Imagine sitting outside on a warm and sunny day with a gorgeous view of the bay, eating fresh-caught seafood and drinking cocktails. There's no better way to dine!
I was invited to a hosted lunch at La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, a modern Peruvian restaurant that sits right on the water off of the Embarcadero in San Francisco. I brought my sister, Huong, as my guest and we had a wonderful experience. I've been to La Mar before for a business event and have been wanting to go back since because I thought the food was creative and memorable. My visit back was just as good as the first time I went, if not better.
The man behind La Mar is Peruvian celebrity chef and thought-leader, Gastón Acurio, who operates 44 international restaurants. He has 3 restaurants in the US with the San Francisco location being the first to market.
The restaurant design is inviting and beautiful. I love the view of the open kitchen. The space is modern, bright and colorful yet sleek and tasteful, designed by Cass Calder Smith. La Mar can accommodate to more than 250 people.
We started off with a couple of refreshing cocktails. I would highly recommend their tasty pisco sours.
Plantain, Sweet Potato, and Potato Chips
As soon as we put in our order, we get a bucket of the crunchiest in-house plantain, sweet potato, and potato chips served with two dipping sauces made with Peruvian chilies. We both really loved the creamy spicy orange sauce. It sort of reminded us of the habanero sauce you would sometimes find at a taqueria.
Causa Tasting - Selection of 3
These little causas were fun to eat. A causa is a dish with anything layered on top of mashed potatoes. The sampler comes with the following:
- Causa Limeña: dungeness crab, avocado purée, quail egg, cherry tomatoes, ají amarillo Huancaína sauce with basil cilantro oil
- Causa Nikei: ahi tuna, red onion, japanese cucumber, daikon, avocado, nori, and sesame in a tamarind leche de tigre
- Causa Vegetariana: yellow potato causa topped with beet salad with aji amarillo huancaina sauce
Of all the three causas we tried, our favorite was the nikei because the ahi tuna tasted amazing and we loved the use of Japanese ingredients. We liked the causa limena but the crab topping was a bit too salty for us. The beet salad version was fantastic. The mashed potatoes were delicate and mild.
The huancaína sauce is a traditional Peruvian sauce that's creamy and rich in consistency with a spicy kick, making it a perfect complement to mashed potatoes to numb down the heat.
Cebiche Sampler - Selection of 4
There wasn't a cebiche that we didn't like. They were all delicious, fresh and flavorful. The pickle brine was well-thought out to work with each of the seafood selections. We had the following:
- Cebiche Mixto: mahi mahi, calamari, octopus and habanero pepper in ají amarillo leche de tigre with cilantro, red onion, Peruvian corn and yam
- Cebiche Chifa: mahi mahi with peanuts, scallions, ginger, pickled carrots and daikon, habanero pepper, wonton strips and cilantro in sesame leche de tigre
- Cebiche Clásico: California halibut and red onions in habanero pepper leche de tigre with Peruvian corn and yam
- Cebiche Nikei: ahi tuna, red onion, Japanese cucumber and avocado in tamarind leche de tigre
If I had to choose my top two, it would be the Mixto and Nikei but I plan on getting this sampler again on my next visit; it's hard to choose when I enjoy them all. I did want to point out that the Nikei on the causa and cebiche may be the same, so when ordering it depends on how you like your seafood - with or without potatoes.
The octopus was grilled nicely and tender to bite. Lots of flavor whether you eat the octopus alone or with the different purée of sauces that come with the dish. I thought the potato chips made for a nice presentation but didn't do anything to enhance the dish. The octopus sits on top of mashed potatoes, which makes this a causa dish. Everything was delicious but by this point, I was potato-ed out. Peruvians sure love their potatoes!
Lobster & Seafood Mix with Glass Noodles in Claypot
Huong ordered the lobster and seafood mix cooked in a claypot with glass noodles and a rich broth. This was our first taste of an Asian-Peruvian dish and it was delicious. The seafood portions were generous enough to share and the lobster tail was fairly sized, all cooked perfectly. The rich broth was unique and wonderful - very deep in flavor without being overpowering, almost like a consommé. This dish has inspired me to welcome Peruvian ingredients and techniques into my own Asian dishes when cooking at home.
For dessert, we ordered a passion fruit mousse layered with raspberry compote, chocolate mousse, and almond praline, sauced with raspberry coulis. It was light and delicate, which made for a perfect ending to all the food we ate between the two of us.
The dining experience at La Mar feels like a mini-getaway. It's a great restaurant for a casual or special occasion -and it's a perfect place for lunch when I need to break away from the stresses of work and enjoy the moment.
Thanks for lunch, La Mar!
VISITING LA MAR CEBICHERIA PERUANA
Pier 1.5, San Francisco 94111
(The Embarcadero & Washington St)
- Monday–Friday: 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM, 5:30 – 10:00 PM
- Saturday: 12:00 – 2:00 PM, 5:30 – 10:30 PM
- Sunday: 12:00 – 2:00 PM, 5:30 – 9:00 PM