Gaston Acurio is a man of many talents. He's a celebrity chef, writer, businessman, and the Peruvian ambassador of food. Yesterday, he was in town for a meet-and-greet at the location of his upcoming project, La Mar by Gaston Acurio at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
Short Order was invited to try some bites off the menu, meet executive chef Diego Oka, and check out the space that was once home to Cafe Sambal. The restaurant is currently slated to open in mid-February.
With the restaurant still under construction, we sat outside and were greeted by pisco sours in what will soon be La Mar's outdoor seating. Oka was busy mixing up cebiche mixto rocoto leche de tigre with snapper, shrimp, sweet potato, and Peruvian corn. Another ceviche that really stood out was the cebiche nikkei, featuring ahi tuna with sweet tamarind, leche de tigre, cucumber, daikon, sesame oil, and nori.
Acurio spoke to the group and explained his philosophy on chefs, food, and the power of story telling.
"Ninety percent of the recognition goes to the chefs, but they need ingredients. It's the responsibility of the chef to put farmers and fishermen in the picture. It's the best moment ever for chefs. You can cook amazing food and at the same time build great stories," he said.
"Diego [Oka] will lead the spirit and soul of this restaurant. We arrive with our recipes, our flavors, but we work with the best local fisheries and tell their stories."
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When we asked Acurio why he decided to open in Miami, he responded: "In Miami, you see Peruvian food growing faster than in any other city. Young guys are opening and small and medium-sized Peruvian restaurants. Mandarian Oriental recognized this and reached out. I said yes, immediately."
He believes La Mar will be unlike other Peruvian restaurants in this city: "We do Peruvian seafood. We are a cebicheria, our rule is to use the best seafood. Because this is the Mandarin Oriental, service will be top notch. It's not a very formal restaurant, it's casual. A place for celebrating with piscos."
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