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Oct 12, 2008 10:11 PM

La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, SF report w/ pics (too expensive, little food)

This place is Expensive! For 2 at lunch on a Sun afternoon it was $52 + $4.42 tax = $56.42 Before Tip! Can you say Sticker Shock!

Eat all the FREE chips/plantains - that's the Only way to fill up here. 3 sauces given - all pretty Bland! Green sauce - bland, Yellow-bland, Orange-Bland!

You get tiny amounts of food people. For a 1/2 order of Cebiche Clasico $9 you get maybe 4 tiny pieces of Calif. halibut w/ tiny slices of red onions & habanero pepper leche de tigre w/ Peruvian corn & yam. Full portion is $15. Drink the sauce - you paid for it & it was recommended.

Another dish we got: Cabiche chifa $9 - again that's a half order which had 4 tiny Yellowtail tuna w/ peanuts, scallions, ginger, pickled carrots & daikon, wonton strips & cilantro in sesame leche de tigre. Drink the sauce since you paid for it & waitress recommends it. Maybe so u can fill up too.

Sopa Parihuela -$11 - it's a Bland soup w/ mussels, calamari, clams, mahi mahi, ginger & red onion. Tasted like tomato sauce w/ the seafood in it. Bland!

Arroz Norteno $19 - a bland rice dish w/ 2 mussels, some other seafood, yellow sauce, green rice.

Only got 1 drink: Chicha Morada $5 on menu, but on Bill only $4. Classic Peruvian refreshment made of maiz morado (purple corn). It's sweet, but not too sweet. I liked it, but I also had it before in other Peruvian places way cheaper.

It's also Way Too Loud in there. If you like to shout when you want to talk to your companions then come here. Otherwise, Skip it.

Two unisex bathrooms in the main lobby - One on the Left, One on the Right.

Not recommended.

My pics:

La Mar Cebicheria Peruana
Pier 1 1/2, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94111

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  1. The most egregious aspect of the pricing on the menu is $4.50 for an espresso (which if it is like the espresso served at most SF restaurants, will be watery, too hot and void of crema).

    1. I’m reviving this thread to see if anyone has been there in the last month, after the changes in the kitchen with opening chef, José Luis de Cossío, departing. Has it affected the quality of the cooking?

      Also, I wanted to add a few comments, as I had lunch there on the same day, October 12, and had a much different impression. I enjoyed everything about the restaurant, although I was out on the deck to enjoy the sunny Indian summer day and watch the air show, so can’t comment on the noise level inside. I did feel that the tables in the dining room were crammed too tightly together just from the look but didn’t experience that part of the space.

      Two friends were supposed to join me, but they were delayed by Fleet Week traffic and eventually had to cancel. The two women at the hostess station handled the situation superbly, checking in with me periodically for updates on my friends’ ETA. Then as the time approached that I would have to give up my table res, tactfully asked if I could make a decision about what I wanted to do. After hanging out for more than an hour, I was determined to eat something and enjoy myself, so opted for a solo lunch outside.

      You really didn’t like the three dipping salsas?!? To my taste, the three sauces accompanying the complimentary, freshly fried chips, were far from bland. The yellow one, made with the mild-mannered ají Amarillo and cheese, was not spicy but quite tasty nonetheless and had a comforting quality ala mac n cheese. The red one of ají rocoto came on slowly but had a burn that kicked in at the back of the palate and continued to build from there to become quite spicy. Then, the greenish one, ocopo, was the most interesting and new to me, made with huacatay (Peruvian black mint) and peanuts. I loved the fragrance of this herb.

      I liked the criollas causas, but wish they had been served at a warm temperature rather than cooled down. But maybe that’s not possible outdoors.

      The cebiche chifa was great. Very fresh, sushi-grade fish, vibrant and balanced flavors, and good value. I liked sipping the tigre de leche, but I soon flamed out from the heat build up from the ají rocoto plus the habaneros in the ceviche and had to stop.

      I ordered full sizes of both dishes, and since I overindulged on the chips because I liked the three salsas so much, had more than I could eat for lunch. With a Pisco cocktail, tax and tip, my tab was $44. That’s what I would expect to pay in this setting and unlike many other waterfront spots with prices like that, the food and service were more than satisfactory.

