Jay Cheshes at Time Out New York had the most polite things to say, giving La Mar 4 stars. He hailed the restaurant as “our first world class Peruvian import.” Cheshes raves about the ceviches, the causas, and even the lomo saltado, but knows enough about Peruvian food to realize there is much more to it. La Mar is just the start. My thoughts align with his for the most part.
Steve Cuozzo at the NYPost gave the restaurant 2.5 stars. He had more or less the same front of the house experience as I did (lost reservation; odd front of the house response), though found the food to be “a whirlwind of exotic flavors.”
There is also little bit of a backlash against La Mar, partially because all the hype of some bloggers and writers that were giving the impression that this was to be the best Peruvian restaurant…ever. That was never the intention. It is meant to elevate and educate Peruvian cuisine in New York, not win a Michelin star.
Ryan Sutton at Bloomberg News wasn’t so pleased. He called the food bland and forgettable and likened the restaurant to “the Andean equivalent of TGI Friday’s.” Ouch.
Robert Sietsema at the Village Voice, who I admire greatly, had a mixed review. He calls La Mar an “upscale Peruvian place with perfect ceviches and mediocre everything else.” Note: he also had a similar front of the house experience.
Sietsema is proud of the diversity of the Peruvian restaurants in the five boroughs, which he has explored quite thoroughly. Apart from the ceviches, he recommends to save your money and head to one of those instead of going to La Mar. Here’s where I disagree: that you can get dishes just as good elsewhere. The problem with most Peruvian restaurants in New York or the United States is their lack of fresh ingredients, which in Peruvian food means everything. This is New York’s first taste of many fresh Peruvian flavors. Small restaurants, while their cooking abilities are up to par, are buying frozen in most cases. Frozen ajis, frozen choclos, processed and powdered lucuma and huacatay. La Mar, and I’d throw Panca in the West Village in too, are the only Peruvian restaurants serving actual Peruvian ingredients. Period. You’ll pay out the ass for them, sure, and from his review the execution wasn’t great on a few dishes (which stinks and is inexcusable), but ifyou want to actually taste what thehype is about, La Mar is pretty much the only place we have for the moment unless you head down to Peru.
They’ve recently added brunch, happy hours, and an exceptionally well priced lunch tasting menu. The restaurant does have some work to do, but I think chef Victoriano Lopez and Gaston are on the right track. Be patient.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.