To many, the name “Gaston Acurio” might not mean much, but to those who follow the culinary industry like sport, he is a destined hall-of-fame!
After classic training at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, Gaston returned to his native city of Lima and transformed Peruvian food into the world-wide power-hitter it is today. Gaston Combined his classic techniques, Peru’s unique pre-Columbian ingredients & traditions and the strong local influence of Japanese cuisine (Nikkei) to create the Peruvian food now trendy the world over.
The 3-Star restaurant “Astrid y Gaston” is in Lima and we are planning a trip just to go! (It currently sits at number 18 on San Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants). So we did consider ourselves lucky to have access to a sample of his food in downtown Miami at the Mandarin Oriental hotel. There one finds his delicious restaurant La Mar. We went for a late lunch and opted to sit in the terrace over the water and enjoy our meal in views of Biscayne Bay and the Miami skyline.
The overall experience was a lovely melange of high-end dining and Latin ease. Unfortunately, we arrived over 30 minutes late to our reservation and on the edge of the kitchen’s last call (an epic über debacle!). We arrived flustered and nervous as this was our only chance! We were greeted, seated and eased out of our anxiety by the lovely hosts and our charming and very knowledgeable waiter. And thus began our culinary delights ….
First off it is good to know that portions are LARGE! We ordered too much, ate way too much … but enjoyed it all and left feeling surprisingly light for all the calories consumed!
We started with a Ceviche sampler – going for the classics first. It was a lovely mix of flavours with The Clásico (Fluke, cilantro, ají limo pepper, red onions, choclo corn, classic leche de tigre) being the most refreshing. It’s ‘the classic’ for a reason.
The Causa – a traditional potato-based dish from Peru with raw fish and spices (see photo below) – has an amazing combination of flavours and textures, but really it is all about the rocoto pepper sauce.
The following dish was the Grilled black grouper ‘Kama anticucho’ and its bizarre shape and presentation. This dish changed the way I think about fish, and I believe it is exactly what earned the Chef such a following. It is fish for meat-lovers. When the plate arrives, you are wondering what is in front of you, and as you have your first bit, all you are is happy!
The octopus was our least favourite of the day, it was a bit rubbery and makes you realize how temperamental a dish it is. The potato on which it was plated however was jaw-dropping and I wish I had a serving in front of me as I type :)
Chifa: salmon, with, ginger, cilantro, pickled vegetables in sesame leche de tigre topped with peanuts and wonton strips
Criollo: calamari, shrimp, yellowtail, snapper, cancha corn in, ají amarillo pepper leche de tigre
Clásico: fluke, cilantro, ají limo pepper, red onions, choclo, classic leche de tigre
This was followed by the Tiradito Nikkei, a lightly seared tuna, over a marble of passion fruit leche de tigre and honey sesame reduction topped with scallions and sesame seeds. I think that description says enough, and the photo the rest. If you need more, well I suggest a trip to Miami!!
Even though we usually pass on dessert, we had to try the “Chocolate en texturas” . A dish incorporating a chocolate brownie, chocolate foam, chocolate ice cream (with 60% Peruvian chocolate) and crystallized manjar drops with chocolate meringues. I’m glad we broke tradition.
Suffice to say, that if you find yourself in Miami a trip to La Mar should be high on your list. Not to be a salesperson, but, even the prices are quite decent. We could have had a fried lunch on Miami Beach for close to the same cost, but nowhere near the flavor of happiness!
La Mar by Gaston Acurio
(1) 305 913-8358
Mandarin Oriental, Miami, 500 Brickell Key Dr, Miami, FL 33131
11:00 – 15:00 Lunch
18:00 – 23:00 Diner