masa like Mexican tamales, and egg yolk, then steamed in a banana leaf. The chicken filling was tender and flavorful, the dough loose and moist. It did not come with salsa criolla -- perhaps it was just accidentally omitted from our takeout order -- and I did miss that punch of additional flavor from the salsa. Without it, the tamale was slightly bland.

Ceviche mixto came with white fish, shrimp, mussels (two), calamari and octopus. The octopus was quite rubbery, prepared with the slippery skin intact, but the other seafood ranged from fair (mussels) to very good (white fish and shrimp). Fish had been added to the leche de tigre just prior to serving and was not over "cooked" (overmarinated). In fact, some of the larger pieces were actually a bit undercooked. Despite the unevenly sized, unevenly marinated pieces of fish, the dish did evidence a good amount of attention to detail. Leche de tigre tasted like it was made with freshly squeezed limes. Pickled red onions had been very thinly sliced. The generous slice of sweet potato was quite sweet, but it wasn't artificially potent. (Some restaurants cook the sweet potatoes in sugar syrup or other sweeteners in an effort to enhance their appeal.) The corn used was the authentic, large-kerneled Peruvian variety.

Really, the only thing I tried that I didn't enjoy was the overly mayonnaisey aji sauce. Every Peruvian restaurant in the US seems to have its own version and to be fair, I'm really just very partial to the version at Pio Pio in NYC.

Overall an excellent first meal. I'm sure there will be many more to come.

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Credit and thanks to Saturngirl for first suggesting this restaurant on Chowhound.

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  1. Just seeing this now - glad you enjoyed! :-) Is the aji sauce the green spicy sauce? I love that on my "usual" shrimp and rice dish. I've never tried the tamale or the ceviche! I love tamales, so will have to check Empire's out very soon! Based on your description, though, I'll probably skip the ceviche!

    1. Aji sauce is that spicy green sauce.

      Please don't skip the ceviche based on my description, though -- if you like seafood! EotI makes a good version and it's a delicious, delicious dish (if you like seafood). The lime-based, acidic leche de tigre cooks the seafood, killing bacteria and the like. It's safe to eat and especially fabulous in the summer heat.