Zazu, Quito, Ecuador: High class at high altitude

  08.07.14    Ecuador

Zazu delivered the perfect first night’s dinner for two weary and altitude-adjusting travelers fresh off the plane(s) from Hong Kong, LA and Miami. After you pass an envy-inducing wine cellar, the bright, sleek main dining room has a buzzy, laid-back international feel to it, with Brazilians, Ecuadorians and Brits happily gassing, gossiping and gorging at the tables immediately around us.

Zazu Quito
Choices, choices

It’s clearly a place to see and be seen in Quito, although after two glasses of robust Malbec at an altitude of 12,500 feet, I wasn’t sure exactly what I was seeing. Thankfully the food grounded me again.

The menu is eclectic but also firmly rooted in Ecuador, featuring quirky and contemporary takes on classic dishes and national favorites. Any Quitano or Guayaquileno (From Ecuador’s second city, on the coast) will proudly tell you that ceviche is an Ecuadorean dish, one subsequently and shamelessly nicked by their Peruvian neighbors. Regardless of its questionable geographical origins, ceviche is a fine addition to any menu wherever it is served. At Zazu, amongst a veritable ocean of options, I went for the ‘Pangora’ or local stone crab, served elegantly and simply with olive oil, chilli and, of course, lime juice. It was nothing short of sensational, light and bright, bold and zesty all at once.

Zazu Quito
Ceviche – from Ecuador, not Peru

Next up was a frankly outrageous idea, a suckling pig taquito, or rolled taco. The slowly rendered lechon skin still retained its bite, while the meat underneath was a marriage made in heaven alongside the dipping sauces of joy, a chipotle aioli and the tart, orangey ‘mojo cubano’. Fidel would have been proud.

Sucking pig taquitos

After that stunning heart-stopper,  the levels of decadence reached a crescendo with a spinach manchego gratin and an asparagus feta risotto. Did I mention cheese is popular in Ecuador?

Mas queso, por favor – gratin and risotto

As our body clocks told us it was breakfast, we reluctantly passed on desserts. All told, Zazu was  the perfect intro to the intriguing, surprising and often excellent world of Ecuadorean food.