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Food & Drink

BEST BEEF HEARTS ON A STICK Los Angeles 2009 

El Pollo Inka

Some people wear their hearts on their sleeves. In Peru they wear them on a stick — beef hearts that is. As its name suggests, El Pollo Inka is known mainly for its excellent chicken, which can be seen browning and sputtering on spinning racks in the giant brick oven at the front window. But we're here for that unique and essential Peruvian dish: anticuchos — beef hearts on a stick. Tender, succulent morsels on a skewer, lightly spiced and slightly charred, they taste mostly of beef with a hint of organ-meat crunchiness, and are served with a cob of corn, and a boiled, bland half potato (Peru is the epicenter of potato culture) that offsets the cup of scorching, take-no-prisoners salsa. This salsa starts off with the homey warmth of garlic and cleanness of cilantro, but the two types of chiles sneak up on you like a Portuguese man-of-war: burning, tears, cries for a lifeguard. Worth it for the salsa alone.

—Jedd Birkner

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