Che Inka - Houston

A new Argentina/Peruvian restaurant opened near my workplace last week and I ran over for a quick lunch. The dining room (formerly a Los Cucos). is completely remodeled and clean and bright:

It looks like they await a liquor license.

Tasty seasoned rolls were delivered to the table when we arrived.

A co-worker ordered quinoa stuffed tomatoes which were pretty:

I had the pollo milanesa with 2 eggs and fries from the lunch menu ($12). It was nicely seasoned and crispy hot.

Others had Peruvian arroz con pollo, spinach gnocchi, and a fried mushroom appetizer (mushroom milanesa they called it - :grinning: ).

The food all came out separately as they delivered things as they were prepared, which I hope they fix because it necessarily left one person without food for an awkward while. But being open less than a week, the effort was fine and the food, all agreed, was great and so this place will likely be added to the rotation.

I couldn’t find anything on Che Inka other than this website which shows the owners have 1 other restaurant (Argentina Cafe) in town and another on the way.

Che Inka

Ironically, the former Peruvian chicken restaurant across the street - Pollo Bravo - has been razed to the ground recently.

One thing’s for sure, there’s no shortage of South American eateries here.

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Very interesting. Thanks for the report and pictures.

I’ve been to Argentina Cafe. It’s been hugely successful, I think, but I haven’t been in a few years because of the location in the Galleria area.

It’s like several other small Argentinan places around town.

The place on the SW fwy on the website has been known (and is still listed as open on Yelp) as Peru Cafe Express. I understood it was the same people as Argentina Cafe but have never been. It’s said to be severely lacking in dining in accommodations and it’s too far for take-out for me. Now the idea of an Empanada Factory sounds like a winner! I’ll be looking forward to seeing how many cuisines versions of empanadas they offer.

Don’t know what the story is with Pollo Bravo. In my experience it has been the best version of Peruvian style chicken in town (well, I haven’t been to some of the more upscale places and still haven’t tried it at Andes) but they have had trouble keeping locations open, I think.

OT: Have you tried that Piada Italian Street Food down the street on Memorial. I’ve heard good things but there’s not one near me (duh).

I have not yet, but several others in the office go for take out regularly and have reported they like it for a quick healthier-than-some lunch. There’s also an Express Rolls fast healthy food place in that same center I haven’t tried yet either. Across the street from those is a sandwich shop that’s been there a long time and has a loyal following, Shandy’s Cafe next to Spec’s.

I’ve heard of Shandy’s for years, it seems. Used to be mentioned on CH occasionally, as I recall.

I stopped by Peru Cafe Express on 59 today for a late lunch. No indications of changes afoot except for posters in the windows announcing the restaurant is moving, just a few doors down, to a larger space. I guess the Empanada Factory will take over this space then.

The place is small, maybe 10 2 tops and it would be difficult to find room to move more than two of them together.

I picked up Pan con Lomo Saltado (“sauteed beef sandwich”) and a Peruvian pork tamal with salsa criolla. I don’t remember even seeing tamales on the menus of other Peruvian places I’ve been too but this was the real winner. It was boxed up sans wrapper so I don’t know if corn husks or banana leaf was used (recipes online use both). The color comes from Peruvian red chile (aji panca?) and it was delish, a little drier than I like tamales but still very good with just a hint of heat and lots of tender pork.

The salsa criolla - red onions a la fluta (sliced like a feather) dressed with lime juice, a little salt and maybe a hint of chile - was a great accompaniment. I understand it’s very widely used in Peruvian cuisine. The bag also included a green sauce, salsa verde, with a little more heat. Not sure which Peruvian pepper is green.

The sandwich unfortunately proved what I suggested above - this place is a little far for take-out for me. The bread was too soft and lacking in crust for my taste, a result of being closed up in the box for the trip home, I think, as was the handful of limp potato chips included. I just ate half the sandwich and will toast the bun for the second half. A very simple sandwich. Wish I’d saved some of the salsa criolla for it.

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Correction - the phrase for the onions is a la pluma - like a feather - not a la fluta.

I’d eat that.

I made it back to Che Inka and ordered the same dish. But I also ordered this provoleta appetizer, provolone with oregano and olive oil, much like queso flameado. Lunch mate had the morcilla which he pronounced one of the best he’s had. I don’t fancy blood sausage, so I’ll have to take his word for it. Service was “relaxed.” They seemed short handed. There is a groupon available that keeps changing in value it seems.

