Dine about town 2014: Lunch at La Mar Cebichería Peruana

by foodhoe on January 20, 2014

Pier 1 1/2, On the Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94111 | 415.397.8880 | website

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Mr. K and I had lunch last weekend at La Mar Cebichería Peruana, which is on historic Pier 1½ along the scenic Embarcadero waterfront, a mere hop, skip and a jump down from the Ferry Building.  I knew Mr. K would love this place and the fact that they were were offering a 3-course lunch for under $20 ($18.95) for Dine About Town (DAT2014) just sweetened the deal.  The restaurant was designed by  Cass Calder Smith who worked on many local restaurants (Lulu, Perbacco, Delica-rf, 25 Lusk, Lake Chalet in Oakland), who traveled to Lima Peru to visit the flagship location and to explore the cuisine of celebrated Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio.  He transported elements of the Lima original to the 11,000 square feet waterfront restaurant which has 340 seats and includes two bars (a Pisco bar, a cebiche bar), the large sky lit dining room and outside patio which offers spectacular views of the bay. This is the “Pisco Bar,” named after Peru’s national liquor, with seating for 50.

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We sat on the covered patio which has discrete overhead heaters that keep the temperature cozy year round.  The only downside is that there are boats coming and going, and at some point a low slung power boat zoomed by leaving a  plume of exhaust fumes that lingered unpleasantly.

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While enjoying crisp refreshing beers our server dropped off a basket full of paper thin sweet potato chips and thicker starchy fried plaintain strips, along with two dipping sauces.  We liked the red one, which was garlicky and spicy, the yellow one was bland and mayonnaise-y.

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The DAT2014 lunch menu offers a fine introduction to Peruvian flavors and you could choose either vegetarian or not.  Since we were both looking forward to sampling their famous ceviche, we chose the meatier route.  We started with the Cebiche Clasico, made with California halibut in a classic leche de tigre, red onion, habanero, peruvian corn and slices of tender yam.  The pieces of raw halibut are prepared in a centuries old method of flash cooking by curing in acidic citrus juice instead of with heat, the remaining elixir of lime juice, sliced onion, chiles, salt, and pepper — along with juices released by the fish, is called leche de tigre or tiger’s milk, which is believed to be both a hangover cure as well as an aphrodisiac.  I liked the crunch from pieces of fried choclo, which were like corn nuts…

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The next course was the Causa Pollo, a mashed potato dumpling infused with rocoto chili pepper, topped with pulled chicken, celery, avocado puree and ocopa sauce.  This was good, but the topping was similar to chicken salad, which was garnished with a bit of tomato and a tiny wedge of quail egg and just didn’t ring any bells for me.

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The entree was a steaming bowl of Conchas Marineras, full of mussels and clams in an aji amarillo and chica de jora broth, garnished with sticks of fried yucca, served with a bowl of arroz con choclo.  This was flavorful and lip smackingly delicious, the sticks of fried yucca were light and airy inside.

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We spooned the rice and choclo corn mixture into the savory broth, which was an excellent combination

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I ordered an additional grilled beef skewer because it’s been more than 4 years since my last visit and I still was craving the Anticucho Corazon ($14), grilled beef heart with fried potatoes, peruvian corn and a spicy panchita and rocoto sauce. The traditional grilled skewers are inspired by the food carts on the bustling streets of Peru, and have a tantalizing spicy marinade that had me reaching for more of the juicy tender morsels.  They were served on thick slices of fried potato with puddles of spicy criollo sauces, and I loved the squishy tender flesh and minerally flavor of the corazon and I was so glad to finally put this craving to rest.

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For dessert we enjoyed two small scoops of sorbet garnished with bits of candied spun sugar and fresh mint leaves.  Our server thought they were fresh berry and pineapple/strawberry, but I liked to think that one tasted like either Guava or Passionfruit and the other was Chicha Morada Sorbet…

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On the way out I snuck a peek into the lovely space of the “Cebiche Bar”, which seats approximately 60 and has cozy sofas where people sprawl out while waiting to be seated.

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Beautiful and dramatic lighting…

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I say run to take advantantage of this Dine About Town deal, a 3 course lunch is a steal for $18.95 (plus an extra course of dessert), when normally one serving of cevich is $14!  They also have a daily Happy Hour from 3-6 and sandwiches on the menu for those who are looking for frugal feasts in this area of high $$$ dining.  And despite the swanky atmosphere, it actually seems to be family friendly as we were seated next to a table with three very young children, whom the very responsive parents were able to quickly take out for a walk along the Embarcadero whenever one began to squall.

La Mar Cebicheria Peruana on Urbanspoon

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