8150 Cabrillo Hwy, Montara Beach, CA 94037 | 650.728.1600 | website
Mr. K and I spent a weekend down in Half Moon Bay recently to use a groupon for a reduced rate at a B&B located in the tiny but bustling downtown area. We drove up the coast for dinner one night to check out La Costanera, a Michelin starred Peruvian restaurant located in Montara, which is right on the beach with spectacular views. It was an unusually hot day, so rather than baking at an outside table around a blazing fire pit with no umbrella for shade, we opted to sit at a table inside where it was cool, comfortable and out of the sun.
Chef Carlos Altamirano has two other Peruvian restaurants in SF, Mochica which he opened in 2004 and Piqueos in 2007. He opened La Costanera in 2009 in the old Chart House, a beautiful multi-level building on Montara Beach, which has outdoor seating, a lower level lounge and endless views of the Pacific ocean from every seat in the house.
The chef has recently expanded his restaurant empire to include Sanguchon Food trucks, which serve delicious Peruvian sandwiches at various locations in the Bay Area. I’ve tried the Lomo Saltido Wrap which was excellent and will tell you more in another post… Chef Altamirano is dedicated to sharing the flavors of his homeland and even grows his own rocoto chilies which are a crucial ingredient of Peruvian cuisine.
We began with crunchy Choclo Serrano ($10), giant corn spiced and toasted with huacatay (an aromatic herb called black mint)-Huancaina sauce (a cheesy, spicy cream sauce) and topped with crumbles of queso fresco
The Yucca Balls (13) are highly recommended, fried to a delicate crisp, stuffed with Spanish chorizo, olives, raisins served in a puddle of creamy, spicy Costanera sauce.
Of the dishes sampled, we liked the seafood best. Grilled octopus leg ($13) was tender with lovely charred edges, served with a spicy sauce over white beans and a tasty salad made with marinated slices of red onion and chilies.
We ordered the Cebiche Tasting so that we could try three different dishes for $26. Cebiche is raw fish marinated in citrus juice, the citric acid cooks the flesh to a tender ethereally chewy texture, and is mixed with red onion and spicy aji pepper. We wanted to drink the leftover citrus marinade, which is known as leche de tigre, or tiger’s milk.
From the left, Tiradito de Pulpo, lightly grilled octopus over botija olives, served with fresh cucumber salad in a spicy sauce. Cebiche Pescado, fresh fish bathed in the garlicky aji rocoto infused leche de tigre, and on the right Cebiche Chino–Peruano, Ahi tuna, ginger, scallions & soy-tamarindo infused leche de tigre topped with shreds of toasted nori and thin sticks of jicama. The last was our favorite, the most flavorful of the three.
The Scallops Carlitos (17) arrived piping hot off the griddle, served over spicy picantito de choclo. The pieces of choclo are big, the size of a dime with a dense chewy texture that I used to mop up the delectable sauce.
During our meal, someone noticed a whale spout, which got everyone’s attention and we all stood up to try to see. The spout was surprisingly close to the shore and surfers. The restaurant was packed, it is unusual for a restaurant to have both a view and delicious food!
After our meal we stopped off at the Half Moon Bay marina and walked around to enjoy the sunset before heading back to our hotel. A family of ducks entertained us while we enjoyed the unusually warm evening temperatures.