Pisco Sour: The new margarita? Photo courtesy of David Fukuda
Between Piqueo’s and Limòn, I thought SF had had its Peruvian moment, but apparently, it’s just begun. La Mar Cebicheria Peruana is set to open today; and Pisco, a bar and lounge by Destino chef-owner James Shenk, opens the first week of October. (Oh, yeah, and there’s Limon’s new rotisserie.)
As a magazine writer, it almost makes me want to say something stupid like, “Peruvian is the next Vietnamese!” But I will restrain.
I went to La Mar last week for dinner on one of it’s “soft opening” nights. The restaurant is the brainchild of Peruvian celebrity chef Gaston Acurio (it's worth clicking—the man is some kind of a Latin Jean Georges Vongerichten), who owns restaurants around the world. This is his first stop in the U.S. The sweeping space is set right on the water on Pier 1 ½. Two hundred and eighty seats of people craving ceviche are going to have fill this huge restaurant. That’s a lot.
I can guarantee you that some of SF’s foodies, with their sense of civic pride, will bristle a bit at the thought of an outsider—a celebrity outsider, nonetheless (we’re not much for flash here)—thinks he’s just going to waltz in here and draw the crowds. But I’m telling you, in a town where a restaurant has to hit the ground running, La Mar has been doing their homework.
In fact, when I dined there, the huge restaurant was probably about half full, full enough to make it appear to be open. But in fact, it wasn’t. They’ve just been inviting select guests in for free meals (i.e. a ton of Yelpers: witness the result of a free meal for the supposedly anonymous Yelp community—amazing reviews!) so that they can get their staff up and running smoothly. The food that we tasted (ceviche, a shrimp soup and octopus with chimichurri) was all very good, I must say. The service was good with a few hiccups.
The soft opening is something that a lot of restaurants practice—except that when we asked our server how long the soft opening had been going on, he said, “Three weeks!” This is not something many restaurants practice. Between paying the labor and providing the food to that many hundreds of people, that’s some serious cash being spent. Suddenly, the economy seemed like it must be pretty good—in Peru, that is.