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El Tule *****

Ceviche at El Tule

609.773.0007
49 N. Main Street
Lambertville, NJ 8530

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Located in a town with a fiercely competitive restaurant scene, El Tule distinguishes itself with a unique menu that features both Peruvian & Mexican specialties. They have a casual, no-frills dining room adorned with traditional Incan tapestries and artwork, and the vibrant color scheme combined with the festive images transports you to some other Latin American world from the moment you walk in the door. If your lucky enough to go in the spring/summer, they also have a nice outdoor patio area where you can enjoy your meal al fresco!

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Just don’t let the relaxed nature of the dining atmosphere fool you about their food. El Tule takes their cooking very seriously, and no detail is overlooked in the foods preparation, presentation, or service (which I will admit was a bit slow when they first opened, but I assure you it has gotten much, much better!). It is clear that the presentation of each dish has been well contemplated and then artfully executed. The flavors are well developed, seasoned, and perfectly balanced. And the servers (which seem to be family)  are genuine experts on the cuisine, that can help you navigate the exotic menu, which can be intimidating for first time Peruvian diners!

And although both cuisines are excellent, I highly recommend ordering one of the unique dishes off the Peruvian menu when dining at El Tule. Sure their quesadilla is great, but how often can you find fresh ceviche in Bucks County?!

And that brings me to my next praise for El Tule; their ceviche is among the best that I have ever had, in Bucks County and beyond! Here are a look at my 3 favorites, which can be conveniently sampled in their tasting platter called the Trilogy Ceviche.

El Tule Trilogy Sampler

Ceviche Limeno, which is fresh Corvina marinated in lime juice with red onions, cilantro, and hot rocoto pepper garnished with sweet potato, yellow corn, and potato. 

El Tule Ceviche Limeno

Ceviche Mixto, which is fresh Corvina, shrimp, octopus, and calamari marinated in lime juice with red onions, cilantro and spicy rocoto pepper with sweet potato, yellow corn, and potato. Tigre de leche.

El Tule Ceviche Mixto

Ceviche Chifa which is fresh corvina fish, pickled vegetables, micro-herbs, and crispy wontons in a black-sesame leche de tigre dressing. This one might just be my favorite because the Asian flavor makes it so unique!

El Tule Ceviche Chifa

Some of my other favorite Peruvian specialties served at El Tule include:

Peruvian Chicken & Rice Soup with Cilantro Pesto. This is my go-t0 lunch in the winter because it warms you from the inside and keeps you feeling satisfied all day long. The cilantro pesto brings a very fresh flavor to dish which helps lighten the otherwise heavy chicken stew.

Chicken and Rice Soup

Taboule Quinoa Salad, which is traditional Inca style taboule garnished with avocado, boiled potatoes, and cilantro dressing. This very light and fragrant quinoa salad with a distinct lime flavor makes a nice lunch pairing with a soup!

Quinoa Tabouli Salad

Red Snapper & Crab Meat Tacu Tacu, which is a pan roasted fillet of red snapper on top of a black bean tacu tacu bathed in a light creamy Rocoto pepper and crab meat sauce. The rocoto pepper is a spicy pepper native to the Peruvian region, and it works beautifully to help balance the light cream sauce that bathes this dish. As you can see, they certainly aren’t stingy with the crab meat either!

Red Snapper & Crab Tacu Tacu

If you aren’t ready to explore the flavors offered by the Peruvian menu, you can play it safe by ordering one of the more familiar entrees on the Mexican menu. My favorite menu item from the Mexican menu would have to be the Quesadilla El Tule, which is a massive grilled flour tortilla filled with shredded beef (or chicken), roasted bell peppers, mushrooms, sauteed onions, and cheese served with sour cream and guacamole! I recommend the shredded beef, which is outrageously tender and abundant!

Beef Quesadilla

Overall, nothing but 5 stars for El Tule!

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Filed under Buck's County, BYOB, International Restaurants, Lunch Spots, New Jersey Restaurants

Food Porn: Cuzco, Peru

My friends and I decided that we would end our 6-month South American adventure with a bang, and do the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu before flying home for good. And given that the Inca Trail is a rigorous 4-day, 50 km trek, reaching a height of 4,200 meters (I was not aware of any of these “minor” details before paying my deposit), I had an excuse to eat whatever I wanted while staying in Cuzco the couple of days beforehand. I needed to bulk up before this climb….and I certainly did!

Peruvian food is one of my favorite types of cuisine because it has such a wide variety of national dishes ranging from soups, to fish, to poultry, and even llama and alpaca meats! Below is a collection of photos, documenting my most memorable meals:

Lomo Salteado  – Lomo Salteado is a traditional Peruvian dish with Asian influence that can be found everywhere. It is strips of sirloin steak marinated in vinegar and soy sauce, that is then stir fried with red onion, parsley, and tomato. It is usually served alongside rice (image #2), atop french fries, or on a sandwich (image #1).

