La Mar Cebicheria Peruana 328 The Embarcadero/Washington St., at Pier 1½, (415) 397-8880. L-D daily; $$-$$$. Reservations advised. Here, authentic Peruvian cuisine is the focus and small plates-sharing is the format. You’ll do well to order a selection of plates from the cebiches (Peru’s national dish of marinated seafood), causas (assorted kinds of potatoes, whipped and topped with something tasty), ensaladas (Peruvian-inspired salads), empanadas (delectable little pie turnovers with various fillings and dipping sauces), and anticuchos (traditional grilled skewers of fish or meat). Larger main courses and vegetarian and glutton-free items are also available. My favorites are the complimentary “bread” course of fried plantain, sweet potato, and regular potato chips served with two dipping sauces, and anything with the big kernels of chewy Peruvian corn in it (the crispy-crusted crescent empanadas filled with a mashed sweet corn-cilantro mix are to-die for). A dessert trio is perfect if you can’t make up your mind, but the word is the traditional picarones consisting of warm pumpkin and sweet potato fritters with spiced honey is a winner. A full bar serves an impressive selection of pisco cocktails (it is Peru’s national drink), and I can vouch for the punch packed by both the Pisco Sour and the tasty and beautiful passion fruit-based Maracuya Sour. A few Peruvian vintages are among the wine offerings, and beer and sake are also options. The best water view is available on the tent-enclosed dockside patio, but the vast interior room with its high ceiling, banquettes, attractive minimalist décor, and exhibition kitchen (you might get to see Executive Chef cutie Diego Oka in action) has its own charms.
images c2012 Carole Terwilliger Meyers