<div class="at-above-post-arch-page addthis_tool" data-url="https://www.casagangotena.com/mikuy-comida-domicilio/"></div>¡Descubre la experiencia de Restaurante Casa Gangotena con nuestra nueva línea Mikuy a domicilio! Mira cuál es la diferencia y programa tu pedido hoy mismo.<!-- AddThis Advanced Settings above via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Advanced Settings below via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Advanced Settings generic via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Share Buttons above via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Share Buttons below via filter on get_the_excerpt --><div class="at-below-post-arch-page addthis_tool" data-url="https://www.casagangotena.com/mikuy-comida-domicilio/"></div><!-- AddThis Share Buttons generic via filter on get_the_excerpt -->
<div class="at-above-post-arch-page addthis_tool" data-url="https://www.casagangotena.com/where-can-you-find-the-best-fanesca-in-quito/"></div>Wondering where the best fanesca in all of Quito is? We're here to tell you about what makes Casa Gangotena's so special and extra delicious.<!-- AddThis Advanced Settings above via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Advanced Settings below via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Advanced Settings generic via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Share Buttons above via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Share Buttons below via filter on get_the_excerpt --><div class="at-below-post-arch-page addthis_tool" data-url="https://www.casagangotena.com/where-can-you-find-the-best-fanesca-in-quito/"></div><!-- AddThis Share Buttons generic via filter on get_the_excerpt -->
<div class="at-above-post-arch-page addthis_tool" data-url="https://www.casagangotena.com/why-dine-at-casa-gangotenas-restaurant/"></div>Looking for one of the most romantic hotels in all of Quito? Casa Gangotena offers its enamored guests an experience that's unlike anything out there!<!-- AddThis Advanced Settings above via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Advanced Settings below via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Advanced Settings generic via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Share Buttons above via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Share Buttons below via filter on get_the_excerpt --><div class="at-below-post-arch-page addthis_tool" data-url="https://www.casagangotena.com/why-dine-at-casa-gangotenas-restaurant/"></div><!-- AddThis Share Buttons generic via filter on get_the_excerpt -->
When perusing the Casa Gangotena Restaurant menu, you may wonder what is implied by the phrase cocina mestiza. This is the name used to describe our style of cuisine – a blend of traditional dishes made with fresh, native ingredients, featuring incredible colors, flavors, and textures, spotlighted through modern culinary techniques. In essence, cocina mestiza is a singulardining experience that can only be enjoyed here, at our restaurant. The sensational concepts, quality ingredients, and sheer variety of offerings are a testament to the intricate levels of detail and perfection that have become synonymous with Casa Gangotena’s Restaurant.
Cocina Mestiza is Casa Gangotena’s restaurant staple cuisine.
What does cocina mestiza mean in English?
Luckily, we can easily translate cocina to “cuisine;” however the word mestiza is a little more complicated. A direct translation would tell you that it means “of mixed origin” – probably not the best translation for food!
We could loosely say that it means “mixed,” but that simply doesn’t do justice to the depth of the word in relation to the menu at Casa Gangotena. In reality, it represents the unique blend of wonderful cultures at different times in history – a tribute to Ecuador’s rich indigenous ancestry and strong European heritage. However, without knowing the backstory, it is hard to truly appreciate the exquisite experience that is cocina mestiza, which leads us to the following…
What is Ecuador’s gastronomic history?
Ecuador consists of four distinct regions. Culture and food vary quite a bit between each of these. Historically, the journey from the highlands to the coast or to the Amazon was long and arduous. The Galapagos were even more difficult to get to, as they were only accessible by plane or via a very long voyage by sea. Prior to the advent of engines, roads, and all the corresponding infrastructure, people settled in a specific region and rarely ventured far from it. This resulted in the evolution of specific traditions, distinct cooking styles, and varied diets, suited to their particular environment, topography, resources, and climate.
