“Neighborhood Gem” is a category in Open Table’s feedback format. It presumably means economical, tasty and convenient. If so, then Incas Grill qualifies easily.
As the name implies, its fare is Peruvian—and extensively so. One can begin with one of 20 (yup, 20) appetizers, starting at $6. The empanadas ($6) are superb. Likewise the ceviche de pescado (white fish marinated in lime juice, onions and rocoto, served with sweet potato pieces, corn and toasted corn) at $13.
In between are, for example, fried yuccas ($6), papa rellena (deep-fried, seasoned potato filled with meat, hardboiled egg and black olives) at $9.50, marinated and grilled beef heart pieces in a special house sauce with corn ($7) and choros a la chalaca (green mussels in the shell with a composite topping) at $9. Depending on how much asbestos is in your throat, you can spice up these as well as any of the entrees.
The seven soup selections include chupe de mariscos (traditional Peruvian seafood chowder) at $18, two kinds of chopped steak in creamy blends ($13) and parihuela (a house recipe of different seafood simmered in a special broth) at $18.
Entrees? A paltry 32 of them—not counting the five on the “Kid’s Menu”—spread out among beef, chicken and seafood (there’s also pasta, but isn’t that Italian?). We had lomo saltado (beef strips sautéed with onions, tomatoes and aji amarillo over rice) at $15 and pescado a lo macho (Peruvian fish with onions, shrimp, calamari and scallops over rice) also at $15.
Other possibilities were aji de gallina (shredded chicken in spicy sauce over rice) at $12, cau cau de pollo (stewed chicken and potatoes over rice) at $14, Peruvian seafood paella ($15) or jalea (a mix of fried white fish, shrimp and calamari, served with fried yucca, the house salsa and tartar sauce) at $22 or $13 for a half portion. As with everything, portions are generous.
A sort of culinary bonus is Desayuno Peruano (Peruvian breakfast) on Sunday. For that reason, the restaurant opens at 9 a.m., instead of its usual 11 a.m.
The wine varietals are diverse, though undistinguished. There are plenty of pisco sours, beer, soft drinks and even chicha morada (described as a “purple corn drink”).
The eager and welcoming staff is as Peruvian as the menu—the exception is a proudly Mexican waitress who is much kidded. Owner Ulises Napuri came to San Francisco in 1989. Along with his parents, he opened a crab stand at Fisherman’s Wharf (it’s still operated by his family, though now as a souvenir shop). He migrated to Concord in May 2009, to be closer to family and friends.
Reservations are taken, but aren’t often necessary. The restaurant is unusually spacious (e.g., you aren’t forced to hear the people at the next table), informal (e.g., if you insist on wearing denims to dinner, this is your place) and airy.
It’s open every day for lunch and dinner at 4669 Clayton Road, Suite D, Concord (925-687-2479). That reads much easier than it plays—because finding it is tough. Eventually, you’ll realize that it’s tucked in the corner of a small shopping center anchored by a large TJ Maxx. You’ll have no problem parking. Drive there and find out for yourself.