Diego Oka’s new vibe: La Mar’s Executive Chef marks the Miami restaurant’s 5th anniversary with a revamped menu

La Mar's new Torrejas de Choclo option.

Now more than ever, Diego Oka’s signature ease at blending a medley of cultures in his dishes shines through. As Miami’s La Mar by Gastón Acurio at Mandarin Oriental celebrates its fifth anniversary, Executive Chef Oka—along with his multicultural kitchen team— has created an impressive list of new menu items launching today that honor his mentor Acurio’s gastronomic movement, which highlighted the influence of other cultures in Peruvian cuisine.

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MICHAEL PISARRI. The Muchame appetizer option adds mucho flavor to Oka's new menu.

New menu, who ‘dis?

The restaurant’s new offerings introduce a host of new dishes and enhancements to existing classics, an innovative fusion on tiki drinks and Peruvian ingredients, and a new dessert concept inspired by the various ecosystems and physical locales in Peru.

New to the Piqueos Frios menu is the Nigiri Anticuchero ($9), a traditional shaped-by-hand seasoned sushi rice topped with a slice of salmon torched with miso anticuchera sauce brings a twist on Peruvian cuisine’s Japanese influence to the table. The Torrejas de Choclo dish ($22) is less an actual torreja and more of a flat, crunchy corn fritter topped with a mildly spiced seafood cebiche. Unforgettable appetizers include the Muchame ($18), a lusciously textured house cured salmon that makes every bite an experiment in pleasure when combined with generous amount of the silky, well emulsified Leche de Tigre, minced purple onion, capers and avocado slices that are accompanied by saltine crackers.

Main events

If you are a mole lover, try the Mole Nikkei ($29), which to our surprise has no cocoa, but is the result of slow heating milk until it separates and caramelizes. The addition of more than a dozen Peruvian and Japanese spices, makes for a rich mole, the canvas to tender slices of pork belly and pickled cauliflower florets, served with a side of house-made blue corn tortillas.

The Branzino Chifa ($29) is a nod to Peru’s Chinese community with a tender steamed filet served with vegetables, shiitake mushrooms and white chaufa rice. Two dishes for sharing include a platter of cebiche mixtos, jalea de marisco and crab causa in El Cebichero ($52) and the Planchaza ($69), a mixed grill of seafood served with anticuchero sauce, butter, lime and chimichurri sauce.

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MICHAEL PISARRI. The Maiz Morado dessert is as delicious as it is colorful.

Desserts include the impressive presentation of the Huatia, caramel cremeux with chocolate “soil” served inside a vessel made out of a hollowed tree bark. The Piña Borracha features a pineapple chunk soaked in Pisco and roasted to a nice caramelized color crowning a coconut-lime cake with pistachio lime emulsion.

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MICHAEL PISARRI. The Instagram-worthy Barrel O' Pisco.

Drink them up

The latest cocktail offerings are no less innovative. Iain Harrison, Mandarin Oriental’s beverage director has created a series of summery and breezy Peruvian-inspired Tiki cocktails like the shareable Barrel O’Pisco ($30) where Pisco and rum interact with elderflower liquor and lemongrass-infused syrup, watermelon and lemon juices. Those who have a sweeter palette would delight in the Seized in Lima ($17), a blend of Pisco and gin, touches of chartreuse and banana liqueurs, with just the right amount of coconut water, lime, simple syrup and fresh cilantro. The hauntingly delicious Ghost of Azul ($17) made with spiced passion fruit, lime and orange juices with nutty orgeat will enchant, and pairs perfectly with Oka’s exquisitely balanced new menu.

La Mar by Gaston Acurio is located at the Mandarin Oriental Miami, 500 Brickell Key Dr, Miami, FL 33131. For reservations call 305-913-8358.