Home World Travel Lift A Fork In Quito, Ecuador

Lift A Fork In Quito, Ecuador

15 min read

From the balcony of the Hotel Castillo Vista del Angel high on the eastern flanks of Quito, the sky above seems sprinkled with a dew of diamond stars, while below thousands of flickering city lights like radiating fireflies create a fascinating glow. A keen, piercing wind skims across the dramatic volcanic-edged cityscape intensifying the remarkable sensations created by the majestic vista.

colonial buildings in downtown Quito, Ecuador
An example of Quito’s stunning colonial architecture. Photograph by Halina Kubalski

The city lies on the lower slopes of the Pichincha Volcano in a narrow Andean valley at an implausible 9,350-feet above sea level, where dynamic and imaginative Quiteno chefs have noticeably advanced the city’s dining prospects. The youthful and flourishing chefs, influenced by ancient preparations and produce grown by local farmers in rich volcanic soil, have also augmented their culinary skills in Europe and elsewhere. Now they are busy creating inspired offerings spawned from the interplay of Incan, Spanish, traditional Ecuadorian, and South American mores. With new restaurants on the rise, Quito’s gastronomic prospects are worthy of exploration.

Epicureans can take pleasure in a traditional Ecuadorian lunch by partaking of one of the legendary variations of Ecuadorian soups. The much-loved potato soup, a Quito specialty often accompanied by fresh avocado slices, cheese, and a sizzling hot sauce, is found on menus throughout the city. Encebollado, regarded as a national dish, is a succulent fish soup prepared, in one rendition, with slabs of fresh tuna, cassava root or yucca, sliced tomatoes, a sprinkling of cilantro, and a variety of spices, with pickled onions. Quito chefs put a spin on their individual sopa or soup adaptations choosing from an array of Andean potatoes, squash, quinoa, and various combinations of fresh seafood, spices, herbs, and exotic fruit.

classic Quito potato soup at the Plaza Grande Hotel
The classic Quito potato soup with cheese and a slice of avocado at the Plaza Grande Hotel. Photograph by Halina Kubalski

Gourmands hot on the Quito food trail will encounter Cevichochos, a vegetarian ceviche; Seco de Chive, a tasty goat stew; and Empanadas, a half-moon turnover overflowing with everything from mashed green plantains, cheese, and shrimp, to green peas, raisins, and rice. Classic Ecuadorian cooking is abundant at Mercado Central and the older Mercado San Francisco dating to 1893, located in the indigenous San Roque neighborhood where small stoves are steaming with deep-fried green plantains.

Restaurants included below all stress quality and freshness, and source their produce from local organic farmers. Thankfully, smoking is taboo in Quito restaurants, but bottled water is recommended.

dining at Zasu restaurant, Quito, Ecuador
Zazu is one of Ecuador’s top ranked restaurants. Noted in 2015 by CNN as one of the world’s top 15 restaurants. Photograph by Halina Kubalski

Zasu in the north of Quito, noted by CNN in 2015 as one of the world’s top 15 restaurants, currently remains among Quito’s elite. Quitenos admire the imaginative menu of Executive Chef, Wilson Alpala, 28, who has created a notable table with his Roasted Tomato Soup, Asparagus Risotto, and a Cazuela shaped with prawns, plantain, and peanut ‘salprieta’ assembled in a rich sauce. The elegant and modern two-level room has a 10-page wine list showcasing 1,300 vintages in a large, glassed sphere artistically spiraling upward.

Assistant Che, Christian Pilajo, presenting a cooking demonstration of classic Ecuadorian cuisine at Plaza Grande Hotel, Quito
Assistant Chef, Christian Pilajo, presenting a cooking demonstration of classic Ecuadorian cuisine. Photograph by Halina Kubalski

Chefs at Plaza Grande Hotel, in an historic, restored Spanish colonial mansion on the edge of Independence Square in the heart of Old Town, offer cooking classes on a lower floor. Assistant Chef, Christian Pillajo, age 25, meticulously demonstrates the classic Ecuadorian ceviche topped with toasted corn, and dessert is a taste of strawberry ice cream made in a large copper pan on a thick bed of ice. Pillajo said, “Cooking is the basis of life for me. I experiment at home with different flavors, spices and herbs, and I also love chocolate because we have the best chocolate in the world.”

