In 2002, Embarcadero 41 opened its first outpost in the ceviche capital of the world, Peru. Twelve years and 12 restaurants later, the Peruvian fusion eatery has embarked on a transatlantic journey and landed in Miami. It's the brand's first outpost in the states and they couldn't have picked a better place. "We had our eyes set on two other locations -- one in Chile -- and abandoned both to come build our presence here," said vice president of operations Jose Carlos Morales.
The restaurant's been soft open for a couple of weeks now and prepping for a grand opening in the end of July. We were invited for a first taste of what Peruvian fusion from authentic Peruvians tastes like.
Worker bees in downtown will rejoice in having yet another Peruvian addition to the neighborhood. La Granja and Ceviche 105 are the current options, and Embarcadero competes within that same price range. "We chose Miami because of the huge Latin influence here and the fact that we didn't have to come in to a new place and introduce the cuisine," Morales said. "What Ceviche 105 has done in Miami for Peruvian cuisine is impressive."
The 150-seat restaurant has a maritime feel, with deep blue booths, sandstone columns, bamboo walls, and a lone patch of grass on one wall. The story of ceviche, lomo saltado, and other classic Peruvian staples are chalked on boards alongside the walls, giving guests a bit of history with their meal.
There's also reading material: It's called the Embarcadero 41 menu, and it's 60 pages. With an introduction and several chapters -- piqueos calientes (hot stuff); piqueos frios (cold stuff); ceviches; tiraditos; al carbon (on the grill); criollo fusion (creole fusion); fish meats and birds; pastas, rice and risottos; tacu tacus and chicharrones, and soups - you won't be bored or hungry.
Executive chef Carlo Huerta's has taken Peruvian traditions and added his own twist. Order a chupe de camarones (shrimp chowder) laden with white cheese, head on shrimp, beans, and a fried egg, or their signature dish -- a three-cheese tacu tacu. Rice and beans are fried in olive oil and topped with a mountain of seafood and sauce. The whole thing is bound by a three-cheese au gratin.
A triplet of ceviches ($25) is the best way to taste all that Embarcadero has to offer. Rocoto pepper, aji Amarillo and the traditional corvine ceviche with lime juice, cilantro and fresh onions make up this trio.
We see your causa and raise you a maki causa, which stuffs rolled mashed potatoes with crabmeat and drenches it with rocoto pepper cream sauce, toragashi and handashi spices. For Huerta, this is a definite must have for anyone visiting Embarcadero. A full serving costs $10.50.
In the hot appetizer section, the octopus ($10.50) is marinated in panko chili pepper sauce and served alongside sautéed puffed corn and golden potatoes.
Normally, anticuchos come in a pair and with spaghetti in huancaina sauce, the same sauce Peruvians like to put on their potatoes. Well, Huerta puts it on pasta. He also does spaghetti saltado (lomo saltado but with pasta).
Shots during lunch are totally acceptable, especially when they shots of tiger's milk ($10.50). In Peru, "leche de tigre" is referred to as the marinade that cooks the seafood in ceviche. It's a blend of all great things -- jalapeno, lime juice, pepper, cilantro. The list can go on forever. Served alongside ceviche or by itself as a hangover cure, tiger's milk is also an aphrodisiac. You might wanna take it easy.
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For a dish that's a bit Miami, Peruvian, and somewhat Japanese, go for the chaufa charapa ($13.50). Shrimp fried rice has soy sauce, sesame oil, scallions, pineapple, maduros, and wonton crisps.
Embarcadero 41 is open seven days a week, from noon to 11 p.m.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha