While some people are busy wringing their hands over the alleged demise of downtown San Francisco, others are ready to raise a glass. In fact, if you’ve been paying attention you may have noticed there’s been a bar boom in the city’s Financial District and SoMa neighborhoods that includes the debut of glamorous coastal Italian-inspired Bar Sprezzatura, late-night cocktail and sushi hotspot Dragon Horse Bar, and Heartwood, the upcoming bar from the Beehive and Treasury teams.
Now you can add to the list one more destination for post-work food and drink: As of Thursday, March 23, downtown will have a new option for a Peruvian-style get-together full of pisco cocktails and fresh ceviche. La Mar Bar, the cocktail lounge adjacent to La Mar Cocina Peruana at Pier 1 ½ on the Embarcadero, will serve new food and drink menus seven days a week from 5 to 9 p.m. On top of what might be the Bay Area’s largest selection of pisco and a menu of Peruvian-influenced snacks, the refreshed bar hopes to draw downtown workers with live music, DJs, and other entertainment.
The bar returns from an 8-week renovation with an expanded footprint and refreshed design. Thomas Medl, La Mar director of operations, says after the restaurant’s 15 years in business, the bar deserved a little attention. “The bar, before, it was a great happy hour spot,” Medl says. “It was a nice space, but ultimately it needed that TLC.” To give it a bit more space, the team converted some former office space into a sleek, blue-and-green room with 13 seats at a bar encased in fish scale-like glazed ceramic tile. The rest of the lounge’s approximately 36 seats come in the form of high-tops and lounge seating, with the focal point of the design being a hand-woven calamari created by Peruvian artisan David Goicochea, which swims from the 18-foot ceiling.
Though the happy hour menu will continue to go down over at the restaurant’s ceviche bar, La Mar Bar does hope to draw office-goers for post-work drinks. The bar menu offered here stands completely separate from what’s available inside the restaurant proper, and the team aimed to showcase the bar’s vast selection of pisco and agave spirits. For the espresso martini fanatics, there’s a Que Bacan, which starts with aromatic Barsol pisco torontel and adds Kahlua, espresso, and Lustau East India sherry. The Pasado de Moda could be viewed as a riff on an Old Fashioned, pairing Maker’s Mark bourbon and La Diablada pisco acholado with rooibos demerara, spiced chocolate bitters, and hickory smoke.
Meanwhile, on the food side, executive chef Victoriano Lopez focused on plates that can be shared with a group. In keeping with what the restaurant has always done best, there’s a list of Peruvian nigiri including a scallop nigiri with artichoke and Parmesan sauce that comes crowned with caviar. “It’s almost like eating a cloud,” Medl promises. “Airy, salty from caviar, sweet from scallops.” Expect an array of crispy-shelled taquitos filled with salmon, hamachi, and local Dungeness crab.
Despite there being some larger plates including a marinated chicken thigh, stuffed oxtail, and a South American version of fondue that’s studded with oversize Peruvian corn, Medl stresses La Mar Bar is, squarely, a bar. “I don’t think you want to consider it as a restaurant,” he says. “I think this space is really meant to be a great spot to meet other people and enjoy the food and drinks.”
La Mar Bar at La Mar Cocina Peruana, Pier 1 ½ on the Embarcadero, reopens Thursday, March 23, and will serve food and drinks from 5 to 9 p.m. seven days a week.