Anna Leon, a native Peruvian and owner of Lawrenceville’s Sabor Inka, tells me she wants customers from all backgrounds to feel at home in her year-old restaurant — even those who don’t know this distinctive South American cuisine. The restaurant floors sparkle, the menu is chock full of approachable dishes that suit many tastes, and Anna’s teenage niece Veronica — my server on all of my visits — provides service with more affability and knowledge than some seasoned veterans.
But Sabor Inka is not devoid of minor issues. A forgotten drink order and a mistimed entrée delivery had me scratching my head. (I received my entrée before appetizers were served and for an uncomfortable amount of time prior to my dining companions’ entrées.) Some dishes, particularly ones involving chicken, are lackluster.
My quarter order ($6.95) of pollo a la brasa — a roasted seasoned chicken also served by the half or whole — looked promising with its deep golden-brown skin and revealed a slick moist interior when I tore into it with my knife and fork. But its reserved flavors left me craving more char and punctuation from its outer salt, garlic and cumin rub.
On the other hand, I loved the peppery flavors of tacu tacu de pollo (stir-fried chicken, $9.95) and the fluffy fried rice fused with toothsome canary beans. Deep flavors permeate throughout the sauce with accents of garlic and soy sauce (soy sauce was introduced by Asian immigration in the 19th and 20th century), and the wonderful rice and beans soak it up like a sponge. Unfortunately, I did not care for the tough and dry chicken which would otherwise make this more enjoyable.
The same garlicky sauce coats the delicious lomo a lo pobre ($13.50) – tender cubes of beef stir-fried with red onions and tomatoes. The flavorful beef comes with steamed white rice topped with a fried egg and French fries cooked to hot, crunchy perfection.
For a fun appetizer, try the spicy Papa a la Huancaina ($7). Soft slices of boiled potato — accented with black olives and a hard-boiled egg — are cooled and topped with a thick, creamy yellow sauce made with milk, cheese and processed aji peppers. The ceviche de camarones ($14.95) appetizer also tops my list. A serving of shrimp, cilantro and thin sliced red onions tossed in a citrusy sauce makes my mouth pucker. Its side items of corn kernels toasted to nutty softness, and a slice of yam with sweet pliable flesh balance out the tangy ceviche.
I also enjoy the restaurant’s pescado a la plancha (grilled fish, $10.99), served with steamed white rice and a fresh side salad dressed with vinaigrette. The kitchen lightly seasons a thin filet of sea bass with salt and garlic and grills it until its flat exterior takes on a golden crust. The dish is an easy choice if you want something light and healthy.
Minor issues aside, Sabor Inka is off to a good start with many diverse dishes to choose from in a warm, family-friendly environment.SABOR INKA 960 Pleasant Hill Road, Suite E, Lawrenceville, 30044, 770-564-9136 Food: Hearty home-cooked South American fare Service: Good, but at times it seems only one server works the whole dining room Best dishes: Lomo a lo pobre, ceviche de camarones, Papa a la Huancaina Vegetarian selections: Side salads, and lots of starchy appetizers and side dishes Credit cards: Discover, MasterCard, Visa Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays Children: Yes Parking: In lot Reservations: Yes Wheelchair access: Yes Smoking: No Noise level: Low to moderate Patio: No Takeout: Yes