Indigenous tribes stuck to root vegetables, like cassava, and grains, such as quinoa, readily available in their region. They primarily ate fish and the occasional animal successfully hunted. In the 16th century, the Spaniards arrived and conquered the Inca Empire and, by extension, several local indigenous tribes. Along the way, they introduced culinary dishes from Europe, which included a lot of meat and poultry: beef, lamb, pork, and chicken. This influential event would forever change culinary styles, concepts, and food preparation throughout Ecuador.
The world has become infinitely smaller thanks to the accessibility of air travel, and the vast sharing of information via the Internet. Many people from all over the world have relocated to Ecuador, bringing with them recipes for dishes and cooking techniques from places like Europe, North America, and Asia. Conversely, in today’s day and age, there is an endless amount of information and media available online, focusing on exciting new culinary ideas. The introduction of these new concepts has led to yet another new dynamic in Ecuadorian cuisine.
Our cocina mestizaexpertly blends the largely vegetarian diet and cooking styles of the country’s first indigenous tribes with the more diverse European cuisine and premium cuts that were introduced along with it, creating an unparalleled dining experience that meshes many cultures together with unique ingredients sourced from different parts of Ecuador.
What is Casa Gangotena’s Restaurant dress code?
At Casa Gangotena, we don’t have a dress code! We strongly recommend you dress as comfortable as possible in order to enjoy the wonders of Quito’s Historic Center before or after your visit to our restaurant.
What are some examples of cocina mestiza?
Casa Gangotena’s cocina mestiza is a unique culinary adventure.
While sitting in the comfort of the magical Casa Gangotena Restaurant, you can enjoy delicious Galapagos lobster (when in season) or equally tasty prawn from the Ecuadorian Coast, prepared in a traditional coconut, or encocado, sauce from the province of Esmeraldas. This delicious dish, served with ripe plantain, lemon verbena, and rice, spotlights some of Ecuador’s most recognizable ingredients as they shine with every bite.
Another sought-after dish on the cocina mestiza menu is the Pistachio Lamb. This delicious Andean chop is enveloped in an unforgettable pistachio crust, accompanied by a creamy sweet potato and ginger purée with a rosemary and sage infusion. This incomparable treat will have your taste buds begging for more!
Some menu items may be a little hard to explain as the herbs and vegetables used are native to the area and aren’t commonly found outside Latin America. One example of this is the Andean Salad featuring a trio of red, white, and black quinoa, with chochos (lupin beans) and an ataco vinaigrette, which also incorporates fresh mashuas (a tubular vegetable native to the Andes, similar to a yam).
Fun fact: You will probably never have a chance to taste this vegetable outside of Ecuador’s highlands!
At Casa Gangotena, regional flavors come alive in our traditional dishes. Take, for example, our Citrusy Shrimp Ceviche. This Quiteño-style favorite features a refreshing citric orange and tangerine base, fresh tomato, and lemon foam. Toasted corn nuts, popcorn, and homemade plantain chips are the perfect complement to this popular offering.
The chefs at the Casa Gangotena Restaurant are constantly finding ways to improve on popular and traditional dishes. This is perhaps best exemplified by their reimagining of an Ecuadorian favorite: Potato Pork (Papas con Cuero). Textured cylinders of roast potato and pork belly confit are topped with a creamy peanut sauce and served with sliced avocado and boiled quail egg.
What other aspects distinguish Casa Gangotena’s cocina mestiza from every other restaurant?
In addition to the perfect blend of local ingredients, traditional recipes, and cultural influences, cocina mestiza also employs incredibly unique plateware. Calling upon Ecuador’s volcanic origins, the dishes used at Casa Gangotena’s Restaurant are partially made with basalt and granite. Each one contains a graphic representation of the San Francisco church in homage to Casa Gangotena’s iconic neighbor. Incredibly enough, no two plates are the same, resulting in cocina mestiza’s stunning visuals.