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A new Pollo Bravo has opened about a block west of Che Inka, on the same side of the street.

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Bread. Yeah, like I really needed complimentary bread with everything else I was ordering :smile:.

Chicha Morada - traditional Peruvian purple corn drink with apples and cloves - minus a couple of slurps. Excellent. Best version I’ve had, very rich. My waiter, Ismael, was trying to tell me, as best I could understand him, that some places in town make this from a powdered mix but this place makes it from scratch.

Empanada de Carne - knife cut beef per the menu but the interior was more like a beef stew - a very good beef stew I might add. I was expecting some grilled meat like the samsas at Uyghur Bistro so I was a little disappointed but this was excellent. The pastry crust was very good, maybe the best I’ve had in town! The interior was stuffed full. I neglected to take a picture but look online for pictures of this place and see for yourself. Only available with beef or chicken here but if this group’s proposed Empanada Factory turns out empanadas like these, they’re going to be a hit I predict.

Parihuela - traditional Peruvian fish stew with fish (tilapia I think), shrimp, calamari, octopus, a very small crab and 2 very large mussels on the half shell lurking under the surface, in a tomato based broth. Very good but many of the pieces of squid and octopus were tough and rubbery - not all, and I got only a miniscule amount of meat out of the crab. (I’m sure Mr. Oysters and Wifacita could have done much better than me). But the biggest improvement they could make, imo, would be to use a firmer fish. Interesting and tasty but I don’t think I’d order this again here.

I used up the last of the bread sopping up the broth. That bowl is at least 12" across; that was a lot of soup ($14).

All the waiters spoke to me as they passed; Ismael spent quite some time chatting with me as I was waiting for the stew. I would rate the service as very good.

I’ll certainly be back. I bet Radar O’Reilly could swear off Grape Nehi for that Chicha Morada.

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Wifacita never had crabs until she met me, oysters also. She is very good at getting every last bit of the crab meat, much better than me and I’ve been eating blue crabs all my life.

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I see what you did there.

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Great pics, glad you liked it! I noticed someone on another group promoting this place and one person said it was awful and don’t go there because their child’s nuggets were greasy. Sigh. Take the child to Micky D’s this is adult food!

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Passing by on the SWFWY today I saw the signage is up for Empanadas Factory and separate signage (on the building) for Peru Cafe Express. I was pretty sure when it opened PCE was owned by the same people who had Argentina Cafe on Hidalgo @ Sage but it’s not on the same website with Che Inka, AC and Empanadas Factory so there must have been a change of ownership.

Anyhoos, a couple of places of interest to me. I’ll try to post a report soon.

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I stopped in the Empanada Factory today (no ‘s’). The place has been completely redone and is kind of sterile. It’s counter service with just nine two-tops.

There are 30 savory varieties and you have a choice on some of them of either fried or baked (cooked when ordered - takes a minimum of 10 minutes). There are 7 dessert empanadas, baked only.

I had the Chorizo (top - fried) with diced sausage, caramelized onions, mozzarella and spices, the Artichoke (middle, baked only) with mozz, provolone and basil, and the Dulce de Leche, with walnuts, whipped cream and powdered sugar.

Prices range from $2.50 to $2.95 each. The artichoke was my favorite. Despite being a bit over-baked, I wished I’d ordered 2 because they’re small. The sausage in the Chorizo was meh. The Dulce de Leche was good but I wished I’d tried another savory one. I usually eat sweets apart from meals.

There’s a small selection of pizzas, 8 or 12", including Fugazzeta, described as a traditional Pizza Argentina with onions, mozzarella and spices. There are no pictures yet of these from here but I looked this up online and I’m going to have to try one. Argentine pizzas are described as having a thicker crust than Italian and with more cheese.

There are coffee drinks, a selection of sodas, bottled water and a small selection of wine and beers - kind of a limited menu.

Marini’s Empanadas set a very high bar for Argentine empanadas beginning about 45 years ago and the fillings in these are not quite as creative, I’d say, but they’re good and I expect to be back. I’ve always found Marini’s empanadas to have crusts that are too thick; these aren’t.

This is what they list as a website!!! Don’t ask me :crazy_face:

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This place closed. NEXT!

Oops! Four and a half stars online and they couldn’t survive?

I don’t think I ever saw anything in any of the foodie media about this place (or Empanada Factory or Peru Cafe Express on 59/69).

They needed a better PR firm, I guess.

What’s up next? Poke shops (there’s room for 2 in that space :smirk:.

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