Peruvian spot opens on Austin Street with an emphasis on family and health
Peruvian food, according to Adriana Morote, is a soul food that warms up your spirit.
Adriana and her sisters, Karina and Sandra, recently opened Amar, a Peruvian restaurant focused on restoring your system, your body and your energy. The restaurant is located at 68-60 Austin Street in Forest Hills.
“I don’t see a restaurant as a place that sells food, I see it as a place that you come for a few hours to get more energy and get healthier,” Adriana said.
The women were behind another staple restaurant in Forest Hills, Biu Bella, which closed in 2017 following a fire caused by an overheated air conditioning unit. Shortly after the fire, the property owner sold the building, forcing the sisters and their staff to find jobs elsewhere.
But after running their own restaurant for many years, the passion pulled them back into opening Amar. The task wasn’t easy, according to Adriana and Karina.
Adriana wanted to remain in Forest Hills because she lives in the community and loves the area. However, they ultimately decided to rent a restaurant space closer to Yellowstone Boulevard due to the high rent costs in other locations along Austin Street.
The entire construction process took a year to do. Without many connections and resources to help them, they’ve had to figure it out on their own.
The sisters and their family practically built Amar in every way. They designed the space, painted the walls, built the cabinets, put in new floors, made sure to follow the codes and even carried all of the old furniture from Biu Bella to the new space themselves.
At one point, officers from the 112th Precinct asked if they needed help after seeing them pull the entire bar on a cart from the former Biu Bella site, up Yellowstone Boulevard and down to Amar.
Often times, they’d finish their day jobs and work on Amar until the early morning hours.
Between Biu Bella and Amar, the family has learned all of the ins and outs of running a business.
“It’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears,” Adriana said. “We learned from our mistakes and the key of a business is to never give up. Just keep going because things are going to happen and you need the strength to keep pushing.”
The restaurant’s decor is homey with a feeling of warmth. The decor features a piano and plants given to them by a customer and friend who moved to Florida. The piano, which was also in Biu Bella, belonged to their father who passed away about six years ago after a battle with cancer. Adriana’s daughter now plays it in addition to other responsibilities like helping one of the waiters to learn English and sometimes serving as a translator for him.
“We are all family and this is a family restaurant,” Adriana said.
“When we came to this country, like 15 years ago, we moved because my father was sick and we didn’t have any other family or anybody else because we were new to the country,” Adriana added. “You feel lonely and the way that you comfort yourself when you don’t have your family is through food. You start making things that remind you of the flavors of home.”
The menu offers a variety of dishes including a tasty pollo a la brasa chaufa, rotisserie chicken with Peruvian fried rice; aji de gallina, shredded chicken in a creamy aji amarillo, parmesan cheese and pecan sauce served with boiled potatoes, eggs and olives; and parriada Amar, which consists of a quarter rotisserie chicken with an eight-oz. skirt steak, four jumbo shrimps, chorizo, fries and a salad. There’s also pasta dishes, seafood options and a variety of soups served.
In addition to natural juices, coffee and tea, one recommendation is the superb chicha morada drink. The drink is made of purple corn, pineapple, apples, cloves, cinnamon and other ingredients.
Karina added that they hope to offer 23 handmade ice cream flavors soon.
“Cooking is special to us,” Adriana said. “We were raised in a family environment where our grandma would cook food and we’d come from school and have warm food made for the day. We didn’t have this in New York so we were looking to get that back.”
The Morotes understand that lunchtime can be brief for many, so they do a lunchtime special each day. Otherwise, they acknowledged that their food takes time but it’s because each dish is prepared fresh.
“Our menu is focused on the food that we love from Peru and we prepare it when the customer orders it,” Adriana said. “This isn’t a cuisine where we have things pre-cooked and we just warm it up.”
The Morotes also believe that it’s important to adjust the menu according to the customer’s needs. For instance, if a customer is gluten-intolerant, they could switch out regular all-purpose flour on fried calamari with things like rice flour, potato flour or yuca flour. They’ve also made a vegan ceviche for a customer as well as made adjustments to salt amounts in dishes for some.
They view their customers, especially those who have followed from Biu Bella, as their family. In fact, the support of their previous customers was really the push that they needed to reopen a restaurant in the area.
“When we closed the other two locations [Biu Bella and Ayahuasca Express], we didn’t know if we would reopen but people asked us when would we reopen and some people asked us to cook for them at their home,” Adriana said. “We didn’t know we were going to be missed.”