Casa Gangotena’s cocina mestiza is an authentic gastro-sensorial tribute to the best local and regional ingredients prepared with true culinary expertise, offering guests the opportunity to experience Ecuador’s rich culinary traditions through a modern lens, in an elegant and comfortable atmosphere. Every flavor, every sauce, and every spice has been expertly chosen to represent the very best of Ecuadorian gastronomy. More than just a menu – cocina mestiza is an intricate blend of traditional flavors and the very essence of a truly mouthwatering dining experience.
How do I get to Casa Gangotena’s Restaurant?
Though it’s fairly easy to get to Casa Gangotena from any point in Quito, here you can find directions that will help you reach our restaurant:
Casa Gangotena offers breakfast, buffet-style, 7 days a week! Beginning at 7 a.m., visitors and guests are treated to a spread like no other. Tables are piled high with a selection of juices, cereals, cold cuts, pastries, breads, and yogurt. Add to this numerous favorites like pancakes, granola, eggs, and coffee, and you have the makings of the finest breakfast in all of Quito!
The Perfect Breakfast Spot and Place to Start your Day
Casa Gangotena, in the heart of Quito’s old town, is surrounded by a charm that resonates throughout this fascinating heritage house with Art Deco- and French/Italian-inspired interiors. Its elegant dining room features high ceilings and comfortable seating in a beautiful setting. The space is filled with light, and mornings bring a buzz of activity, just beyond the dining room windows in the adjacent Plaza San Francisco. Meanwhile, waiters and waitresses greet wide-eyed guests, offering them coffee, hot chocolate, tea, juice, and cocktails, taking their order of eggs prepared as they wish, and inviting them to visit the buffet at their leisure.
What is Casa Gangotena’s Restaurant dress code?
At Casa Gangotena, we don’t have a dress code! We strongly recommend you dress comfortably, so that you’ll be ready to enjoy the wonders of Quito’s Historic Center before or after your visit to our restaurant.
Coffee, Eggs, and Pancakes!
For many folks, the day doesn’t begin until after their morning cup of coffee. Well, the good news is that here in Ecuador, the world’s most fertile volcanic soil gives way to some of the most delicious coffee you’ll ever taste! And refills are on the house.
Next up, choose some eggs pretty much any way you want them; scrambled, fried, poached, boiled, or as an omelet. Keep in mind that Casa Gangotena’s cuisine provides guests with the opportunity to experience modern takes on local and regional favorites. One of these is tigrillo (a hearty and delicious dish of mashed plantain and scrambled eggs, often combined with cheese and/or pork).
And don’t forget the pancakes! These fluffy favorites will make any breakfast feel extra special!
Breakfast Baked Goods, the Stuff of Dreams
Once your waitperson has taken your order, for things like eggs, juice, and special signature cocktails, guests are welcome to explore the buffet. Many immediately gravitate towards the exciting spread of baked goods including a variety of rolls, flaky pastries, and whole-grain bread prepared with ingredients, such as quinoa. Many of these treats are prepared with flour milled just up the road in the San Roque neighborhood. If jams and jellies are your thing, blackberry and goldenberry are just two of the distinct and exciting flavors available to round out your breakfast.
Just beyond the bread selection is the continental section: a table shining with Canadian smoked salmon, Spanish serrano ham, quiche, potato tortilla, and cheeses from around the world. Adjacent to this you may find a freshly-popped bottle of champagne, you can mix it with juice for a Bellini, or leave the bubbles untainted for a purely “sparkling” morning. The best celebratory breakfast in Quito? Absolutely.
The Best Healthy Breakfast in Quito
Sure, vacation is often a time to indulge in any number of delectable meals without analyzing their nutritional content. However, Casa Gangotena does a great job with breakfast by offering plenty of delicious and nutritious options that include a rainbow of detox juices; deep purple with beetroot or vivid green with cucumber and celery. This, alongside an impressive array of yogurts with the toppings like fruit, nuts, oats, and granola in addition to fresh and exotic fruits from the region.
Where to begin with such a feast?
