La Costanera 8150 Cabrillo Hwy. (Hwy.1), (650) 728-1600. D Tu-Sun; $$$.
Perched on a bluff above the ocean, this restaurant has three levels, with high ceilings and tall windows that provide a spectacular ocean view for everyone. Wood chairs with metal frames and a swivel back are particularly comfortable. So it is a surprise to have the added pleasure of a menu featuring deliciously prepared contemporary Peruvian cuisine. The way to go with the extensive menu is tapas and pisco sours. Ceviche/cebiche (seafood marinated in, and cooked by, citrus juice) is the national dish of Peru, and here it is prepared with a variety of fish and shellfish and served with enhancing sauces. The halibut version is embellished with crunchy fried dried corn kernels, that alone is good enough reason to order the dish. A tasting of three causas (mashed potatoes) is served in a row of colorful scoops (our waitress informed us that 236 kinds of potato are grown in Peru!). A highlight is choclo Peruano (Peruvian corn with huge kernels, flown in from the mother country, grilled on cob, and topped with a tasty cheese-red pepper sauce). Choose a fried chicarrones--delicious chicken, fish, calamari, or portabello mushrooms--and crispy yucca balls stuffed with chorizo are a must. The entrée menu includes some larger portion delights: adobo de chancho (pork shoulder slow braised in dark beer); lomo saltado, also referred to as the Peruvian national dish (a stir-fry of beef tenderloin, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and soy sauce; seafood paella. Octopus and mussels appear in several dishes. Dessert brings on a refreshing passion fruit panna cotta as well as alfajores and flan, and brewed coffee—not Nescafe, as is the disappointing standard through South America. The downstairs bar opens onto a sheltered outdoor patio with comfortable seating, heat lamps, and several fire pits. Allow time before or after to walk down the adjacent steps to the spectacular beach in front for a refreshing stroll, and don’t be surprised if you see a long line of pelicans fly by while you’re dining.
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