Friday, February 8, 2013

Warique: Jaleas in Harlem

Have you ever ordered a Pisco (Pees-koh) Sour?  Do you enjoy ceviche (Seh-vee-cheh)? Does the word Jalea (Ha-ley-ah) make your mouth water?  If you have no idea what I am talking about, then its time you went to Harlem to visit Warique Peruvian Kitchen.

Warique is a small restaurant with ten dark wooden tables; beautiful paintings; an exposed brick wall to the right; and a small bar in the back. Cozy and comfortable, Warique is perfect for a romantic date or an after work meal with friends. 

Warique’s wait staff is wonderful. My server was friendly, warm, and attentive.  I noticed the other servers were warm and mindful with their customers as well.

Warique has a diverse clientele; it’s both a neighborhood eatery as well as a destination restaurant.  The night I visited, I sat between an older Latina lesbian couple and a young Latino with a group of his friends.  Occasionally, the couple would feed each other forkfuls of food and kiss; while the Latino guy raved about his recent honeymoon cruise to South America.

Surrounded by romance and jubilation, I decided to treat myself to one of my favorite appetizers: a Causa Peruana con Pollo.  A causa is a cold mashed potato ball filled with avocado, crunchy peppers, cilantro, aji amarillo (South American hot yellow chile pepper), and chicken or tuna.  Warique features other appetizers such as: Papas a la Huancaina (Yellow potatoes served with a spicy cream sauce); Anticuchos (skewered veal hearts); and Choros a la Chalaca (Peruvian style mussels marinated in lemon juice).

Warique’s causas are wonderful!  The potatoes were soft and chilled to perfection.  The shredded roasted chicken breast was moist and flavorful. The cilantro, peppers, and avocado added sweetness and crispiness to the dish.

As I ate my causa, the young Latino talked incessantly about his cruise to South America with his partner Paul.  They loved Peru and its food. A mutual friend of theirs recommended Warique for good Peruvian food in New York City.  Enthusiastically, the young Latino ordered Pisco Sours for everyone at his table.

A Pisco Sour is a delicious South American cocktail prepared with Peruvian Pisco (a grape brandy), lime or lemon juice, syrup, ice, egg whites, and Angostura bitters.  At the time, it had been quite a while since I had ordered a Pisco Sour and decided to follow suit. Unlike other Pisco Sours, Warique’s cocktails are lightly dusted with cinnamon, which adds a spicy taste to the usual sweet and sour flavors.  Usually, I don’t enjoy alcoholic beverages with my meals, but the Pisco Sour and causa combination was phenomenal.

As I looked over the entrees, I overheard the Latinas talking about their Ceviches; a popular seafood dish in South America, typically made from fresh raw fish marinated in lemon or lime juices and spiced with chili peppers or ají. 

One of them ordered El Ceviche de Camaron (Shrimp) and the other El Ceviche de Pescado (Sliced raw fish).  They loved their dishes and compared them to other ceviches they had eaten in Peru.  It was adorable to watch them reminiscing about how they met in Peru, fell in love, and moved to New York City to go to school.  I couldn’t help eavesdropping on their romantic and inspiring story.  It was so beautiful to see how their romance had stood up against the test of time.

Tempted by the ceviche, I continued to review the menu, which features: Sopas (Soups), Pollo a la Brasa (Blackened Chicken), Ceviches, Ensaladas (Salads), Pescados y Mariscos (Fish and Seafood), Platos de Fondo (Typical Plates).  For more information on the menu go to:

I was ready to order a ceviche until the word Jalea caught my eye.  A Jalea is a seafood dish composed of lightly battered fried fish or assorted seafood; Peruvian corn; fried potatoes or yucca; and is garnished with red onions, tomatoes, and cilantro.  The Puerto Rican in me couldn’t pass up the chance to eat a plate of fried delicacies, so I ordered the Jalea with a small side order of white rice and beans. 

My eyes nearly popped out of my skull when my server brought me my entrée. The plate was overflowing with fried shrimp, fish, clams, and calamari.  The seafood was wonderful; it was crispy on the outside, moist on the inside and the lime juice drizzled on top gave the dish the perfect hint of acid.  The sweetness of the tomatoes and corn complemented the savory flavor of the red onions and cilantro.  The fried yucca fries were good, but a few of the strips were overdone and dried out.  The rice and beans were mediocre; the beans were bland and needed salt.

After such a sumptuous meal, I decided to skip dessert.  Warique’s dessert menu is simple: Assorted ice creams; Picarones (a fried doughnut made from squash or sweet potatoes); and slices of Lucuma (a unique Peruvian fruit that tastes like caramel custard and has a pasty texture).

My visit to Warique was wonderful!  The food is delicious and the portions are generous.  Also, it was inspiring to sit between an older queer couple and a newly wed beginning his life with his partner.  It reminded me of how lucky I am to have found my BearBear David.  I hope one day we’ll be newly weds and then an older couple sharing a meal at Warique.  Unfortunately, he hates seafood and would probably dump me the minute I took him there.  I guess we’ll be the lovey-dovey couple at his favorite restaurant: McDonald’s.  Ugh! Pray for me.

Do yourselves a favor folks, head to Harlem and get yourself a Jalea!  Go taste for yourself! ¡Buen provecho!

Warique Peruvian Kitchen
852 Amsterdam Ave
(between 101st St & 102nd St)
(212) 865-0101

HOURS:  Mon-Wed, Sun 12 pm - 10:30 pm/Fri-Sat 12 pm - 11:30 pm

ATMOSPHERE:  Casual, warm, fun and inviting.

SERVICE: Excellent.

SOUND LEVEL: Conversational.

KID FRIENDLY: Not really, small space.

RECOMMENDED DISHES:  See article above.

BEVERAGES:  Sodas, Wines, Beer, mixed drinks, and water.

PRICE RANGE:  $20-$30