      Slideshow -

      P.S. There's an additional ladies room in the middle of the restaurant.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Melanie Wong

        I was there last week for lunch. Generally, I enjoyed my meal. For the price, I will now be critical:
        (1) The chips - very good. The 3 sauces - the mild peanut one I didn't care for much. The middle one I liked. The 3d one with "heat" was good - the heat wasn't too obvious at first but it built up.
        (2) The main - I had the 4 ceviche sampler. $28. I really enjoyed it. Worth $28? If I had that much fish eating sushi, I'd not have thought twice. As ceviche, I shouldn't be thinking twice either, no? 2 of them could have been served in a Japanese restaurant, and they would have fit right in. All four were good in their own way.
        (3) Dessert - Lùcuma tiramisu w/lùcuma ice cream. I love the taste of lùcuma. It could have been more pronounced in the tiramisu, but I'm sure it all comes from powder up this way. Nevertheless, it was very tasty. I'll have to get some more of this special flavor next week in Chile.

        My lunch companions - one got the lomo saltado - he loved it. The other got something in a broth - I'm not sure what it was, but he seemed to enjoy it, too.

        I ordered a pisco sour. Not that I'm any sort of expert, but I named my dog Pisco long before pisco bars started popping up around here. I will say it was probably the best restaurant/bar Pisco Sour I've had in the bay area. (I ordered it w/o bitters as I don't like them.) But it was lacking something, and it was probably the lemon wasn't tart enough - the drink was actually almost too "smooth."

        Service - although it was lunch, none of us were in a rush. However, although service was polite, plates were cleared way too eagerly and quickly, even attempting when one or another one of us wasn't done, and if the check came the way it did here at his restaurant in Lima, no one would ever return. It wasn't as they needed to turn the table because it was lunch, and it wasn't full.

        All that said, I'll probably return.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          I wonder if everyone's having a reaction to the price at La Mar because they've gone there mostly for lunch?

          I actually went twice last month (both times at night, once at the bar and second time at the cebiche bar) and felt the food was prepared well. However, I didn't go when it first opened, so can't say whether the quality has changed since the opening chef left. As far as I can tell, the food seems to be executed well. I liked that the ingredients taste fresh and they use a lot of authentic Peruvian ingredients.

          That said, I did have some quibbles with the food. The ceviche I had with tuna and mangoes tasted great and balanced, but I just felt it had too much juice in the plate.

          The causa I had was made with purple potatoes and topped with ahi tuna. The ahi tuna was fantastic, I loved it. But there was way too much of the potatoes, I felt, which was dense and starchy. I would have liked the dish more if the portions of the causa was smaller and there were more of the tuna.

          I tried also the juguso which is like a gumbo. It had a whole bunch of really fresh seafood all prepared well. It was very filling. Then of course, it was $21. But I was eating dinner, and given the fancy environment, I felt the $21 is on par with what other similar restaurants are charging. This isn't a neighborhood restaurant but a destination restaurants.

          I liked the touches of the plantains instead of bread, and the spicy sauce was more than bland, it really had a kick in my opinion.

          I also like the fact that you can get a Pisco Sour, which is a classic Peruvian drink. I've been to Limon and its new rotisserie and they don't offer pisco.

          Overall, I can't say the food was amazing like how some yelpers have rated the place, but I do feel its fun and interesting and tasty. I liked the environment and it's a nice alternative for people in the waterfront area besides the Slanted Door.

          1. re: singleguychef

            I think you've hit on seems way too expensive if you go at lunchtime as it's the same menu as in the evening. I've gone twice, both times for lunch. The last time we had 1 causa appetizer, 2 entrees and 2 pisco sours. Bill with tax/tip was $110. Although we enjoyed the food, spacing at table was very tight and service was way too brisk, with dishes being cleared as each diner was finishing their last bite. It was intrusive and annoying. As above, the restaurant wasn't full, so no need to turn the table.

            The first visit we wasted 1/2 hour waiting up front for the rest of our party, who the hostess said had not yet arrived. In checking for ourselves some time later, we found them at the table and yes, they had been seated by the same hostess. That did not get the birthday celebration off to a good start.

            Would I feel differently about pricing if it was for dinner? Yes. Would I feel differently about the service? No, not if it mirrors the lunchtime staff in which case, I will not be back. Twice is enough.