There’s something about the desserts at Casa Gangotena that feels like a true indulgence, the most special of treats in all their childlike glory. It’s the setting: the elegantly restored townhouse full of gorgeous antiques, staffed by attentive and stylish waiters. It’s the sensory delight: pastel-colored or vibrant, scattered and steaming, smelling and tasting like something you can’t quite put your finger on from a long-forgotten memory, fizzing, crunching and crackling. And it’s the story: the carefully developed concept that is so very unique yet so entirely, authentically Ecuadorian. If you’re itching to try some of the best desserts in Quito, Casa Gangotena is the place to be.
Taste the flavors of Ecuador’s most traditional desserts!
Diners don’t come to restaurants for culinary philosophies, they come for good food. Yet the one in play at Casa Gangotena’s restaurant, in both the dessert and main menu, adds a deeper understanding, a deeper flavor even, to each of the delicious dishes. Developed by Metropolitan Touring’s Gastronomic Director, Byron Rivera, and Casa Gangotena’s Head Chef, Andres Robles, Mestizo Cuisine takes “a mixture of distinct cultures that gives rise to a new one” as its starting point.
The gastronomic approach embraces all periods of Ecuador’s history, from indigenous and Incan communities to Spanish colonizers and later European influences. It is inspired by Casa Gangotena’s location among the museums, plazas, churches, and markets of the Quito Historic Center and the mansion’s own illustrious history as the home of presidents and intellectuals. And finally, it puts faith, value, and pride in real Ecuadorian products, emphasizing local ingredients, and the stories from where they came.
“We are Ecuadorian cooks making Ecuadorian cuisine,” Rivera told one magazine.
Theorizing is all well and good, but it doesn’t exactly make the mouth water. So what does Mestizo Cuisine look like on a plate? The chocolate volcano with mandarin helado de paila with lemon verbena is a textbook example.
A visual feast as well as a culinary one, the helado de paila (“dish ice cream” would be its literal translation) is created on a cart before your eyes. In homage to the beloved helado de paila vendors who are such a part of the Quito Old Town landscape (and its soundscape with their echoing yells), the Casa Gangotena version is made in a shiny bronze bowl on a bed of straw. Mandarin juice is poured in and then – the magic – liquid nitrogen is poured on top, billowing with enchanting ‘smoke’ as it is whisked into the juice, freezing it into a solid form. It is pure, fabulous wizardry in a beloved Quito tradition, reloaded with jaw-dropping execution. And that’s only the half of it.
Watch the video of the helado de paila magic trick.
The helado de paila is the sideshow to a most deserving megastar: the chocolate volcano. Perhaps inspired by the most quiteño of geographic phenomena (or, perhaps not), the oh-so-rich dessert is made from a top-quality, socially, and environmentally responsible Ecuadorian chocolate. Pacari is multi-award-winning biodynamic chocolate that celebrates the finest Ecuadorian cacao and techniques, sourcing the beans from small-scale farmers in the Amazon region. It’s an incredible story in itself. And it’s just one ingredient.
Aside from the normal dessert menu, the restaurant also serves seasonal classics. Traditional to the Easter period, higos con queso is one of these, a seemingly innocuous combination, but one that makes Ecuadorians misty-eyed with nostalgia for their grandmother’s home cooking. The Mestizo Cuisine incarnation sources local figs uses a lovingly homemade syrup, and the lightest, fluffiest cheese from nearby markets. No smoke and mirrors here: Casa Gangotena knows that you don’t mess with the classics.
Desserts, sweets, puddings, and treats are two-a-penny in Quito. But at Casa Gangotena they’re given special status. Only here will you taste hundreds of years of culinary tradition in one mouthful, and have each one of your five senses delighted. Don’t leave dessert as an after-thought: at the Old Town’s finest hotel, it’s the main event.