Peruvian food was long my favorite South American cuisine even before my unforgettable trip to Peru this year. Pisco cocktails – another love and one of the great gustatory pleasures of Peru. When getting my Peruvian fix, one of my favorite respites this sunny fall have been waterside brunches. Here are two spots where Bay or Pacific Ocean views invigorate over pisco cocktails, traditional Peruvian fare and American-meets-Peruvian brunch dishes.
LA MAR CEBICHERIA, Embarcadero (Pier 1 1/2, SF; 415-397-8880)
La Mar Cebichería Peruana has been one of the best Peruvian restaurants in the country since it opened five years ago, spurring on multiple locations around the US since, based off the original restaurant in Lima, Peru, from superstar chef Gastón Acurio.
The original US La Mar has remained our city’s great Peruvian restaurant with an unparalleled deck on the Bay boasting Bay and boat views.
Recently launched brunch (starting 11:30am on weekends) on the patio feels like vacation, especially with Maracuya Sours (pisco, passion fruit juice, lime, Cointreau, egg whites). The pisco-heavy cocktail menu remains strong as it has since the restaurant opened, though it’s currently going through a revamp.
Accompanied by a Bloody Lorcho (a pisco-based Bloody Mary with lemon, celery, calamari, and poached shrimp garnish), Chef Diego Oka (who helped open the original La Mar in Peru), adds on a few brunch dishes, one reminding me of roadside eats in Peru: traditional Peruvian chicharrón. Here, it’s blocks of sous vide pork belly, shredded and tender, rather than Mexican-style, crispy pork skin chicharrones. The pork is accompanied by sweet potato, yucca fries served, and huancaina, criolla and tartar sauces, plus Acme rolls to assemble sandwiches from the hearty platter.
One can find popular, traditional Lomo Saltado at brunch, a Chifa (Chinese Peruvian) stir-fry of beef tenderloin, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, garlic and soy sauce, topped with a fried egg, and accompanied by fries and rice.
As usual for me at any quality Peruvian restaurant, my favorite dishes tend to be tiradito (raw, sashimi-style Nikkei/Japanese Peruvian dishes in vivid citrus and fruit sauces), ceviche, causas (artful, whipped potato mounds topped with seafood and other bites), and other such gems of Peruvian cuisine, all prepared beautifully at La Mar.
PUERTO 27, Pacifica (525 Crespi Drive, just off Pacific Coast Highway/Highway 1; 650-733-7343)
The newcomer of the two, Puerto 27 opened in Pacifica, a short drive south of San Francisco on the way to Half Moon Bay, with ocean views and a wrap-around deck.
The large restaurant is centered around the bar run by Lead Mixologist Enrique Sanchez, formerly of La Mar Cebichería Peruana and Limón. As a Peruvian, he brings the same informed playfulness to pisco, tequila and beyond, as he did at La Mar.
Executive Chef and owner Jose Calvo-Perez (who comes from San Francisco’s Pasión and Fresca Peruvian restaurant group in San Francisco, as well as a chef stint in Mallorca, Spain) likewise excels on my Peruvian favorites like tiradito, causas, and ceviche, while offering Peruvian-American-inflected brunch dishes on weekends.
While my top choices would include the traditional Peruvian offerings mentioned and in my photos, brunch includes heartier dishes for those so inclined, like a somewhat dry omelet de la huerta ($10) laden with asparagus, Andean corn, mushrooms, spinach and feta, or a gratifying salmon benedict ($12) of two poached eggs and pisco-cured salmon gravlax on English muffins in a bright lemon hollandaise.
Traditional alfajores, dulce de leche-smeared cookie sandwiches dusted in powdered sugar, make a lovely finish.