Dieta de Pollo – The quint essential comfort food, dieta de pollo is a delicate chicken noodle soup. I ate a bowl of this stuff before almost every meal, and I found that most Peruvians eat a bowl of soup before their entree as well–a soup society…I like that!

Aji de Gallina – Another classic Peruvian dish with a surprisingly French influence! French chefs, put out of employment by the social upheaval of the French Revolution, traveled to the New World and settled in Peru, creating a cuisine that blended local Peruvian flavors with French styles and techniques. Aji de Gallina consists of shredded chicken in a spicy cream sauce, flavored with cheese, garlic, nuts, and rocoto peppers (spicy Peruvian peppers). It is normally served with white rice and/or french fries.

Rocoto Relleno – As I mentioned before, Rocoto is a very spicy Peruvian pepper. Therefore, when you break down the Spanish name, a rococo relleno is a Peruvian stuffed pepper…a very spicy one at that! This particular dish originates in the city of Arequipa, but is now served all over the country! It is can be filled with beef, vegetables, and cheese, among many other things. The one in the photo above is even deep fried!

Pollo con Arroz – Chicken and rice has never tasted so good!! Peruvians know how to prepare a chicken that literally melts off the bone and the cilantro flavored rice that accompanies the poultry is out of this world!! The raw onion and tomato garnishes add a fresh crisp texture to the hearty dish.

Pollo Relleno con Alpaca in Elderberry Sauce – This was our way of easing into trying alpaca. We weren’t going to order an alpaca fillet outright, so we tried a chicken dish that was stuffed with bits of alpaca first. The dish was then finished in an elderberry reduction (elderberry being very popular in Peru), and then accompanied by sautéed vegetables. What does alpaca taste like, you ask? Chicken. Go figure!

Pisco Sour - When in Peru, have a Pisco or two!! Pisco Sour is a popular Peruvian cocktail that dates back to about 1900, getting is name from the Quechua word Pisco, meaning bird. The drink is made from Peruvian grape brandy (pisco), lime juice, syrup, ice, egg white, and Angostura bitters. It is mixed in a blender so it comes out frothy and full of citrus flavor.

Assortment of Causas - With over 8,000 species of potatoes native to the Andean region, it is no surprise that Peruvians use a lot of them in their cooking. A causa, in its most basic form, is a mashed yellow potato dumpling mixed with lime, onion, chili, and oil. The potato mixture is then stuffed with any combination of avocado, chicken, canned tuna, and shellfish. We decided to try the seafood sampler version, and it was light and lovely.

Chicharron de Pollo – Chicharron normally refers to a dish containing pork rinds, but since that didn’t particularly appeal to me, we decided to order the chicken version of the dish instead, which tasted like good ole’ American fried chicken. The fried chicken thighs were then finished with a garlic, ginger, and panda chili sauce, which was out of this world (and every ounce fattening!).

Peruvian Tequenos - Tequenos are not really Peruvian by nature, but these were because they were filled with lomo salted and aji de gallina. Anything stuffed and then deep fried is generally delicious, and this was no exception. I particularly loved the spicy rocoto dipping sauce that accompanied the tasty appetizer.

Tallerines Saltados con Pollo – If you have ever been to Peru, you will have noticed the incredible amount of Asian (chifa) influence on the food there. This is because the Spanish brought Chinese slaves to the country and with them they brought their national cuisine. One of the very popular Asian inspired dishes is Tallerines Saltadas, which are essentially lo mein noodles with poultry or beef (poultry in the photo above!).

Pollo en Salsa Rocoto with Quinoa Tabouli – This was supposed to be served as a sandwich, but since the restaurant ran out of bread, I ordered it as a deconstructed plate of ingredients. The elements included: chicken sautéed in a spicy rocoto pepper sauce, sautéed eggplant and caramelized onions, quinoa tabouli salad, and french fries. The platter had an awesome mix of Peruvian, Asian, and Middle Eastern flavors.

Alfajors – Alfajors are shortbread cookies filled with dulce de leche spread (a.k.a caramel). They are popular all over South America, but prepared slightly different by every country. For example, Argentina coast them with chocolate, Chileans in Patagonia fill them with berry flavored jams, and Peruvians simply serve theirs with a dusting of powdered sugar. We got this plate of petite alfajors and fruit jams complimentary with our bill at Chi Cha de Gaston Acurio, and we all agreed that they were the best alfajors we had on our trip (sorry Argentina….)

{ San Pedro Market in Cuzco, Peru }

Woman selling her herbs and spices.

Baskets of dehydrated rocoto peppers and dried fruits.

Enormous loaves of bread, which can be found everywhere in Peru.

The line up of fresh juice bar stands.

Sam pulls up a chair and tries a juice. Have it at the stand though, because if you ask for it to go they give you a plastic bag with a straw:

To-Go cups are so American.

Where the Peruvian locals go to eat.

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