Soon to Come: La Mar Cebicheria Peruana
As the economy worsens and real estate in San Francisco continues to hold steady, you’re going to start to hear a lot about the new “cool” neighborhoods. Hunter’s Point and Excelsior, I hear, are up and coming. Dogpatch is where everyone who’s been priced out of the Mission buys a house. Mission Bay? Just listen to the buzz about the light rail. But if we’re talking restaurant-wise, there’s evidence to show that no neighborhood is quite as hot right now as the Embarcadero—and we have a celebrity in our midst to prove it.
Most Americans probably haven’t heard of Gaston Acurio, though the 38-year-old Peruvian born, French-trained chef is something of a celebrity in South America. He’s got restaurants in Lima, in Chile, in Colombia, in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Spain and Venezuela. Oh, and Brazil. He’s written some cookbooks. He was the voice of the food critic in the Spanish-language version of the movie Ratatouille. In other words, he’s kind of a big deal.
He’s also become somewhat of an ambassador for Peruvian food, working to make Peruvian restaurants as ubiquitous as Vietnamese or Mexican joints in all parts of the world, and he’s chosen San Francisco as the location for his first restaurant in the states. As we walked through the half-finished space at Pier 1 ½ (housed in a 100-year-old building with an outdoor patio by the water) it seemed obvious that Acurio’s concept is destined to be popular here. There will be a Pisco bar, serving up 25 variations of Peru’s national drink, and a ceviche bar where raw fish combinations will be cut and mixed right in front of you. They’ll be using Peruvian ingredients (like the blisteringly hot aji chili) but pairing it with local seafood and, invariably, plenty of goodies from the Ferry Building next door.
As for the rest of the menu, it’ll feature the kind of fusion food that is the hallmark of Peruvian cuisine. Says Acurio, “Fusion is a word used a lot lately, like a new concept. But fusion is what we’ve been doing in Peru for the last 500 years.” Once his restaurant, La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, opens in late summer, we probably won’t see too much of Acurio (day to day operation will be overseen by his Peruvian chef)—he’ll be back in Peru, researching new ingredients from the Amazon, creating recipes and perfecting concepts he hopes to incorporate is his restaurants. But lest you think his celebrity has gone to his head, think again. “I’m just a kind playing around in my atelier every day from 8 to 5. But I hope what I create helps to bring value and respect to my country.”