A month ago I had never heard of either La Mar Cebicheria Peruana – a restaurant that opened at Pier 1 ½ on the Embarcadero at the end of last September - or its founder, the Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio. However, at the end of last month we had a Squire Sanders partnership meeting here in San Francisco and I had the chance to meet Alberto Rebaza, a member of our Network firm in Lima, Perú, who attended that meeting.
I learned from Alberto that Gaston Acurio is one of the hottest chefs in Latin America and, starting with his original La Mar in Lima, has been opening additional La Mar restaurants outside of Perú, including the San Francisco restaurant which is the first La Mar in the United States. Here is an interview (in Spanish with English subtitles) of Mr. Acurio while he was here in San Francisco last year for the opening of the restaurant in which he explains his vision for his restaurants.....
While he was here in San Francisco, Alberto took some time to visit La Mar to check it out. He reported that it offered authentic Peruvian cuisine up to the standards of the original La Mar in Lima. With that assurance, I set out one day to visit La Mar. Although the restaurant is on the Embarcadero at the intersection with Washington street, and is only two blocks from our office, I was not exactly sure where it was. Frankly, as you can see from the following picture taken at the foot of Washington Street looking across the Embarcadero to the restaurant, its entrance does not exactly leap out at you!
Although it was initially a bit hard finding the restaurant, it was well worth the effort. It is a beautiful space with high ceilings and a great atmosphere – both sophisticated and casual at the same time. The decor is very tropical, with bright blues and greens and dark wood furniture. There is a wonderful bar which faces on to the Embarcadero, and a large dining area which looks out onto the Bay.
I initially went over one afternoon with a group from our office to sample La Mar’s signature beverage – the Pisco Sour – which was great. The drink is made with pisco (distilled from grape juice), syrup, lime juice, egg whites and angostura bitters.
Here is a clip showing Enrique Sanchez, the head bartender at La Mar, whipping up a Pisco Sour.
Following Alberto’s recommendations, we also tried the following selection of appitizers that day to accompany our Pisco Sours:
~ Cebiche Mixto (a mix of seafood (mahi-mahi, calamari and octopus), cilantro, red onion, Peruvian corn and yam. served in a lime-based “leche di tigre” sauce which includes both aji amarillo, a yellow Peruvian pepper, and habanero pepper);
~ Tequeños de Lomo Saltado (stirfried marinated sirloin strip and vegetables served in fried spring rolls (reflecting some of the Asian influence on Peruvian cuisine) with peanut sauce).
Everything was great and our group had a good time.
Last week I returned to La Mar, this time for lunch with our friend, Misako. We sat in the main dining area and started by sharing an order of the Cebiche Mixto. They also brought us a serving of fried plantain, sweet potato and potato chips with three dips, and I tried a non-alcohol drink called Chicha Morada, made of a of a Peruvian purple corn (maiz morado), pineapple and spices.
For our main courses, Misako had the Arroz Norteño (a seafood combination of mussels, shrimp, octopus, clams with fried rice, cilantro and huancaína sauce (made with the aji amarillo peppers, onion, garlic, and fresh cheese)).
Both main courses were good, but our favorite dish of the day was the cebiche. I anticipate more visits to La Mar, especially as the weather improves. Apart from the food, it is a beautiful place on the Bay to pass some time on a nice day.