Best Sarasota Restaurants: Jalea–Peruvian Tapas
I was excited to try Jalea. I knew they served Peruvian food, tapas style. I knew they were new, hip and fresh. Every time I would walk by the restaurant on Main Street, I would make a mental note to get in there and try it out. I’m so glad I did.
It is now on my list of top restaurant recommendations for Sarasota. The food was great and the service was excellent. Jalea made me feel as if I were vacationing in a bigger more metropolitan city (no offense to this great town).
My meal started with a perfect drink and Peruvian corn.
The drink: Slightly reminiscent of a whiskey sour but much less sweet and sugary. It had just a hint of cinnamon, citrus and rum(?). Something to add to my cocktail repertoire at home.
Peruvian Corn: I am not sure why this is not served at every bar around. They are similar to corn nuts but less greasy and less crunchy (you are less apt to break a tooth). They still have a nice crunch and a perfect saltiness. They are one of the perks of Peruvian restaurants.
And then came the tapas……
If you aren’t familiar with tapas, they are a Spanish tradition of small plates of food. Think appetizer portions but with enough to share. The idea is that you order a bunch of different plates to really get a taste for the entire menu–which is exactly what we did. In some tapas restaurants, the different menu items can begin to taste the same but at Jalea, each plate was excitingly different.
The first dish we tried was the Leche De Tigre, Peruvian preparation of tiny pieces of delicately marinated white fish, Peruvian white corn, onions and ceviche juice, served in a cocktail glass. In all of my attempts, I didn’t get a good photo of that dish–but trust me, it was divine.
My favorite of the night was probably the Causa de Pollo, described on the menu as cold mashed potatoes with chicken and avocado. The description was a bit odd to me—but I was pleasantly surprised by the dish. It was light but rich at the same time. Loved it!
Look at all of the seafood….no skimping here! Mussels, calamari, scallops, white fish–this is their Paella.
Although the menu is filled with lots of seafood, there are plenty of dishes for those that shy away from the ocean. Asado Limeno—braised beef with red wine, aji panca. I hadn’t eaten red meat in over 20 years but gave this a little taste after the hearing everyone else enjoying it. Guess what? So good!
The Locro was another of my favorites–this vegetarian dish is made with butternut squash, lima beans, white cheese, potato and carrots. Again the combination on the menu didn’t sound particularly appealing to me but the ingredients combined were warm and comforting. It was no surprise when the general manager Diego explained it was his grandmothers recipe and a very special dish to him. I love to hear stories behind food and recipes.
Ahhh…the namesake, the Jalea. Perfectly breaded and fried seafood and yucca. Nothing tasted too fried or too heavy. I can see myself going back and just ordering this one.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get great photos of the dessert, Pan Perdido (Spanish bread pudding) or the tiny cup of coffee served at the end of the meal but both were fabulous.
Would I go back?
Would I bring the kids?
I am not sure about that. I know that they would find things that they would eat but they wouldn’t appreciate the complex flavors. I think I will save Jalea for date nights.
We need more of those!
Jalea •1532 Main St• Sarasota, Florida• 941-955-8272• www.jaleasarasota.com
Jalea has two for one tapas on Tuesday evenings! Go check it out!