By Melanie Galarce
Few restaurants in Miami offer the opulence and culinary experience that La Mar does. The restaurant that carries the name of celebrity chef Gaston Acurio helms locations in Mexico City, Colombia, Chicago, and San Francisco, as well as in our own backyard inside the Mandarin Oriental located on Brickell Key. With killer views of Miami, the restaurant is spearheaded by Diego Oka, a seasoned chef of Peruvian and Japanese decent who has more than 10 years of experience working with the brand. Oka is the kind of guy you want to be best buds with, not only is his demeanor cool and down-to-earth but he’s firing up the best of novo-Andean and Asian-Peruvian fusion at his La Mar gig. That’s the type of food you should expect to enjoy, including traditional seafood ceviche in the form of small, tapas-style and large plates.
In mid-June, the team at La Mar invited us to try their new menu and we were blown away. The dishes are thoughtful and offer a fresh take on Peruvian cuisine classics. To follow is our vivid recap of the fusion rendezvous.
We started the journey with a Peruvian Pisco Sour, which just happens to be one of our favorite cocktails. The drink is a light, fluffy, and airy libation with sweet notes of sugar and lime. If you’ve never had a Peruvian Pisco Sour, you’ll want to give this a try and set all other pisco expectations very high.
Sunchoke Leche de Tigre, Aji Amarillo, Radish, White Asparagus. Heirloom Cherry Tomato
There are few vegetarian dishes that make my heart pitter patter, but this is most definitely one of them. It’s as vibrant in color as it is in flavor.
Lobster, Smoked Avocado and Serrano Chili Leche de Tigre, Cancha, Sweet Potato, Choclo
I’m calling this dish the apotheosis of ceviche. Breaking almost every mold of trite ceviches dishes, this lobster rendition soaks in Peruvian favorite like choclo (corn) and the citrus marinade of leche de tigre. If you’re a ceviche aficionado, this will be the dish to try.
Basil Causa, Octopus Tartare, Peruvian Botija Olive Sauce, Roasted Peppers
If you ever doubted that potato can be a dish of surprises, Chef Diego’s Pesto Causa will be the rendition to prove you wrong. This seasoned mashed potato with octopus tartare will offer the most innovative potato dish you’ve had to date.
Conchitas a la Parmesana
Cheese Foam, Lime
Less is always more for me, and this dish is the epitome of that belief. With very little, it manages to stand out as one of the best of the night. All you need is a fresh set of scallops, 22 month aged parmesan cheese (I’m sure this helps) and lime. The combination offers a killer seafood dish that will put every other scallop you may have had to serious shame.
Miso Anitcuchera, Grilled Broccolini, Sesame
Although swordfish is not necessarily my choice of fish, this adventurous version gives the otherwise firm meat a hint of sweet and juicy flavor.
Cachetes de Ternera
Veal Cheeks in Chicha Morada, Chicha de Jora, Yuca
This dish does a great job at highlighting the tender and delicate texture of veal drenched in the chicha morada (a sweet Peruvian beverage made from purple corn.)
Pan Fried Egg Noodles, XO, Crab Meat, Tofu, Char Siu, Quail Egg, Snow Peas, Soy Sauce
The noodles were a favorite among the blogger group that sat together to wine and dine at La Mar. I think it came a bit too late in the night to give it a fair shot (I was overly stuffed by the time it made its way to the table) but the little I was able to enjoy was enough to know this is one dish I’ll order first when back at La Mar.
Sweet Breads, Chicken Liver, Chicken Heart, Rocoto Pepper, Chalaca
A plate as bold as this one can be a little scary. If you order this dish you’ll be enjoying glands, liver, and heart – the untraditional parts of a chicken that could perhaps turn you off. However, it is Chef Diego’s art to turn the otherwise frightening food into delicacies that taste like familiar favorites with a dash of boldness.
Peruvian Dark Chocolate
Dulce de Leche, Hazelnut Ice Cream, Crunchy Nibs
As if we hadn’t overdone the decadence at La Mar, we were treated to the perfect ending that evening courtesy of pastry chef, Patrick Coston. A bit of dulce de leche with hazelnut ice cream and crunchy nibs gave it all a perfect texture.
The following are additional dishes that Chef Diego spruced up as part of the new menu and shared with us. The colorful menu looks like a perfect representation of the vibrant city we live in but somehow managed to taste even better than they looked (I know, that good!) If there was ever a doubt that food is essentially a form of art, Chef Diego does an excellent job at showing the skeptics just that.
Pork Jowl-Quinoa Tamale, Grilled Fish, Seco Sauce, Mint Chalaca
Salmon, Shrimp Ceviche, Avocado, Nori, Sushi Rice
Black causa, Maine Lobster Tartare, Caviar, Gold, Avocado
Mel’s take: Yes, coming to La Mar might mean cashing out a few extra bucks for dinner but it’s worth every penny. My guilty pleasure has always been a good meal; food is by far my most lavish indulgence (jewelry might be a close second) and La Mar is the priceless experience we’re all looking for. Dining at La Mar is more than just enjoying an impeccable meal, the team does a great job at making you leave having enjoyed an experience.
Standout dish: Everything was just so spectacular, but the Conchitas a la Parmasana, were out of this world. These fresh scallops that melted with parmesan cheese in their shell were divine. I basically wanted to sit and eat a dozen of these before leaving.