Thursday, April 02, 2009

La Mar: Peru On A Platter

Peruvian Causas at La MarI remember reading about Peruvian food being one of the greatest cuisines in the world. Wrote the author, “It is the original fusion food, having absorbed influences from almost every continent over the last 500 years and melded them with ingredients and dishes that provide a direct link to the Incas.”

It was therefore with much anticipation that I stepped into the delightful La Mar, a playful but sophisticated restaurant right on San Francisco Bay. With splendid views of the waterfront, this restaurant is a showcase of Gastón Acurio, the most famous chef of his country. Peruvian cuisine draws on a fusion of indigenous traditions and the influence of immigrants from Italy, Spain, China and Japan. While this restaurant is known for its excellent ceviches, the menu also has a variety of starters, entrees and traditional rice dishes.

La Mar San Francisco
La Mar San FranciscoI took a seat at the long ceviche bar. It was only a few minutes since the restaurant opened for the evening, but the large dining room was already filling up fast. Behind the bar, I could see activity begin to peak, as orders for ceviches and tiraditos - Peruvian sashimi dishes - streamed in from the waiters.

Ceviche Bar at La Mar
Ceviche Bar at La Mar
La Mar San FranciscoWhile I browsed through the menu, my waiter put a basket of banana chips in front of me. There were chips of ripe and unripe plantains in the mix, which enhanced the taste; the three dips were excellent too. My waiter was a friendly chap; he checked to see if I had eaten Peruvian food before, explained the various options, and was on hand whenever I needed him.

The ceviche is clearly La Mar's signature dish and they have a range of options to choose from. Variations include Mahi Mahi, calamari, octopus, California halibut, Ahi Tuna. Some sprinkled with scallions, ginger and peanuts, others studded with red onions, cilantro and oversize kernels of Peruvian corn. All are fresh and piquant, some really hot, and all are briefly marinated in a flash acid bath of leche de tigre, a lime-and-chili marinade - also described as an aphrodisiac!

Banana ChipsI decided to start with the day's special ceviche, the Cebiche Carretillero made of halibut, Japanese octopus, squid, red onions, celery, ginger, garlic, very spicy habanero chilli and kernels of corn in leche de tigre.

The ceviche was delectable and kept my taste-buds tingling throughout. The acidity of the leche de tigre and the heat of the habanero in the medley of fresh sea-food was a complete delight.

Seafood Cebiche at La MarI decided to choose from the Causas next. These are traditional Peruvian potato dishes where potato is boiled, mashed and whipped before being mixed with aji amarillo - another of their many chilli peppers - and topped with seafood or vegetables. Interestingly, the Causas was made of purple potatoes which I didn't know existed.

Causas at La MarI chose the Causa Nikei which had Ahi Tuna, Nikei sauce, avocado puree, creamy aji amarillo and rocoto Huancaina suace. I loved the presentation - the purple potatoes make for a nice picture! This Japanese influence of the topping mingled with the heat of the chilli pepper in the sauce made a lethal combination. While there was a bit too much potato in the dish (some of which I had to leave uneaten), the toppings were gratifying.

Given the size of the portions here, I now only had space for Anticuchos, traditional skewers of meat and vegetables. I chose the Arroz Con Pollo: grilled chicken breast and vegetables over rice cooked in cilantro, aji amarillo and beer. The chicken was very flavorful, smokey, and just what I needed to end this unique meal.

Skewers of Peruvian chicken breasts at La MarAt the waiter's recommendation, I decided to taste the lucuma Tiramisu with lucuma ice cream. Lucuma is a sub-tropical fruit from the Andes, with a rather intense and unique flavor. I liked it!

Another popular dessert on the menu you may want to try is the Orange glazed chocolate beignets with banana and passion fruit ice cream.

Lucuma Tiramisu with Lucuma ice cream at La MarIn a nod to Peru's rich culinary heritage, La Mar has a traditional pisco bar and lounge which front The Embarcadero. Pisco dates back to the 16th century and is made from distilled grapes, often of one variety, then aged for a minimum of three months. La Mar offers more than ten specialty drinks made with pisco, including the classic Pisco Sour and Pisco Punch, which originated here in San Francisco. I hope to be back here again - to try the tiraditos, arroces and some of their other interesting meat and seafood entrees.

La Mar San Francisco
Pier 1 1/2 San FranciscoLa Mar is located on the waterfront at the landmark Pier 1½, formerly the passenger waiting room for the Delta King and Delta Queen. The large dining room can accommodate 80 diners. They also have a 38-seat lounge with fabulous views of the Bay.

Other Posts on South American Food:


Blue Bike said...

Wow !
Amazing pictures.
I'll be visiting Peru in May.
Apart from a list of things tried by Anthony Bourdain, I'd also make sure to get some taste of above :)

indicaspecies said...

I like the way you've described the Peruvian food served in SF..yummy Ceviche!

A New Beginning said...

Beautiful pics makes the food look even more delicious!Best

Anonymous said...

@Blue Bike: In today's world where everything is available everywhere, it feels wonderful to discover something new.

@indicaspecies: Ceviche certainly is yummy; I am amazed I discovered this dish only recently.

@A New Beginning: Thank you!

Aathira Nair said...

Food as usual is mouth watering :)

Purple potatoes! Now that is a treat. And as you have said, they make a great picture.

Anonymous said...

@Aathira: They don't taste any different though....

Deepti said...

The post is delicious .. the pictures are amazing too ... :)

Anonymous said...

Food is good in Peru, lots of fish and sea food. They like fusion food too, especially with Chinese food.

Anonymous said...

@deepti: Thank you!

Anonymous said...

@Zhu: I am only beginning to discover their food. You must have tried the real thing during your recent South American vacation.

Vamsee Modugula said...

Will send this to my friends in SF. Would have loved to have discovered ur blog when we lived there.

Loved the descriptions. Ummm Ceviche

Anonymous said...

@Vamsee: SF has so many places to eat, I love that city!

Unknown said...

La Mar is one of the best restaurants in Peru where the seafood is excellent, worthy representative of the Peruvian food in the world. When I came to this country I visited it and I enjoy their meals. Also, I could go to other restaurants to eat “comida criolla” and various mergers they have. I really like the chifas, which are a fusion of Peruvian and Chinese food. The truth is that my trip was the best. What I recommend is to hire a travel agency who will arrange all tours and provides a guide to the best restaurants of this country. That made my agency, TurPeru, and that's why I could enjoy this trip. I recommend you; the website is I will return Peru in August

Anonymous said...

@Derek: Thank you for all this information!