Limon finally reopened a month ago after a fire. In the year and a half it took to rebuild, Peruvian cooking jumped out of neighborhoods onto The Embarcadero, where La Mar Cebicheria burst onto the scene. Straight from Lima, it brought the high-style, cutting-edge excitement of big-city Latin American restaurants to The City.
So it’s a good thing Limon has relaunched with a hot new look and an urban vibe. It still keeps one foot in the neighborhood with a communal table and plenty of first-come bar and counter seating, but a quieter mezzanine with lime-green leather banquettes and dark wood tables and chairs provides the comfort for a full evening of culinary entertainment.
The fun starts with dishes from the cebiche bar. In tres tiempos ($14), slices of ono, red snapper and ahi each get their own modulated, creamy-textured Peruvian salsas built with tropical fruits, Peruvian herbs and a spectrum of fresh and dried chilies. The pastel sauces support the delicate and elusive flavor of raw fish.
Atun al Tausi ($16) evokes filet of beef, each deep red slice of ahi coated around the edges with powdered fermented black beans, adding a truffle-like quality contrasted by a tart-sweet tamarind sauce.
Thick medallions of charcoal-grilled octopus ($12) have a wondrous texture, a standoff between tender and chewy that gives it the heft of meat. A sprightly salad of Incan quinoa ($8) is like a fine grained tabouli, except with avocado, olives, hearts of palm and a lively, fruity dressing. If you share cebiches and appetizers, not everyone at the table needs a main course, but don’t neglect them. They are some of the best dishes on the menu, especially a whole fried red snapper ($24). Mine the head for the best bits. Dip the fish into a velvety rocoto chili curry. A molded mound of coconut fried rice is so luscious, it may cause fights.
Lomo saltado ($21) also causes the normally generous to covet. Juicy fingers of sirloin are wok-tossed with strips of red onion, tomato and soy sauce, creating a smoky dark gravy, which also sauces a top knot of french fries wrapped in a fried plantain ribbon, Peruvian-Chinese-steak frites!
For dessert, choose lasana amazonica ($8), a delicate construct of caramelized paper-thin slices of pineapple layered with puffy guava cream, surrounded by strawberry sauce, crowned with spun, caramelized sugar.
I like a glass of versatile cava ($8), Spanish sparkling wine with the appetizers, and then a soft Argentinean pinot noir from Alfred Roca ($8/$30) with real pinot noir character for the entrees.
Patricia Unterman is author of the second edition of the “San Francisco Food Lovers’ Pocket Guide.” Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Location: 524 Valencia St. (near 16th Street), San Francisco
Contact: (415) 252-0918
Hours: Dinner 5 to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday
Price range: Cebiche and appetizers, $3 to $16; entrees $17 to $25
Recommended dishes: Tiradito tres tiempos; quinoa salad; grilled octopus; lomo saltado; whole crispy red snapper; lasana amazonica
Credit cards: All major