Should you find yourself in beautiful Quito, just make your way to San Francisco Plaza, in the heart of the historic center and you’ll be happy you made the trek! This fascinating plaza is home to the imposing San Francisco Church, and the incredible cobblestone plaza that sees plenty of pedestrian (and pigeon) activity! It’s enough to put a smile on the face of any curious visitor.
In-room Breakfasts at Casa Gangotena
There’s another way to enjoy the best breakfast in Quito – without leaving your room! Casa Gangotena’s staff are delighted to set up a feast in your room, looking out over your spectacular view. Just inquire at Reception for more details.
Breakfast schedule: Daily 7 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
How do I get to Casa Gangotena’s Restaurant?
Though it’s fairly easy to get to Casa Gangotena from any point in Quito, here you can find directions that will help you reach our restaurant:
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.
<div class="at-above-post-arch-page addthis_tool" data-url="https://www.casagangotena.com/the-puddings-pueblos-and-people-of-easter-in-quito/"></div>Easter in Quito is a beautiful and moving yet complex and confusing time. It has its own calendar, its own dress code, even its own menu. <!-- AddThis Advanced Settings above via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Advanced Settings below via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Advanced Settings generic via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Share Buttons above via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Share Buttons below via filter on get_the_excerpt --><div class="at-below-post-arch-page addthis_tool" data-url="https://www.casagangotena.com/the-puddings-pueblos-and-people-of-easter-in-quito/"></div><!-- AddThis Share Buttons generic via filter on get_the_excerpt -->
<div class="at-above-post-arch-page addthis_tool" data-url="https://www.casagangotena.com/fanesca-the-true-flavour-of-easter-in-quito/"></div>Ask any Ecuadorian what is their favourite aspect of the traditions of Easter in Quito and you’ll most likely get one resounding reply: fanesca. <!-- AddThis Advanced Settings above via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Advanced Settings below via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Advanced Settings generic via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Share Buttons above via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Share Buttons below via filter on get_the_excerpt --><div class="at-below-post-arch-page addthis_tool" data-url="https://www.casagangotena.com/fanesca-the-true-flavour-of-easter-in-quito/"></div><!-- AddThis Share Buttons generic via filter on get_the_excerpt -->
At Casa Gangotena’s restaurant, every dish is the result of centuries of culinary traditions both pre-Columbian and Spanish, revitalised with maverick new techniques. It is the meeting place of various Ecuadorian regions and their local produce. It is the hard graft and passion of small, local producers cultivating artisanal, heritage ingredients. It is so much more than the sum of its parts.
This is one of the core pillars of Casa Gangotena’s cocina mestiza concept: a strong emphasis on Ecuador’s highest quality, iconic ingredients.
“Our philosophy is that corn and potatoes have the same value to us as say, lobster. To us, if it’s an Ecuadorian product we appreciate it,”explains Casa Gangotena’s head chef, Andrés Robles.
Scratch at the surface a little to reveal both the cultural significance and sometimes extraordinary stories of the producers of these key ingredients, and each morsel of each dish takes on new meaning.
Fish of the day
Until recently, paiche was a relatively unknown fish, even within Ecuador. That is because as a river fish found deep within the Amazon region known as the Oriente, it is illegal to fish it.
But a few years ago, some of the Cofán tribe (among the oldest surviving indigenous cultures in the Ecuadorian Amazon) came up with the idea of farming the fish in pools. This was no easy feat: paiche are pre-historic-looking beasts, measuring up to three metres and weighing in at around 250 pounds (around the weight of a small pig). What’s more, they are carnivorous.
But once the tribe perfected the art, the advantages were twofold. First of all, the new trade created sustainable employment within the Cofán community. Then, there came the re-introduction of an authentically Ecuadorian food into the national diet. The project has been so successful that the fish will soon be stocked by supermarkets.
Incorporating paiche into the menu was a new challenge for Andrés.
“It’s really weird, it looks like a dinosaur, and the fillets are like no other fish. Working with paiche was a completely new ball game for me, it has bones everywhere, and we’re not used to that,”he says.
