February 17, 2013
Elizabeth, New Jersey’s fourth largest city, boasts a wide variety of ethnic food finds, from Portuguese to Italian to hot dogs. Among Elizabeth’s growing roster of Latin American restaurants, El Iman stands out for its homestyle Peruvian dishes.
On the north side of Elizabeth Avenue just east of the 1/9 overpass, El Iman (“The Magnet”) is a small storefront spot with a bustling takeout counter in the front, around ten cafeteria-style tables, and three television screens tuned to Spanish-language stations. You won’t miss your telenovela or soccer match while eating here.
Families and couples filled the tables on a recent Friday night, enjoying large portions of hearty Peruvian seafood, fried rice and grilled meats. Popular menu items are the pollos a la brasa (rotisserie chicken), jalea (fried seafood) and mariscos picante (spicy shellfish). The arroz frito especial, a tasty Peruvian fried rice with scallions, egg, chicken, shrimp and beef, is an excellent version of the soy sauce- inflected Peruvian arroz chaufa. The ceviche de pescado is also very good, “cooked” in a spicy chile-lime marinade, served with corn and sweet potato. The simple steak with onions (bifstek ecebollada) is a satisfyingly greasy strip of beef on a pile of sweet plantains. Yuca a la huancaina, fried yuca in spicy cheese sauce, served with hard boiled eggs, is decent, but the sauce is not as spicy, nor as thick, as other versions in NJ, like the hancaina sauce at Kearny’s Oh! Calamares. Try an Inka Cola or a glass of chicha morada (a sweet, spiced purple corn drink ) for an authentic Peruvian beverage.
El Iman’s owners hail from Peru’s Japanese-Peruvian community. Spanish will help here, since most staff and customers are Latin American, but the menu has English translations. For no-frills, cheap and authentic Peruvian food, El Iman is the place to go in Union County.