I’m not a food guy. My diet, for a long time now, has been whatever I can get that is quick, cheap, and filling, so that I may keep going with the day without taking an hour out of it. However, now I am on a diet, have cut out the fried goods and Coca-Cola, started watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, and now I’m hungry for something real.
A date night for my wife and I became a trek through the avenue of trees on the outer rim of Portland, which dropped us off on NE Alberta, a quiet sector of Portland which my eyes have never seen. We walked past restaurants bustling with the sounds of Happy Hour, and were delivered to a quiet venue with enchanted scents wafting out from its doors. del Inti graced the food section of the Willamette Week two years ago now, the proposition of which has enchanted me since first reading the review, but which time has prohibited me from visiting. I am a man on a mission for a singular dish, and the rest of the menu can go to hell. Today, I am Captain Beef Heart.
You will forgive the stolen pun. These two years, the concept of Peruvian beef heart has swirled around my subconscious, reminding me of what I could be eating every time I consumed a pedestrian slab of processed meat at a fast food restaurant. I am not an exotic man, and the most foreign thing I usually put in my body is sweet and sour pork. However, for thought-provoking food, I was more than willing to step outside of my bubble of layman’s cuisine. del Inti is San Franciscan transplants Ignacio and Erin del Solar’s attempt at a different kind of fusion: blending a Peruvian culinary background with the delicate brand of fresh that only the Northwest can supply, a blend that works out stunningly. It’s a high-class restaurant that still wants to be comfortable. It’s the kind of restaurant where you decide to dress nicely, only to find that your bartender is in khaki shorts, a trait that was enough to put my mind at ease that I wasn’t out of place here. Yes, I am an outsider, but I felt at home the moment I saw the place, despite not being able to pronounce half the words on the menu, let alone knowing what any of them were. The decor is free of pretentiousness, and the atmosphere is truly humble.
“But,” you may be wondering, “what about the food?” While I went straight for exactly what I came for, my wife wasn’t ready to beat around the bush. Roasted duck breast, upon a bed of paella, a rice dish to end all other grain products, The duck was melt-in-your-mouth tender, and juicy beyond belief. If they can do nothing else right here, it may be this dish. Through stealing bites from her plate, I can honestly say that, to date, it’s some of the best food I’ve eaten in this city. However, after two skewers of beef heart, I was in need of something else: Mediterranean mussels sudado, and, in the words of my wife “the bacon of vegetables,” fried yuca. Here, I air out my only grievance in the whole place: the mussels were far too plain. They were good, of course, but they lacked the flair I had hoped for when I ordered the dish. This is, of course, a minor problem, because it was still much better than anything I’d had in a long time, and you won’t hear any real complaints from me. And, if you were wondering what I thought about the beef heart… I confess, I ended up getting seconds. Truly, truly flawless.
So, in the end, del Inti was worth the two-year wait, and the perfect end of a perfect day. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, it’s worth stopping in and spending a few bucks on fantastic food, a commodity truly worth searching for.
Items ordered: 4
Total cost: $38.50 (including $2.50 for a lemonade [worth every penny, it was so freshly squeezed that it came with the literally half of a lemon they used for it)
Price ranking: Inexpensive-Moderately expensive (my wife spent $18 on the duck, the most expensive item on the menu that day; my four skewers of beef heart and mussels cost $5 each and $9, respectively)