“But the meat is delicious. It has two types of meat, from the belly and the steak, which are both really different. And the flavour is neutral, almost like alligator sometimes: really weird, but great.”
On the Casa Gangotena menu, paiche is used in a take on encocado, a traditional coconut seafood dish usually found on the coast.
“Our way is a white encocado,” says Andrés. “That’s a white sauce with a yucca puree, and we decorate it with a crisp of cuttlefish ink to give it a bit of crunch.”
Preparation is meticulous: the fish is first marinated in a sal muera, a mixture of water with salt seasoned with orange peel, pink pepper, coriander seeds, and other things to give it more of a marine taste. “Because it is from the river it doesn’t have iodine; all sea fish have iodine,”says Andrés.
The fish is cooked sous-vide, placed in a plastic bag and cooked at 58.6° Celsius for precisely 18 minutes.
Served in a bowl of black, volcanic rock, the encocado de paiche is a star dish.
“In the restaurant, the concept with the langoustine is to mix up regions. So we serve it with a puree of chaucha potato, which is totally Andean. And it comes with a garlic foam, which is an adaption of what we have learned from Spanish colonial cuisine, and it’s a style they eat on the coast – al ajillo. They’ve all been adapted so that we can mix the regions,” says Andrés.
But in contrast to paiche, langoustine take very little preparation, simply cooked sous-vide for 12 minutes with butter and salt.
“When you have products that have a perfect flavour, you don’t have to help them,” says Andrés.
Finding a lamb provider in Pichincha Province presented a problem for Casa Gangotena’s culinary team. The nutritious meat is now rarely used in Ecuadorian cuisine, and as a result numbers of sheep in the country have fallen to below 750,000.
Gastronomic Coordinator Eduardo Chonota happened upon the lamb of Doctor Cecilia Alcocer, an organic sheep farmer whose herd grazes freely on the páramo, one thousand metres above Quito, at a friend’s barbeque. The lamb was sustainable, healthy, and, above all, delicious.
In the restaurant, you can find Doctor Ceci’s lamb in two dishes. The first is a succulent lamb chop; the second is an adaptation of the curiously-named seco de chivo. Seco de chivo (literally in English: “dry goat”) is a traditional stew that is supposed to be made with goat, but in Ecuador can contain anything from goat, to yearling sheep, to lamb or even llama.
“If you’ve eaten seco de chivo in a market, you’ve probably eaten llama! Congratulations!”says Andrés.
The head chef explains that using lamb from the páramo and marinating it for three hours in Santa Ana craft beer elevates the Casa Gangotena version from street food classic to fine dining.
“The typical presentation of seco de chivo is rice and fried sweet plantain on the coast, here in Quito they’d add potato too,”says Andrés.
“But every typical dish changes with every different mother who cooks it. Each mother in Ecuador has their way of making a seco. Some add chicha, others naranjilla, others beer.”
For his take, Andrés replaces the fried plantain with a gluten-free plantain croquette.
But the rice? That had to stay put. “We did a few experiments, but the rice won!” he says.
Fish of the day
By the time the fish of the day is delivered to Casa Gangotena at around 7 P.M. each evening, it has travelled around 300 km from the Pacific Coast, in a surprisingly short amount of time. Every single day, the Flores Brothers drive their refrigerated van from Cojimíes in the Manabí province to Quito, bringing with them a daily selection of fresh, sustainably-caught fish.
Located right at the epicentre of Ecuador’s horrific April 16, 2016 earthquake which took the lives of 600 people, something strange happened within Cojimíes as the ground shook. Whereas neighbouring towns Pedernales and Canoa were almost entirely destroyed by the tremor, Cojimíes remained largely intact, which experts attribute to the quality of its soil.
Despite its physical resilience, like the whole of the coast the economy of Cojimíes suffered, and locals were encouraged to reignite it with artisanal fishing, in which the fisherman sells directly to the consumer, cutting out intermediaries. The Flores Brothers, now the most popular provider in fine dining circles in Quito, needed little encouragement.
