by Kane Platt
Coming full-circle, Hooligan Eats takes us to La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, which took over the old Tabla space in the Flatiron near Hooligan headquarters. La Mar specializes in, drumroll . . . “ceviche,” as it’s typically spelled in America. While disputes over the dish’s origins remain to be settled, we’ll defer to La Mar’s “B” usage given some legit testimony we found pointing to present-day Peru.
We hadn’t been back to the Tabla space in a while when Barney, Eric and I were recently planning a dinner outing. I thought, “Oh, this place La Mar opened a year ago and we haven’t been over to check it out yet.”
Eric and I arrived first. Barney, busy as usual, would be 45 minutes late. So we started with a few cocktails while waiting. The drinks were spicy and delicious. A lot of La Mar’s specialty cocktails use Pisco, which is a type of Peruvian liqueur made from distilled grapes — similar to brandy. Pisco Sours are the more famous drinks on the menu, along with a couple others that were really terrific like The Chilcano made with Pisco, ginger, and lime.
Food-wise, La Mar was quite wonderful and, overall, an excellent experience. Beautiful, elegant fresh fish served with very delicate and wonderfully flavored sauces. The tuna there was amazing and the fluke was tasty, too. The grilled meats and other things were also terrific. As expected, the cebiche was the star, served with large chewy kernals of Peruvian corn.
La Mar was quite a departure from my first cebiche experience in Peru on my honeymoon years back. My wife and I ate lots of it there, but the usual raw fish cured in lime juice and seasoning came with an odd topper: popcorn. There would be this bowl of cebiche with some vegetables, tomatoes and things like that, and then garnished with all these spiced puffed kernels. It was really weird.
As far as ambience, you could say La Mar is pretty formal so it was kind of an odd choice for the three of us. We want to hang out at a place that feels comfortable and warm and more fun. Being housed in such a large space makes La Mar feel kind of cold and impersonal. It’s this vast multi-level space with an upstairs and a downstairs. But I think the big problem, really, is the way it’s decorated with a weird generic-modern vibe. Eric said it looks like a fancy restaurant in a shopping mall. The rooms feel cold and dingy.
In summary, La Mar is great if you want cebiche and a spicy drink — especially if you’re into Chewy Peruvian corn (is anyone?). The service is terrific, we really enjoyed the food and we’d be happy to go back — although its just too cold and sort of “corporate” to be a favorite.