In a residential neighborhood above downtown Dover, NJ, sits an unobtrusive restaurant that might be serving the best Peruvian food in New Jersey.
Dover, NJ is home to an impressive array of ethnic restaurants serving the growing Latin American population of Morris County. El Marino (“The Sailor”) doesn’t need the endearing sign in the window – “Authenticates Peruvian Food” – to confirm the authenticity of its cuisine. Just look at the packed tables on a weekend afternoon enjoying heaping plates of Peruvian comfort food.
El Marino celebrates Peruvian seafood, with a menu emphasizing seafood soups (like chupe de camarones - shrimp bisque served with poached eggs), ten different cold ceviches, and fish and shellfish entrees – fried, stewed and with rice. The ceviche trio we ordered, is an impressive plate brimming with fish (pescado), black clams (conchas negras) and assorted shellfish, all bathed in a spicy lemon broth, surrounded by large kernel Peruvian corn (choclo), red onion slices, sweet potato chunks and seaweed. The fish is fresh and the flavors are spot-on Peruvian ceviche at its best.
The full menu includes other traditional Peruvian dishes like rice and beans (Tacu Tacu), marinated rotisserie chicken, and papas a la huancaina (potatoes in spicy yellow cheese sauce). The arroz chaufa mixta is excellent, a large plate of soy sauce-flavored fried rice with substantial pieces of beef and chicken, green onions, scrambled egg, and, in a nice flourish, topped with pieces of toasted wonton skin. If you enjoy nose to tail eating, try the anticuchos for a skewer of grilled beef heart (not as heavily marinated as the versions I’ve tried in Lima), served over potatoes.
The portions are large at El Marino. A ceviche and arroz chaufa alone can feed four people easily. With family-friendly prices, you get plenty of bang for your buck here, without sacrificing quality, or even presentation.
El Marino faces Mt. Hope Avenue on the corner of King Street. There are nine tables in the small dining room. (Glance up at the ceiling to see your table number.) Even in the tight space, service is efficient. Most customers speak Spanish, but the menus and servers are bilingual. A huge television is much too large for the space, but my readers know that a blaring television can be a sure sign of a good ethnic restaurant.
The arroz chaufa here has more flavor than the strong version at Rutherford’s Sabor Peru. El Marino’s ceviches have more components than those at Oh! Calamares in Kearny. The menu is more extensive and much cheaper than Montclair’s upscale Costanera. For its flavors, presentation and prices, El Marino becomes EthnicNJ’s favorite place for Peruvian food in New Jersey.