Much-Anticipated Peruvian Restaurant Jalea Now Open on St. Charles' Main Street

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click to enlarge Jalea, featuring Peruvian fare, is now open on St. Charles' Main Street. - CHERYL BAEHR
CHERYL BAEHR
Jalea, featuring Peruvian fare, is now open on St. Charles' Main Street.

Chef Andrew Cisneros has worked in some of St. Louis' most acclaimed kitchens — Elaia, Privado, The St. Louis Club — but after years creating dishes for others, he has finally struck out on his own. Jalea (323 North Main Street, St. Charles; 636-493-1100), the restaurant he co-owns with his sister, Samantha Cisneros, is now open on Main Street in St. Charles, and has quickly shown itself to be a must-visit dining destination.

With the Cisneros siblings' Peruvian heritage as its foundation, Jalea features dishes from the South American country, with a significant focus on seafood, particularly ceviche. According to Samantha, the pair were adamant about offering traditional fare, even though it might be unexpected on the west side of the Missouri River.

"We have a lot of people who tell us how much they love it, so we are glad that we didn't make it anything else," Samantha says. "We've spoken about what our lunch menu will look like, and there will be some Peruvian fusion, but dinner will always be traditional. Customers may have a hard time trying to pronounce some of the names of our dishes, but they love the food. If the food is good, they are going to come back and have more."

click to enlarge Brother and sister Andrew and Samantha Cisneros are excited to bring a taste of their Peruvian heritage to St. Charles. - CHERYL BAEHR
CHERYL BAEHR
Brother and sister Andrew and Samantha Cisneros are excited to bring a taste of their Peruvian heritage to St. Charles.

Prior to opening Jalea, Andrew has been developing his marinated and spit-roasted chicken concepts, Brasas, both to sell at chef Ben Poremba's Botanical Heights market and at a brick and mortar spot of his own. However, when Samantha asked him to lend his expertise with a restaurant venture she was getting ready to launch, he decided to table Brasas and go all-in with the family business.

As Samantha explains, the opportunity to open Jalea came at just the right time. After a brief career in the military, Samantha returned to the area and worked as a government contractor. However, she could not shake the feeling that she wanted to be an entrepreneur and run a family business. Through some mutual friends, she found out that the sushi restaurant The Red Sun was closing and looking for someone to take over the space, and she decided that she could not pass up a turnkey restaurant in a prime location with rent (to her surprise) she could afford.

Andrew, Samantha and their family may have done little in aesthetic updates to the former sushi restaurant, but their subtle touch is felt the moment you walk through the front doors. On one wall, exposed brick is peppered with black and white photos of scenes from Peru; the opposite wall is a canvas for three vibrant paintings done by a Peruvian artist. Wine cubbies are inlaid into the wall behind the hostess desk, and a small service bar sits at the end of the shotgun space. The dining room is small, and soft lighting plays up the intimate feel.

Jalea's small dining room has both booth and table seating. - CHERYL BAEHR
CHERYL BAEHR
Jalea's small dining room has both booth and table seating.

In designing the menu, Andrew wanted to create dishes that exemplify traditional Peruvian cuisine. "Snacks" include cancha, either spiced or simply salted, that the chef describes as an inverted Peruvian popcorn. Jalea also has an entire section of the menu dedicated to ceviche, including a classic version, which features the catch of the day cured with citrus and adorned with sweet potatoes, Fresno peppers and red onions. Tuna tiradito is a sashimi-style ceviche, and crab cause features crab salad, avocado, egg, smoked trout roe and potatoes. For main courses, the restaurant offers lomo saltado, or stir-fried ribeye, a braised pork belly dish and the restaurants namesake dish, Jalea, which features a stunning assortment of fried seafood.

Jalea offers cocktails, wine and traditional Peruvian non-alcoholic beverages, such as a fermented barley drink. Though they are starting off with a small menu as they get their footing, Andrew and Samantha look forward to expanding their offerings, including vegan and vegetarian dishes. It's just one example of how their collaboration has turned out to be a beautiful thing for area diners.

"It's amazing, and though we've definitely had our rough moments putting this together, I've never felt closer to my brother," Samantha says. "For us, it's not even about making money. That's great, and important, but food and experience come first. Everyone will tell you that the food industry is hard work, but honestly, if the food is amazing and the customers see what we are trying to do with food and enjoy it, that's what is important to us."

Jalea is open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 5 until 8 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 5 until 9 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Scroll down for more photos of Jalea.

click to enlarge Classic flounder ceviche and tuna tiradito are two of Jalea's small plates. - CHERYL BAEHR
CHERYL BAEHR
Classic flounder ceviche and tuna tiradito are two of Jalea's small plates.

click to enlarge Paintings by a Peruvian artist add warmth to the space. - CHERYL BAEHR
CHERYL BAEHR
Paintings by a Peruvian artist add warmth to the space.

click to enlarge Black and white photos from Peru adorn the exposed brick walls. - CHERYL BAEHR
CHERYL BAEHR
Black and white photos from Peru adorn the exposed brick walls.

click to enlarge Jalea features a variety of different ceviche, including the sashimi-style tuna tiradito. - CHERYL BAEHR
CHERYL BAEHR
Jalea features a variety of different ceviche, including the sashimi-style tuna tiradito.

We are always hungry for tips and feedback. Email the author at [email protected]


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About The Author

Cheryl Baehr

Cheryl Baehr is the dining editor and restaurant critic for the Riverfront Times and an international woman of mystery. Follow her on the socials at @cherylabaehr
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