The decor and color scheme of La Mar along the San Francisco Embarcadero waterfront is stunning. Bright crystal blue water tones, white, silver, and a stunning view of the bay make this restaurant a hip, sophisticated yet soothing place to dine.
And thankfully, the food was nothing to scoff at either. And the presentation for many of the five dishes we had was beautiful.
Super fresh seafood is the star here, obviously hence the name of the restaurant, which means “the sea”. This is the first American outlet of this Peruvian chain restaurant. But that doesn’t mean quality and service suffer for it.
We started with a basket full of housemade sweet potato, potato, and banana chips accompanied by three creamy and very different dipping sauces. What a way to start a meal! I’m a chip fiend so I loved this alternative to the boring bread basket, and so did my dining companions.
They are known for their cebiches (or ceviches, as know them) and our shared ahi tuna version was delicious. Big chunks of raw fish swam in a wonderful vinegary sauce with red onion and a touch of avocado. Ironically, however, the ahi lacked any exciting fresh taste of the sea that I was hoping for. It was fresh, but lacked character. But the dish was still delicious.
Our second starter was the “tiraditos”, or basically a sushi roll. Ours had fresh crabmeat, ahi tuna, and a passionfruit and honey sauce drizzled over it. It was fine, but again, the ahi lacked any clear strong flavor of the sea, and the dish was overall pretty boring. Nothing different from your standard sushi fare.
Our entrees included the antichucho de carne (skirt steak skewer), the causa limena (Peruvian whipped potato with dungeness crab and quail egg), and the stewed chicken empanadas. Everything was good, but nothing exceptional…except for the causa limena. The presentation, alone was impressive. But for me, the dish was my fave of the afternoon. There was real texture and flavor contrast and all the different elements just worked together. It was exotic, sophisticated, and yet somehow a comfort dish that was decadent.
Dessert was a wonderful revelation as well. We ordered the orange glazed chocolate beignets with banana passionfruit ice cream. I’m usually not into rich desserts but this was perfect! Not cloyingly sweet and the dark chocolate had real depth, almost a nutty flavor that wasn’t too bitter at all.
Service here was wonderfully friendly, yet expert and unobtrusive. I look forward to going back, hopefully on a warm sunny afternoon so I can sit in the large patio area out back and just look out on the water. Ahhh…