San Francisco is a culinary melting pot where diners can find dishes inspired from virtually every country in the world. La Mar Cebichería Peruana is the place to go for a taste of Peru in San Francisco. Located on Pier 1.5 on the walkable Embarcadero, the restaurant boasts fantastic water views and has a modern, comfortable aesthetic. It was opened seven years ago by Gastón Acurio, a famed Peruvian chef.

Acurio and Chef Victoriano Lopez recently traveled to the Mother Land, returning with renewed inspiration for presenting traditional Peruvian cuisine with their signature artistic twists. One of their immediate goals is to incorporate more locally-sourced ingredients in their preparations. They showcased some of the new menu items at a sit-down dinner March 28 at the restaurant’s exclusive chef’s table.

A Fusion of Flavors

The meal began with some artfully displayed appetizers. Tiradito scallop is a Peruvian interpretation of Japanese sashimi. A thinly sliced, raw scallop was floating in a light, orange-colored rocoto cream. It was presented in a shell, balanced on some rocks. Several roasted corn nuts gave the silky dish a delightful crunch. Niguiri pobre was served on a wooden plank. The sushi-style dish featured wagyu skirt steak, chalaca (mussels), a cooked quail egg and ponzu. It was a perfect bite of complex yet balanced flavors.

Cebiche (cerviche) is the national dish of Peru and a staple at the restaurant. La Mar prepares its cebiche with sustainably-caught fish and shellfish. Chef Lopez prepared a bandeja (platter) de cebicheria that included four different sushi-like preparations, including one with bright purple potatoes, pureed and formed into rolls.

The next course was la gran bandeja criolla (a platter of native cuisine.) Served on a banana leaf, it emphasized the traditional street food found in Peru. Savory chicken empanadas were served with a tasty green dipping sauce, while strips of chicharron (fried pork rind) were crispy and decadent. BBQ lovers swooned over the anticuchos, which were tender chunks of beef grilled and served on bamboo skewers.

Main courses featured a delicate whole Thai snapper, deboned and served simply with capers, lime juice and parsley, and estofado nikei (slow-cooked beef cheek) that was served with rice and a variety of vegetable dishes, including tiny sauteed baby leeks.

Dessert was also a multi-faceted, visual spectacle. A bite of refreshing basil shaved ice was layered in a spoon and topped marinated apple and a dollop of pisco sour foam. A bed of Peruvian chocolate mousse was covered with caramelized toasted quinoa that provided an expectantly pleasant mouth pop. A small scoop of lucuma (a fruit native to Peru) ice cream completed the dish.

Dessert was served with a special cocktail, The Last Pisco. It featured Pisco Aromatic, espresso, chocolate bitters, cardamom, simple syrup and cocoa powder.  Icy and unique, its taste lingered late into the night.

Killer Cocktails

In addition to its spectacular food, La Mar is known for its killer cocktails. Most are made with Pisco, a grape-based spirit that like wine, has many variations and flavors. The cocktails served at this dinner were all strikingly flavorful and different.

The Chinguerito was an attractive-looking beverage, boasting a short bamboo skewer with three grapes on it. It was prepared with Pisco Porton, simple syrup, lime juice cinnamon, clove and green grapes. The Spicy Rue featured Pisco Barsol Acholado, agave nectar, lemon juice, grapefruit juice, jalapeno and pineapple slices and 151 Proof. It was refreshing, with a delightful kick.

Private Events

Planners interested in staging an event at La Mar have several options. The covered and heated patio offers breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay and Treasure Island. It can accommodate up to 100 people for seated receptions and 130 for cocktail receptions.

The lounge, which is located near the main dining room entrance, can accommodate 50 guests for standing receptions, or 30 guests for seated events.

The semi-private chef’s table gives guests a peek into the efficient open kitchen, and also provides lovely views through the waterfront windows. A maximum of 22 people can be served at the chef’s table.

There is plenty of parking in nearby garages.

La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, Pier 1.5, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA  94111 415-397-8880  @lamarsf