Peruvian cuisine review Jalea: Hicksville restaurant specializes in fried seafood


251 W. Old Country Rd., Hicksville


COT: $$ – $$$

SERVICE: Useful despite the language barrier

ATMOSPHERE: Quiet and indescribable, TVs tuned to football in the bar, Food Network in the dining room

ESSENTIAL: Lunch and dinner, Monday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., Sunday from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. credit cards, wheelchair accessible

Fried seafood has found its way to Long Island in many forms: American Ipswich clams, Italian fritto misto, and Japanese tempura are just a few dishes that populate restaurant menus.

In Hicksville, Jalea, the latest restaurant to join the island’s burgeoning Peruvian food scene, demonstrates it. With 1,500 miles of coastline, Peru has fish, shellfish and squid, and chefs who know how to dip them in boiling oil.

To tell you how serious they are about deep-frying, Jalea was named after Peru’s iconic tower of deep-fried seafood, served on crispy sticks of fried yucca, accompanied by zarza criolla, a relish. tangy sliced ​​onions and cilantro marinated in lime juice. .

Here the dish anchors a menu of largely traditional dishes, a subtly spicy and crispy mix of squid, half-shelled clams and fish nuggets that come in two main course sizes – a modest ‘classica’ or the mountain “ejecutiva”. “There is also a fish-only aperitif version, called chicharron de pescado, with a surprise to take away: yes, it is possible to have a good fish nugget.

The relish sets the dish apart from its fried seafood cousins, diplomatically tempering the salt and fat to keep you coming back for more. It’s hard not to resist every morsel, even the largest platter, knowing that more food is on the way.

Located in a nondescript mall along a busy stretch of Old Country Road, Jalea has around 40 seats between the dining room and the bar, which for now remains bare while the restaurant waits to get his liquor license.

Go beyond that and you’ll walk away with a lesson in the intricacies of Peruvian cuisine, a melting pot of influences comprising native Incas combined with centuries of settlers and immigrants from Spain and Italy to China, Japan and the world. ‘West Africa.

No Peruvian restaurant would be complete without roast chicken, which comes in quarters, halves or whole bird portions of tender, well-seasoned meat, but in Jalea it doesn’t have the crispy skin you find in other places. .

Instead, let go of the menu and you will find great success. Make sure you have plenty of aji present, a warm-spiced green garlic aioli that comes shortly after you sit down. You will find that there are few things that are not transformed by a dip or a spoonful.

Be careful, hearty soup bowls, like many appetizers, are sufficient for a meal. Aguadito de pollo is served with pieces of tender chicken and rice in a rich broth tinged with coriander. Chupe de pescado is the Peruvian equivalent of a butter chowder, loaded with delicately poached white fish fillets and hard-boiled eggs.

Antichuchos, beef hearts tenderized in a marinade of vinegar, garlic and spices, are inspired by street food. The meat is skewered onto a metal stick and the tears are tender whether you order it grilled medium or medium rare. (Paging Cupid, pull out the yellow arrow. Hearts will make finicky converts.)

The ceviches, raw fish “cooked” in a citrus marinade, are rich in lime juice, dominating the sea bass in the classico de pescado, while complementing the ceviche mixto, a mixture of fluke, shrimp, squid and sea bass. octopus.

Arroz chaufa carne o pollo, a Peruvian-style fried rice, shows that the Chinese settlers of Peru were excellent guardians. Here, savory grains of rice in soy sauce are sprinkled with green onions, eggs and large, chewy chunks of beef.

One dish that I hope can be fixed is bistec o lo pobre, a steak topped with a fried egg that made me nostalgic for other Latin-centric versions of rustic cuts of beef topped with a pair of fried eggs. ‘eggs coulis. In a good version, you break the yolk and the steak is coated in a creamy sauce. On two visits to Jalea the steak was dry, the yolks stiff.

Clearly, the meat of choice in Jalea comes from the sea.

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