La Mar is one of the fanciest, and most expensive, fish places in
Lima. La Mar is known for having a great selection of fresh fish, and
for preparing it well. Since we wanted to get a good idea of how
ceviche was supposed to be prepared, and because La Mar didn’t need
bookings, we decided to go for lunch. When we got there, there was no
wait at all which was a pleasant surprise. As we walked in we walked
past a display of fresh whole fish on ice, which piqued our interest.
We decided to have their ceviche sampler, which had a classic ceviche
of Peruvian sea bass (not Patagonian toothfish, but a kind of perch),
a mixto of fish and seafood in leche de tigre (a slightly thinner,
less acidic marinade that is super popular here), and a nikei
(Peruvian Japanese) style with bonito and tamarind.
Finally we got a special cheviche de conchas negras. Cheviche de
conchas negras is a shellfish ceviche made from mangrove
cockles. Mangrove cockles are being overfished, but La Mar claims to
source them sustainably. We also had to have Peruvian uni (sea
urchin roe.) Uni from Peru is some of the best in the world, and is
prized in top end sushi restaurants.The uni was as delicious as
expected, sweet and briny. The three ceviches were also very
nice. Clean flavours, letting the fish show to good advantage and not
muddying things. The nikei style was a tiny bit sweeter than I’d have
liked but still great. The conchas negras were dark purple and had a
natural sweetness that was highlighted by fresh lime acidity.
We could easily have made a meal of just those starters, but we had to
try the whole fish. We let the waiter suggest one, and I thought he
said it was a “basa” but when it came it clearly wasn’t a basa so I
must have mis-heard. I had noticed they had both a wood fired oven and
a charcoal grill. Our waiter suggested they cook the fish on the
plancha, but I asked if they could charcoal grill it and they did. It
was amazing. They put a chimichurri like herbal rub on it, and it was
tender, moist, and flaky. I picked out all the succulent bits from the
head and tried to parse it with my fork. The waitress noticed, and not
only brought a setup of the proper utensils, but kindly boned it out
for us at the table!
La Mar is a great place, though not cheap. If I were looking for top
end seafood in Lima, I’d head here.