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Tres causas, a dish of three mounds of

Tres causas, a dish of three mounds of potatoes, each with a different stuffing (tuna, crab and shrimp), is served at Inca Wasi in Island Park. (April 10, 2011) Photo Credit: Steven Sunshine

Just steps from the Island Park LIRR station is this colorful little storefront where the Peruvian cooking of chef-owner Angel Santi can light up your night.

That's what happened the first time I ate at Inca Wasi. On a later visit, though, things were a bit more uneven, the crew apparently preoccupied with a catering order.

PERUVIAN PANACHE

A beautifully plated cassava salad laced with onion and cilantro is a gracious gift from the kitchen. Much appreciated.

From the tapas menu comes the lively tres causas, a trio of mashed potato mounds stuffed, respectively, with crab, shrimp and tuna salads, everything spiked with lime, yellow peppers and spices. Papas rellenos -- potatoes stuffed with spiced ground beef -- warms me up on a cold, damp night. If you've got the heart for anticuchos (grilled marinated beef hearts), they're very good, expectedly chewy, full of flavor. A tamer (but no less appealing) special is made with marinated salmon as a stand-in for the organ meat.

There's a list of several provocatively named variations on seviche. We order the "sexy" platter, made with tilapia "cooked" in a citrus marinade. Terrific.

Not to be missed is the well-burnished and delectable rotisserie chicken. And the savory Peruvian-Chinese fried rice called chaufa. Once, I get it laced with tender beef and chicken; another time with bright vegetables.

Entrana a la parilla, skirt steak topped with a vibrant chimichurri sauce, comes rare, as ordered. Nice, though not quite in the same league, is pollo al romero, chicken breast sauteed with rosemary, peppers and corn, served with rice. The Italian influence on Peru's cuisine is evident in the tallerin verde -- spaghetti in a creamy basil and spinach pesto, served with a tender grilled chicken cutlet.

A finale of flan is all about silky opulence.

PERUVIAN PROBLEMS

At the waitress' suggestion, I order picante de mariscos, mixed seafood over rice. The clams are mush, the dish cold; I send it back. A replacement (at no charge) proves impeccable. So, why such a flub in the first place?

BOTTOM LINE

When Inca Wasi is really cooking, you get fireworks.

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