La Mar Cebicheria Peruana 02/27/10
Astrid and Gaston are famous Peruvian chefs. We ate at their restaurant in Lima during our trip through that beautiful country. This was a while back, during the winter of 2003-2004 if I am not mistaken. Our dinner there was absolutely amazing (fresh and experimental takes on Peruvian cuisine) and the restaurant had a great upscale atmosphere and warm vibe. So we were very excited to try their place in SF. I took my partner there for his birthday. Let me just say it was a very different experience than their superb restaurant in Lima.
I absolutely hate the atmosphere of this place and wondered who could design such a garish and ugly restaurant. The service was serviceable but not particularly warm or seeming to enjoy being there. I don’t remember ever getting such an unnecessarily unfriendly response asking a waiter where the restroom was. The bathroom was skuzzy and smelly. Overall the vibe of the place is like an overpriced TGIFs. I felt horrible for brining my partner here for his birthday but I am taking him to someplace else next weekend so hopefully the next dinner will redeem this one (though I am not overly optimistic given a recent long stretch of mediocre Bay Area meals).
The food was good, especially in light of everything else. Here is what we ate:
Cebiche tasting – we had them substitute the cebiche special (Chipotle cebiche) for one of the regular ones. The Cebiches undoubtedly were the highlight of the meal. The fish all tasted fresh and the sauces were very tasty. Excellent.
Anticuchos de pulpo- Grilled Octopus skewers. We heard lots of recommendations for this dish. It was very good but not great. The octopus was tender but lacked even the smallest bit of luscious grill char flavor that would have brought it to the next level. It did not ever really look grilled to me.
Empanadas de choclo- Empanadas with Peruvian corn filling. Good but not great. The filling was a bit mushy and sweet.
Tequeños de seco. Braised lamb shank spring. Very good. Good lamb flavor but a bit too greasy.
Uña-Dungeness crab and seafood croquette. The best of the 3 empanada like things we ate. Very interesting tasting overall.
For dessert we had a cinnamon cream ice cream which was excellent. The ice cream was velvety, creamy and the cinnamon taste warm and satisfying. Excellent.
On the reservation form we specified that it was a birthday dinner but nothing special was done.
La Mar Cebicheria Peruana
Pier 1 1/2, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94111
I couldn't disagree with you more about the atmosphere. I absolutely love the high ceilings, flowing sight lines and floor-to-ceiling windows with sweeping views of the Bay. The white and blue airy decor matches so well with the outside scenery. And color highlights here and there - a well-placed stripe or yellow or green, the multicolored fruits along the cebiche bar. I think it's successfully done.
Surprised you thought the corn empanadas were too sweet. The filling is pureed sweet corn, and I wasn't surprised at all by the consistency or sweetness of the filling. It didn't seem any sweeter than naturally-sweet corn. Similar in flavor to David Kinch's summer corn croquettes at Manresa.
As for the bathrooms, it's a historic building, the the men's restroom is marked as such. yes, it's a bit dingy, but they have more interior bathrooms as well for the ladies. Unequal? yes. But I don't mind tipping the hat to the ladies of the world to enjoy more lush accommodations since we guys aren't as...intimately involved with the receptacles.
From Foodgal's blog: "La Mar in San Francisco commemorates the Peruvian “National Pisco Sour Day” with $5 Pisco Sours on Feb. 4, from 11:30 a.m. until closing; and on Feb. 5 from noon till last call."