I never knew how much I liked Peruvian food until I moved to Sarasota. There are several restaurants serving this cuisine, however they all have their own distinct menu and recipes passed down from their families. Jalea is a tapas restaurant with a menu serving both Peruvian and Spanish cuisine.
Located at 1532 Main Street, parking is usually very convenient during lunch and dinner hours. As I normally find myself getting dinner in the 8pm range, I tend to get lucky finding a spot at the bar. I like to sit there as a Table For One because it allows me to interact with the staff and learn about the restaurant first hand from the people and patrons around me.
Cecilia is behind the bar, a very pretty girl from Mexico, and well versed in the menu. She informs me that every Tuesday it’s 2 for 1 Tapas with a choice of over eight items from 5pm – 9pm. I take her suggestion and order the house red sangria and Berenjerna Braceada off the tapas menu – (sliced eggplant with ricotta and mozzarella cheese in a tomato basil sauce). It sounded similar to eggplant rollatini, but she assured me it’s her favorite and quite different. I asked her to bring one and wrap the other one up to take home. The menu itself is two-sided with so many things to choose from hot or cold tapas, tiraditos, salads, soups, rice, ceviche, house specialties and desserts. My all time favorite Peruvian dish is Lomo Salatado, so of course I place that order for my entree.
While I wait for my food to arrive, I take a look around the restaurant noticing the seating can accommodate several large parties. There is a very long table in the middle, Cecilia tells me it’s family style seating. The last time I did family style seating was back in Amish country by Dutch Wonderland in Pennsylvania. It’s a very smart idea, there are also several booths and another room that has varies seating options. The bar is very long and can sit at least 12 people. However, the decor is simple and doesn’t transport me to Spain or Peru, but the two televisions propped up behind the bar do have the soccer games on, that’s a bonus. Dim the lights and I think the atmosphere would be a bit warmer.
I must have finished my appetizer in record time. It was unbelievably tasty, perfect sauce and flavor combination and I notice the presentation on every dish is well thought out. Every time I go to dinner I leave with half my meal, this evening is no different. Looking at the size of my Lomo Salatado I knew a to go box was in order. Beef tenderloin sautéed in their special secret sauce with onions and tomato sits on top of french fries that soak up the flavors from the above, and lastly a side of rice to mix together with the ingredients upon your liking. My advice to you is to savor every single bite that enters your mouth to truly understand the international flare. Because I like spicy, Cecilia brought me a side of rocoto pepper sauce, mixed it in with my rice and throughout the dish – my mouth was not only receiving the effects of the touch of heat, but in its glory because it’s extremely satisfying.
I’m not one who craves sweets, something has changed and now I am open to trying something out of the ordinary, after all dining to me is an experience for my taste buds. Six exotic desserts and one full stomach, I pass up the Pan Peridido their signature bread pudding, there was no way I could get away with that. What stood out to me, Ojaldra de Manzana – Spanish apple pie served with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. Cecilia tells me this style is slightly fried, shaped in a square and the perfect choice. My stomach and I decide that we can take a couple bites and of course, like the rest of the meal take it to go. It was difficult to put the spoon down because the flavor combination was like a song you love and don’t want to end.
This Table For One is sorry I haven’t come to Jalea sooner. This is perfect for dining alone, it’s entertaining and it’s quiet enough for you to unwind from your day. If you like the cool weather choose to sit out on the patio. Like most smart run restaurants, there is complimentary wifi, full liquor bar and the service is as good as it gets. The owner eats there every week, and I over heard Cecilia telling customers at a nearby table that he is one of the best bosses she has ever worked for. That in itself speaks volumes.
There are events they have planned throughout the week and the menu is on their website, you may want to take a look so you’re not overwhelmed before heading in. They take reservations and can also be found on Facebook/Jalea. If you eat the same type of food often, do your taste buds a favor, treat them to an unforgettable international cuisine.