Only half of El Tule’s menu features Peruvian food, but those dishes alone are worth a visit to this colorful and welcoming Lambertville Mexican-Peruvian restaurant.
Three blocks away from the Lambertville Delaware Riverfront on North Main Street, El Tule is a cozy storefront spot with bright orange walls covered with Latin American decorations. Sit at a table inside, or outside on the small garden patio, and spend some time with the menu. Peruvian dishes on the left; Mexican dishes on the right.
El Tule’s Peruvian owner, Fausto Egoavil, is from a town just North of Lima. His wife Carmen prepares the Peruvian dishes. Said Anguiano, Fausto’s Mexican son-in-law, handles the other half of the menu. After he seated us, I asked Fausto who is the better cook. He smiled and suggested that the Peruvian food is very good. Smart husband. My wife and I only ordered from the Peruvian side of the menu. Every Peruvian dish we sampled was excellent. If Said is as skilled in the kitchen as Carmen, El Tule is also worth a visit for its Mexican food. El Tule, in fact, is named for Mexico’s most famous tree.
From the Peruvian menu, I ordered what may be one of the best ceviches in New jersey. Ceviche chifa blends two Peruvian traditions – fresh citrus-marinated seafood ceviches and Chinese-influenced chifa cuisine. It is a compact tangle of thin strips of fresh corvina, tart pickled vegetables (carrots and daikon, or possibly jicama), and crunchy fried wonton strips, all doused in a spicy black-sesame leche de tigre marinade, topped with peanuts and flecks of red pepper for good measure. Definitely one of the top three ceviches I have tried in New Jersey. (The others being served at El Marino in Dover and Montclair’s Costanera.) I will order this dish every time I visit El Tule. To start, the fried Yuquitas a La Huancaina comes with a nicely spicy aji amarillo sauce. We also tried a very good Peruvian tamale – larger than its Central American or Mexican cousins. If you have room, order the hot Peruvian chocolate, made from chocolate bars imported from Peru and flavored with cinnamon, cloves and a hint of red pepper.
The Peruvian menu includes causas (cold potato salads), chifa (fried rice) and lomo saltado (stir fried beef) and tacu tacu (rice and beans). El Tule’s Mexican menu features guacamole, fajitas, chile relleno (stuffed poblano pepper), enchiladas and fish tacos, among other specialties. El Tule is BYO and sells both Peruvian Inka Cola and chichia morada, and Mexican sodas.
Moderate prices put El Tule in between the very cheap Jersey Peruvians like El Marino and the upscale Costanera. I’m adding a Lambertville detour to New Jersey’s Inca Food Trail. For authentic Peruvian and Mexican food in Hunterdon County, add El Tule to your list of places to try.