Tuesday, January 01, 2013

La Mar Cebicheria

I recently decided I wanted to explore more Peruvian food, as I've been in the mood for raw (or, raw-ish) light seafood dishes.  I started my journey at the closest place to my house with decent reviews: La Mar.

It is a beautiful space, right on the Embarcadero.  Prices are high, and unfortunately, not because they are serving quality food.  I think it falls in the category of expensive waterfront dining due to location alone.  Overall, probably not worth going back to.

The service was pretty horrible. We were seated a very long time (10 mins+?) and had no one pay any attention to us, even though waiters (different ones) came multiple times to the tables on either side.  In the end, we had to actually flag down someone, who wasn't our server, to finally pay attention to us.  At the end, once we had already asked for the check, another 10 mins or so went by, and then our waiter came by to ask if we wanted more food or dessert.  On the plus side, our water glasses were always refilled immediately.

Overall, I thought the seafood was pretty horrible, but the chips and sauces were good enough that I'd go back if others wanted to.  Perhaps just for drinks and chips.
"Chips and Salsa" . Complimentary.
After you order, you get their take on "chips and salsa".  This was all pretty tasty, and I do love chips and dip!

The chips were a mix of plantain, sweet potato, kennebec potato.   The sweet potato chips were definitely the highlight, with a really good sweet potato flavor.  The plantain ones were nice and crispy but lacking much flavor.  The potato chips were just decent fresh potato chips.

But the highlight was definitely the dipping sauces, housemade huancaina and rocoto sauces.  The rocoto sauce is the red one, made from rocoto peppers, onion, tomato, garlic, oil, and soda crackers.  It had a nice spicy kick to it and was pretty addicting.  The huancaina is a creamy yellow sauce made from ají amarillo, queso fresco, milk, and oil.  It was a little boring in comparison  but it quickly grew on me.  I couldn't stop eating these!

I almost want to go back, just for more of this! :)
Causa Tasting Platter.  $24.
These were interesting.  I'd never had causas before.  The bottom is a potato cake made from compressed mashed potatoes, oil, and peppers. It may look fairly solid, but it breaks down into mashed potato very easily.  They are then topped with assorted seafood fillings, and sauces.  The toppings weren't all that great, but again, the sauces were fantastic.

These sounded like something I would love: mashed potatoes, seafood, and great sauces? But I originally didn't really care for them.  I liked the mashed potato and the sauces obviously, but they just weren't coming together for me until I had a stroke of genius: use the appetizer chips as a scoop and these as a dip!  I'm sure I offended tons of Peruvians, but I really enjoyed it this way.  Yes, potato chips covered in mashed potato and dipping sauce with a little bit of seafood topping ... delicious!

I still wouldn't go out of my way for these again, and $24 seemed pretty pricy considering the fairly low quality of the seafood and the fact that we were mostly eating mashed potatoes ...

(From top left, clockwise)

Causa Limeña: "Dungeness crab on top of a yellow potato causa with avocado purée, quail egg, cherry tomatoes, ají amarillo Huancaína sauce and basil cilantro oil."  This was decent, but had too much mayo-like sauce mixed in with the crab that made it pretty impossible to even taste the crab.  I wanted to enjoy the crab!

Causa Camarón: "Sweet and spicy poached shrimp and fried onions on top of Rocoto potato with leche de tigre aioli."  Again, too much mixer stuff, so I didn't really taste the shrimp, or get shrimp consistency, or really notice it there at all.  The aoili was delicious though!

Causa Casera: "Yellow potato causa, artichokes, asparagus, avocado and tomato confit with basil cilantro oil."  The veggie mix was flavorful, and this one worked very, very well as a chip topping! The sauce was absolutely delicious.  My favorite of all of the causas.

Causa Nikei: "Tuna tartar and avocado purée, on top of Rocoto potato, with creamy rocoto Huancaína sauce topped with Japanese nori."  I could sorta taste the tuna, but it wasn't very good.

[ Not Pictured ]
Cebiche Mixto.  $15.

I have no idea what happened to the photo of this.  Whoops.

They offer a variety of cebiches, as it is the national dish of Peru, and their signature dish.

We picked the mixto, a mix of yellowtail from Mexico, calamari, and shrimp in ají amarillo leche de tigre with cilantro, red onion, habanero, with Peruvian corn and yam.  It was really bad.  The yellowtail was incredibly fishy and mealy, the calamari was rubbery, and the shrimp was chewy and fishy.  Ojan claims that he had some good bites and that the real issue here was just inconsistency.  I guess I'm just spoiled with sushi grade seafood regularly?  This was just not good at all!

I did like the yam in it, as it was very flavorful.  And the peruvian corn was interesting, I like it more than American corn.  But the quality of the seafood was so low, that I would never get this again, and can't believe it was $15 for a fairly small portion.  This dish alone made me not want to really go back.

[ Originally posted Jan 2, 2012 ]
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