I recently had the amazing experience of visiting Peru and in anticipation of my trip, I of course, like any proper foodie, did some research. Lima is a coastal city boasting the best of any and every type of seafood found on this planet – and it’s all as fresh as it can be – straight from ocean to table. With that in mind, I caught up on a few documentaries and set aside some extra time in Lima to try out a worthy restaurant.
It’s important to mention that Lima at the moment is a gastronomic heaven, with the efforts of perhaps Peru’s most renowned and loved chef -Gastón Acurio, Peruvian classics such as ceviche have earned a high seat in global gastronomic standings. If you are curious about Gastón and the evolution of Peruvian gastronomy, I highly recommend you watch Finding Gaston.
I was drawn to the source so I researched Acurio’s numerous restaurants and ended up settling on La Mar Cebicheria, for several reasons:
- You don’t need a reservation there – although we did end up waiting about half an hour for our table of seven, which was completely worthwhile.
- It’s more casual than his famous Astrid and Gastón and more affordable. I did not pack a single nice outfit since I was mainly hiking in the mountains so I wasn’t prepared for a fancy tasting menu.
Let’s start with drinks, because let’s face it, cocktails are important. You’ll have to forgive me, but I don’t remember the name of the cocktail I ordered (it was complicated) – it WAS gin-based and delicious. Drinks well done.
When we sat down at the table, instead of getting the usual bread and butter, we were served an assortment of potato chips with three different roasted pepper dips, each varying in spice level. Much more exciting and appropriate in my opinion.
This was followed by baskets of toasted corn, which you can pop endlessly, like popcorn. Peru being the land of corn and quinoa, this came as no surprise. There are over 55 varieties of corn commonly grown in Peru, so it’s only logical that Peruvians find endlessly creative ways to incorporate it as a staple ingredient in practically all of their meals.
In the spirit of sharing a great experience, we went for the chalacas for our appetizer – a Peruvian specialty consisting of any raw mollusk served in a shell, topped with a fresh salsa of onions, tomatoes, rocoto pepper, cilantro, and lime juice. They come served on a platter and you do them like shots – shots of amazingly fresh, salty, and spicy deliciousness.
Moving on to the main star of the show – the ceviche. We got the ceviche tasting which consisted of a very nicely-curated trio of a catch of the day, a mixed ceviche, and Japanese-inspired tuna one. Best ceviche I’ve had so far? Check.
An important point to note here is that there a few differences between Peruvian-style ceviche and Mexican for example. Classically-Peruvian ceviche (as you see above) will feature larger cuts of fish in what is popularly know as leche de tigre (tiger milk) which consists of red onions, lime juice, rocoto pepper, and salt and pepper of course. This is the go-to marinade which allows the fish to “cook” in the lime juice due to the heat created by the acid. The marinade is added to the fish directly before serving, so that the acid only “sears” the fish, rather than cooking it completely. This ceviche is then sprinkled with some toasted corn and served with a slice of sweet potato.
Mexican-style ceviche typically features a finer dice and includes shrimp as a main focus. It is also marinated in lime juice overnight which cooks the fish more than in a Peruvian-style ceviche.
Whatever your preference, in my opinion, both are delicious.
The Main Course
Along with the ceviche, La Mar has a very impressive selection of local fresh seafood cooked basically any way you want. We ordered langoustines a la plancha, which were cooked whole in a wood-fired oven – delicious.
Since we went all in, you can’t forget the dessert. And the dessert was yet another win! Fresh strawberries with a dulce de leche mousse, freshly-whipped cream, and some sort of crumble for great texture, flavor, and 100% satisfaction.
Summary and Verdict
All in all, we ended up spending 1,000 Peruvian soles between eight people, which roughly translated to about $300. A feast for eight for $300 is money well-spent if you ask me.
I absolutely loved Gaston’s main ceviche paradise. If I ever have layovers in Lima, I will be sure to visit it again. The good news is La Mar has multiple locations, both in the states and in other South American countries:
I highly recommend La Mar to any seafood lover and if you’ve never tried the things I mentioned, this is the perfect place to do so!
Have you been to awesome places with great food experiences in Lima? Let me know!