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La Mar by Gaston Acurio at The Mandarin Oriental Miami

500 Brickell Key Dr.Miami, FL 33131. Downtown Miami.  (305) 913-8358

the quintessential modern Peruvian experience, on the waterfront

 

diego oka

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 by Simone Zarmati Diament

photos: SFG

2014-03-28 18.17.56Peruvian cuisine, rich in flavors and textures from a multiplicity of cultures, has become a trend as we can see by the profusion of cevicherías opening in and around Miami. Now we know it is definitely in because Peru’s most touted chef, the reknowned Gastón Acurio,  has opened La Mar by Gastón Acurio at the Five-Star Mandarin Oriental, his third restaurant in the United States and one of many he has opened all over the world,

La Mar is a high-energy, happy combination of Executive chef Diego Oka’s sensitive and beguiling cuisine with the magic of the Mandarin Oriental’s enchanting waterfront location.  Indeed, the sparkling bay against the pulsating Downtown Miami skyline  couldn’t be a better setting for this Peruvian-style restaurant where executive chef Diego Oka takes you on a culinary journey.

Chef Diego, a second generation Peruvian from Japanese descent, has worked with Gaston Acurio for over a decade, and comes to Miami from another one of Gaston’s hits: La Mar Cebicheria Peruana in San Francisco.

The menu at La Mar is almost a tribute to the sea and features all the classic Peruvian specialties as well as audacious novo-Andean fare and Asian-Peruvian fusion.

Click here to listen as Chef Oka recommends dishes on his menu, tells us the difference between ceviche and tiradito and gives a recipe for ceviche - or cebiche

The well-priced  list “from the Ceviche Bar” ($9 - $18) includes intriguing and delicious lip-puckering Cebiches, all made to order; Tiraditos; lively items from the ‘Peruvian Nikei World’, inspired by more than a century of Japanese immigrant culture;   a variety of Causas –whipped Peruvian potatoes with seafood or meat toppings; and salads and vegetarian appetizers like quinoa caprese ($15) with heirloom tomatoes, basil, red quinoa, creamy burrata cheese, aji Amarillo and vinaigrette; and the famous Huancaina ($10) the Peruvian niçoise.

Because Peru was a Spanish colony, you will find Hot Piqueos ($12 - $22) with a hot cebiche of snapper, cilantro, and a lime and aji Amarillo sauce; Peruvian sliders and empanadas ($12) of pork and  pipian de choclo, chalaca and huacatay sauce.

The servers are well- informed on the intricacies of the exotic sounding ingredients and sauces and are trained to make recommendations.

Anticuchos are grilled skewers from anything like potatoes and choclo, chicken and wagyu beef with chimichurri, tacu-tacu, a quail egg and rocoto sauce to the tenderest Octopus and whole Jumbo prawns with basil pesto and potatoes.

Then come the entrées, or as the menu lists:  Peruvian specialties, all dramatic-looking and all meant to be shared.  The most popular are the lomo saltado ($31) – a stir-fry of angus beef, onions, tomatoes, soy sauce, cilantro over papa fritas and rice; and the whole fish Nikei ($45 for the table) – the catch of the day which is deep fried in steps: the flesh is diced and flash-fried; the carcass is fried separately and then filled with the flesh, so you can actually eat the whole thing, says chef Diego (listen to the interview). Then come octopus and calamari a la plancha anticuchera with crushed potatoes, chimichurri and choclo and the fideos machos ­ a squid ink pasta dish with scallops, calamari, striped bass, choclo and lime rocoto aioli – a cross between the French bouillabaisse and the Catalan fideua.

Then there are hearty, one meal seafood and fish-based soups ($26), one of the glories of Peruvian cuisine, such as parihuela and chupe.  Definitely worth a try on a cool evening; and “Arroces” or rice dish ($26) with mariscos or seafood, duck confit and chaufa aeropuerto with Chinese sausage, roasted pork, shrimp omelet, nikei sauce and pickled salad – an actual melting pot of Chinese, Japanese, Korean cultures with Spanish and Latin American traditions.

Desserts (all $11) range from a purple-corn sorbet with meringue, yogurt, Peruvian corn, guanabana cream and Chinese cinnamon and a Lemon pie – not your auntie’s version. This comes with chicha morada, sorbet, Key lime mousse, Key lime cream, almond crumble and Italian meringue – and a spectacular Fortunato Andean Chocolate Mousse topped with caramelized and popped Andean grains and lucuma fruit ice bomb.

Amazing flavors, great ambiance, gorgeous view, affable service, a small wine list and plenty of cocktails all combine into a high-energy, wonderful experience you will want to repeat.

La Mar by Gaston Acurio at The Mandarin Oriental Miami

Mandarin Oriental, 500 Brickell Key Dr.Miami, FL 33131Info: (305) 913-8358

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Hours:  Lunch and dinner daily, 11:00 am – 4:30 pm, 5:30 – 11:00 pm 
Liquor: Full bar,cocktails include  Peruvian Classics and La Mar Classics $13
Wines: Small and  moderately-priced wine list  
Cuisine: Fabulously flavorful dishes
Prices :   $9 to $45
Service: Friendly
Ambiance:   Casual Miami chic
Cards: All major