2 April 2024

Inka: a first-class dining experience

| Michelle Taylor
a restaurant

Inka’s interior is the start of your journey to Peru (via Japan). Photo: Kazuri Photography.

This is a day I have long been anticipating. The day I finally got to experience a meal at Inka, Canberra’s Peruvian/Japanese restaurant. I love Peruvian flavours and appreciate both the beauty of Japanese cuisine and its salty/sweet marinades for grilled meat. The thought of tasting dishes that merge the best from both cultures makes my mouth water.

Walking inside Inka leaves me wide-eyed at its beauty. It juxtaposes a rich, vibrant colour palette against the intricate, minimalist wood craftsmanship you expect in Japanese architecture.

The colourful step to the restaurant's second floor.

The colourful step to the restaurant’s second floor. Photo: Kazuri Photography.

A large feature piece, a rainbow cloud of corded and macrame ropes knotted in the style of Peruvian quipu, hangs chandelier-like over the steps to the second floor of Inka. Two sets of pinata-hued feature lights bring an ambient glow.

We are seated against an earthen feature wall, lined up to the ceiling with Peruvian pottery figurines.

We ask for help choosing from the menu.

Our meal begins with two starters: prawn tacos and eggplant. The tacos are crisp and salty, tostada-style, filled with delicate prawn morsels, fresh, zingy bites from the yuzu marinade, and the delicate buzz of green chilli peppers.

The nasu dengaku is tender eggplant chunks encased in crisp batter and drizzled with a glaze that melds the sweet citrus tang of yuzu with the savoury smoothness of miso. The smattering of crunchy mixed nut nuggets on top is fun and scrumptious.


Nigiri plate featuring six nigiri varieties. Photo: Kazuri Photography.

Our 12-piece nigiri platter arrives featuring six nigiri varieties. The nigiri is unique here; its rice is infused with Japanese vinegar and Peruvian sugar.

Kingfish nigiri is tender and mild in flavour under a dollop of jalapeño salsa.

Salmon nigiri is more robust, topped with luminous amber bulbs of caviar.

The mustard salsa on the tuna nigiri is a perfect pairing. Hokkaido scallop nigiri with nori butter is charred and silken. The eel nigiri is my favourite, both in texture and taste – its earthen flavour heightened by truffle. Well, it was my favourite until I tried the wagyu nigiri – delicate and pungent, paired with the crispiest deep-fried potato strands. Incredible!

grilled wagyu and stir-fried tomato and onio

Cubes of grilled wagyu and stir-fried tomato and onion. Photo: Kazuri Photography.

Every dish we are served is a work of art, visually and for the tastebuds. The tuna tirdato is no different. Curls of tuna ceviche rest on a bed of Peruvian yellow sauce and fragrant coriander oil. I avoid the bird’s-eye chillis on top and instead hog the crunchy roasted corn kernels dotting the landscape of the dish. I wish Inka bottled and sold that yellow sauce.

Brussel sprouts have never tasted so delightful – grilled into a nutty crispness and earthy with none of the bitterness you might expect. The sweet tangy of yuzu glaze is moreish.

Every plate is delicious, but we have inadvertently saved the best two for last.

short ribs

Beef short ribs, slow-cooked for 48 hours. Photo: Kazuri Photography.

First is lomo saltado, a classic Peruvian dish. Think Spanish stir-fry with beef, tomato and onion. The cubes of grilled wagyu are succulent with gorgeous rendered-fat strips, and the stir-fried tomato and onion are imbued with unique, exotic herbs and spices on a bed of lush sweet potato. Let us not forget the crispy potato on the side. The umami flavour in that potato leaves me swooning.

Our final dish turns out to be the dish of the day for me and, so far, my pick for dish of the year. It is a dish we nearly didn’t order: the beef short ribs. These are truly the best in all the land. They are a must-try. There is so much meat on them. Slow-cooked for 48 hours, they are edged with sticky miso glaze and toasted nuts. Each mouthful of smoked brisket melts away in your mouth.

woman seated under artwork

Some of Inka’s bold artwork. Photo: Kazuri Photography.

We enjoyed our cocktails. Classic Peruvian flavours in the pisco sour, a clean, crisp beverage. The Antz cocktail is mouthfuls of the beach – lime, tequila and a hint of coconut. I get my revenge on all my childhood green ant bites by eating a couple of the green ants sprinkled over the apple slice. They taste like citrus!


Cocktails! Photo: Kazuri Photography.

Inka is located at Shop B11A/148 Bunda St, steps away from Canberra Centre. Inka is open from 11:30 am to 3 pm for lunch and dinner from 5:30 pm to 10 pm on weekdays and until 10:30 pm on Friday and Saturday evenings. Follow Inka on Facebook and Instagram.

Original Article published by Michelle Taylor on Riotact.

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