Review of La Mar restaurant, Miami (Brickell Key)

Saturday, November 08, 2014

This year for my cousin's birthday she chose the new La Mar restaurant featuring elevated Peruvian-Japanese fusion cuisine. Combining Asian and Spanish flavors is not new in Miami. Peruvian food has been braided with Japanese flavors for a century. When diplomatic relations between Peru and Japan opened in the late 1800's, thousands of Japanese from that country's southern islands left for the mountainous nation on South America's Pacific Coast. The nigiri and sushi roll are modified yet commonplace now around the globe. At the helm is Peruvian superstar chef Gaston Acurio who teamed up with Diego Oka as executive chef. Oka was born to Japanese grandfather who came to Peru in the 1940's. Seafood is the common bond between the two cultures and Oka marries them in elevated finesse.

Mandarin Oriental hotel on Brickell Key at twilight

Housed in the only hotel on Brickell Key, the Mandarin Oriental, you enter the lobby and saunter passed the bar if you're not tempted for a drink.

Lobby bar of Mandarin Oriental Hotel

The menu is divided in nine sections and portions are small to encourage tapas-style sampling across the board. As competition in fine dining escalates alongside new high rises, authenticity and presentation are the game changers. All products are locally sourced, ceramic dishware is made by Peruvian artisans and wooden boats used for presentation are made by the chef’s father.

Cebiches (or Ceviches)
Tiraditos -Japanese sashimi Peruvian style flavored with lime marinade, aji peppers, and fish juice
Causas (whipped potatoes)
Peruvian Nikei World - Peruvian nigri inspired by more than 100 years of Japanese immigrants
Ensaladas (Spanish for salads)
Piqueos (appetizers, starters)
Anticuchos (skewers)
Arroces - rice dishes prepared in a wok
Peruvian specialties-full plates of food for single serving

First business of order was a drink selection. Pisco sour is the popular cocktail.  The Passion Fruit Pisco sour caught my attention and craving for sweet and tart.  The serving size was generous than most upscale restaurants and the blending of flavors were exceedingly delicious.

Maracuya Pisco Sour

Next is the staple Peruvian potato dish, whipped potatoes with aji pepper and different toppings. We ordered the Chalanita for a sampling of all three: the Nikei (rocoto pepper, tuna tartar, avocado, sweet chili sauce, rocoto pepper cream, nori;  the Olivo (yellow potato, octopus tartare, olive sauce, piquillo peppers, garlic chimichurri; and the Cangrejo (beet causa, crab, avocado, huancaina sauce, kale, cherry tomatoes, quail egg.) 

Beautiful presentation. See below handcrafted boats.

Ceviches are the other common food in Peru celebrating the sea. Traditionally fish was marinated in lime juice for over a dozen hours to kill any lingering bacteria. But the fishs' paper thin taste and texture does not favor well with fine diners.  The process is different today. We ordered the Cebiche Sampler which included the classic, the criollo and the nikei.  My favorite is by far the criollo (calamari, yellowtail snapper, cancha, aji amarillo pepper leche de tigre).  

Causas and ceviches (classic, criollo and nikei)

The Plancha Anticuchera is a seafood lovers dish.  Grilled octopus and calamari, on a bed of crushed potatoes, aji panca pepper sauce and hint of chimichurri beckoned seafarers palate and a photo of the presentation.

Plancha Antichuchera

With each serving of food, the flavors and taste exceeded the previous dish. Switching to meats, our next venture was the Chaufa Aeropuerto. Chinese sausage, roasted pork, pan fried rice, shrimp omelet, nikei sauce and pickled salad.  Very good.

Note:  (Aeropuerto = airport)

Chaufa Aeropuerto

Anticuchos are traditional Peruvian skewers from the anticucho grill. Here we sampled  the Corazon (veal heart, potatoes, corn, tari sauce and chalaca) and the savory Wagyu Beef (with chimichurri, beans and rice tacu tacu, quail egg, and rocoto pepper sauce). Excellent!

Anticuchos of Corazon and Wagyu Beef

Not listed on the menu, the waiter brought a  special chocolate with coffee flavoring dessert  for my cousin's birthday. The creaminess of the mousse, and crunch bite was a pleasant surprise. 

The skyline and panoramic view at this location is the best in the city. Expansive waterway, glowing high rises and lit bridge make this restaurant destination memorable you'll want to return for more

I award this 5 stars out of 5 stars, for food creativity and presentation, service, and location.
Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below!

LA MAR by Gaston Acurio
Mandarin Oriental Hotel
500 Brickell Key Dr 
Miami, FL 33131  

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