Chef Sebastian Moscoso at Restaurant Santa Rosa Historica. The restaurant also is home to a large selection of craft beer and ale on tap. Photograph by Halina Kubalski

Restaurante Santa Rosa Historica: Three spirited brothers in an historic 1845 building, working with hops, malts, and Andean grains have fashioned, American Style craft beers and ales on tap which flourish nicely with 28-year old Chef Sebastian Moscoso’s inspired menu of salmon, marinated with honey and ginger sauce, grilled in a banana leaf, and served with yucca croquettes and vegetables, or a well-chosen deep fried Ecuadorian shrimp dish together with a spicy house sauce and French fries.

dining table at La Mirage Garden Hotel & Spa
The La Mirage Garden Hotel & Spa, honored with numerous prestigious awards for their cuisine and hotel, is a two-hour drive from Quito to Cotacachi. Photograph by Halina Kubalski

La Mirage Garden Hotel & Spa: The two-hour drive from Quito to the town of Cotacachi and the La Mirage Garden Hotel, a former hacienda, converted to an award-winning restaurant and 23-suite hotel, is an admirable culinary journey. Attracting celebrities world-wide with a lavish and stylish hacienda-style dining ambience, the overwhelming essence of the property is one of elegance and romance.

classic dish from the Andean Highlands prepared by Chef Flores, La Mirage Garden Hotel & Spa
A classic dish from the Andean Highlands prepared by Chef Flores. Photograph by Halina Kubalski

Chef Flores, clocking in at La Mirage for some 25-year, s delivers straight forward cooking with a traditional, indigenous potato soup with fresh farm cheese. Other specialties are also from the Andean Highlands such as morsels of seasoned pork, potato dumplings filled with farm cheese, and an avocado Empanada with toasted corn.

Chef Alejandro Chamorro at Nuema Restaurant, Illa Experience Hotel, Quito
Neuma is recognized throughout Ecuador for Chef Alejandro Chamorro’s, use of traditional Andean and classic cuisine with combinations of Andean roots and sauces combined with intensive research from a past era. Photograph by Halina Kubalski

Neuma: Chef Alejandro Chamorro who worked at NOMA, a two-Michelin-Star restaurant in Copenhagen, and at the famed Astrid and Gaston Restaurant in Lima, has journeyed back to the roots of Inca and Andean cooking. Chamorro’s farm to table insights and distinct cooking style can pull diners from their comfort zone with new tastes. With soft background jazz heard on the sound system, and Chamorro toiling in the open kitchen, his small bites unfold temptingly: first, a portion of watermelon with a mint leaf; then, a cube of tender pork with Andean root and sauces; next, a soup prepared in the traditional style of the region layered with milk foam and a cheese truffle served in a capachino cup. A petite portion of lamb with fermented corn, with touches of cauliflower, light cream and kale tucked into in a small square cube, enhance the ongoing wonder of Chamorro’s cooking skills.

bread selection at Quitu restaurant, Quito
Quitu has three pre-set menus’ and cook with organic Ecuadorian ingredients. Their selection of bread is made in house along with house-made flavored butters. Photograph by Halina Kubalski

Quitu: Chef Sebastian Perez and his vigilant staff have designed Quitu around traditional 100 % organic Ecuadorian ingredients with three prix fixe tasting selections in a colorful room with a welcoming wood burning stove tucked between tables. Starters are a selection of freshly baked bread made in house with six flavored butters and herbs. A sea bass marinated in banana passion fruit together with roasted corn, peppered and smoked, is prepared to be shared family style, while course-after-course are served on small heavy stones and crude wood platters of various shapes. The array of new tastes derives from ancient cooking practices using Maiz Morado, a dark Kulli corn originating in the Andes Highlands, and Mashua, a South American edible plant. Quitu does not offer sodas. Filtered water and a small wine list are available.

view of Quito, Ecuador
Quito stands at 9,350 feet above sea level, the second highest official capital city in the world after La Paz, Bolivia. Photograph by Halina Kubalski

Pizzamama in La Ronda, Quito’s striking block-long, pedestrian-only enclave of craftsmen, artists and boutiques, is a small multi-hued, café, bakery and pizza room on Morales Street. The name is a clever reference to the indigenous Quichua Pachamama Motherland. With 10 tables, and a non-pretentious, relaxing ambience, Pizzamama offers Ecuadorian beer on tap, wine, and a delightful hot bun with figs.

At Saguamby, it seems as if you are sitting on the crown of Quito. Nestled atop Hotel Castillo Vista del Angel with an unparalleled 360-degree view of the city, the restaurant is home to Chef, Mijael Proano, 25, who cooks with long-established Ecuadorian products. Proano’s fresh sea bass with garlic, herbs and spices is admired by both Quitenos and visitors alike.

WHEN YOU GO

Visit Quito

Bi-lingual Tour Guide, Marcelo Guerra, born and raised in Quito, is a great asset for those with time restraints.

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