Fantastic restaurant, good friends, and delicious food. What more could you ask for in one night?
The other night I was lucky enough to meet up with two friends I hadn’t seen in a while and enjoy a delicious dinner. Someone was craving Peruvian food, and so using my tech savvy yelping skills, found La Mar Cebicheria Peruana. Seeing as how they had over 800 reviews and still 4 stars, I knew it’d be a good place to try. I made the reservation for a party of 3 two days in advance but their only available times were 5:30pm or 8pm and after. Good sign already if they were booked up for a Wednesday night.
La Mar certainly did not disappoint. The restaurant, located at Pier 1 and 1/2, was on Embarcadero and overlooked the water. It’s a pretty huge space with a definite Peruvian fusion vibe. There is a bar area to the right when you walk in and the main dining area is big with high ceilings. Two things really caught my eye when I first walked in – the limited area between the bar and main dining room with seating almost like pool side cabanas, and the open kitchen on the left side of the restaurant. Both were cool and I think I’d like to incorporate it in my restaurant if I ever open one someday.
The service was good – our waitress was quite chipper and very friendly. We had some time to peruse the menu before being seated, so we knew what we wanted to order right away. She took our order promptly and told us what were good choices and what weren’t. When we were ordering dessert (more on that later), she gave us great suggestions because we wanted to share and our original choice was not conducive to that.
But anyway, onto the meal itself. Since La Mar is well known for their Pico Sour drinks, we each ordered one. The drink was made with pisco quebranta (peruvian brandy), lime juice, simple syrup, dash of egg white and a drop of regional bitters. Yes, that’s right, a dash of egg white. It may seem weird, but it was really quite delicious. Only thing though, I wish they didn’t go so crazy with the foam – it made it a little hard to drink.
Along with our cocktails, we were given baked chips with 3 types of dipping sauces – mild, medium and hot. The chips were great because they weren’t oily, and they used different types of potatoes to give it variety and different flavors within the basket. I personally liked the sweet potato chips the best, paired with the mild dipping sauce because I felt like it had the most flavor. Great way to get your appetite going since it doesn’t really fill you up and you can pick at it throughout the dinner.
La Mar is also pretty well known for their cebiche (raw fish marinated in lime or lemon juice with olive oil and spices and served as an appetizer). Being the foodies that we are, we ordered the cebiche tasting appetizer which included 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 tigree)
- Cebiche Nikel (Ahi Tuna, red onion, Japanese cucumber, in tamarind leche de tigre with avocado)
- Cebiche Clasico (California Halibut and red onions in habanero pepper leche de tigre with Peruvian corn and yam)
Pure deliciousness. That’s really all I can say. I’m a big fan of cebiches, and this is definitely one of the best I’ve had. The fish was super fresh and the juices they used to marinate were fabulous concoctions that played very well with each fish type. For example, the mixto had a stronger cebiche marinade because the calamari and octopus needed something stronger to seep through the toughness. On the other hand, the clasico had a much lighter marinade because the halibut was delicate and something too strong would have overpowered the freshness of the fish. Definitely well prepared and a must try on their menu.
Then it was time for our main course. My friend Jen ordered the Lomo Saltado (Traditional Peruvian style stir-fry of sautéed beef tenderloin, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, soy sauce, garlic with fried potatoes and rice.) She had been craving it for days and really needed to get her fix for saltado. The dish was good – I tried a piece of the beef tenderloin and it was juicy and soft. I’m glad they didn’t overcook the beef because nothing ruins a dish quite like tough and dry beef. I found it a little peculiar that it came with a bowl of what rice since it made me feel like I was in a Chinese restaurant but I guess that’s how Peruvians do it.
My other friend Sonia ordered the Arroz Parihuela (Aji panca and aji amarillo risotto with bell peppers, choclo, peas and seaweed topped with seared fish, prawns, mussels, clams and calamari). This dish was pretty enormous. It had lots of risotto and didn’t skimp out on the ingredients either. The dish had bold, strong flavors and definitely a contrast to the cebiche we had just finished. Although good, I personally felt like the dish had a little too much going on. Also, I tried a piece of the fish and it felt a little overdone. However, because of the sheer size and amount of the dish, you could probably split it into two meals if you aren’t a heavy eater. That risotto will fill you up quick!
I personally ordered the Asado de Tira (Short ribs marinated in red wine and chicha morada with an ají panca sauce over choclo pepián and herb salad). The short ribs was absolutely amazing. Thinking about it is making my mouth water right now. The ribs were full of flavor and marinated and slow cooked to perfection. You could tear through it with a fork – that’s how tender and juicy it was. There was just the right ratio of meat to fat, so nothing tasted tough or bland. The aji panca sauce was dark and sweet, almost like a plum vinegarette type of reduction. Also, the choclo pepian (a corn type of puree) was sweet and gave a nice texture contrast to the meat and vegetables. Again, absolutely amazing and a must try (the picture doesn’t do this dish justice). Needless to say I devoured it.
And although we were stuffed, we ordered a dessert to share since no dinner is complete without a good dessert. The waitress knew we wanted to share and recommended the Bunuelos de Chocolate (Orange glazed chocolate beignets with banana and passion fruit ice cream). For those who don’t know, beignets are like little donuts. This one was orange glazed and filled with dark chocolate. Right when you break one open, the dark chocolate begins to ooze out and when paired with the passion fruit ice cream, it was an explosion of flavor in your mouth. The decadence of the dark chocolate was not overpowering either, which in my opinion made the dessert pretty great.
All in all, I had an amazing dinner with great people and it pretty much made my week. I will definitely be coming back to La Mar again and will absolutely recommend people to this restaurant. La Mar is on the pricier side – after tax and tip our bill for 3 came up to $200, but I think once in a while you’re allowed to splurge on a good meal (I probably do it more than I should). I can’t think of a better way to enjoy life than eating great food with people you like. I think it’s what I live for, and why I want to open a restaurant one day so I can bring that joy to others as well.