“They arrive here about 7 at night, and we choose from the fish that they have – that’s why it’s fish of the day: right now we’ve got red snapper, but if tomorrow a robalo came along, I’d snap it up! Fresh fish!” says Andrés. The chef admits that the brothers bring out a competitive edge in him – if he sees a great fish reserved by another restaurant, he immediately wants to steal it.
But the service and quality of the Flores Brothers comes at a price. Whereas a normal sea bass fillet would cost Andrés $9.50 per kg, artisanal fish comes in at around $22 per kg – more than double.
“But it’s quality,” explains Andrés. “It gives so much added value to your dish, your restaurant, because first of all, it’s sustainable, and you’re supporting small businesses.”
Soon, the preparation of the dish will depend on what kind of fish the brothers deliver, testing Andrés’s creativity and skill. This is part of Andrés’s plan to attract more ‘foodies’ to the restaurant, creating an ever-changing section of the menu in which two starters and two main courses are new each month.
“Because although it’s easier for me to have a set menu, it’s much cooler to have the preparation always changing every month. People are going to be amazed!”says Andrés.
“We Ecuadorians are corn people!”says Andrés. Significant in the region’s culture long before the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, corn is found in myriad forms and culinary traditions around Ecuador: toasted or popped, in flour and alcoholic drinks, in desserts and snacks, and in every colour of the rainbow. There are even festivals dedicated to the corn harvest, such as the Yamor celebration in Imbabura.
In Casa Gangotena, corn is on the menu in various incarnations. There’s the white, puffy mote in the mote sucio (dirty) puree, a Cuencan dish so-called due to its stained colour when mixed with the sticky pork fat that drops to the bottom of the bowl when serving fritada.
There’s sweet corn, and also gluten-free corn flour, bought from the last miller in the Historic Centre, the Molino San Agustin, whose proprietor is 68 years old.
“Maintaining this tradition, that doesn’t have a price. It would be cheaper to buy it anywhere else, but it’s not the same,” says Andrés.
A trip to an Ecuadorian fruit market is an eye-opening experience for any foreigner. Here in the tropics, fruit comes in every shape, size and colour: the tiny, gleaming golden berry, yellow-tinged dragon fruit, purpled spiny achote, green, spikey guanábana and knobbly chirimoya. That’s not to mention the myriad varieties of banana.
At Casa Gangotena, the chefs work with whatever fruit is in season, adjusting the preparation and presentation accordingly. Take tuna (the fruit, not the fish), for example, otherwise known as the prickly pear, or cactus fruit.
Andrés explains how he incorporates the unusual fruit in a fish dish, by making it into an acidic gel.
“You just have to make it into a pulp, boil it, cool it, liquidate it, sieve it, then extract the bubbles. It’s simple!”he says, adding that it’s a way to introduce a product that is barely known in Quito.
“I could ask 20 friends if they eat tuna, and not one of them will say yes.”
Casa Gangotena’s use of herbs is one of the first things that many guests of Casa Gangotena will experience, when they are offered an Agua de Frescos on arrival.
Lurid pink and decidedly refreshing, the drink is made of seven different herbs, including chamomile, lemon verbena, lemon balm, spearmint and mallow.
“We use Agua de Frescos because it’s really common here to use different types of herbal infusions as cures,”says Andrés.
“If you’re tummy hurts: oregano. If your body aches: chamomile. There’s an infusion for everything,” says Andrés.
Amaranth is one herb that appears in the Agua de Frescos, in desserts and on the cocktail menu in the Amaranto Pop drink. The herb, which also bears a pseudo-cereal grain, is only recently becoming re-popularised in Ecuador.
“Amaranth was banned by the Spanish in the 16th century as the indigenous people would use it in rituals, like sacrifices,” Andrés explains. “So consumption and cultivation were banned. They would cut off your hand if you were producing it.”
Though still not as popular as quinoa (even though it is a far more powerful superfood) amaranth is gaining traction, since NASA scientists began to see the true potential of the plant that indigenous Ecuadorians once considered to be a weed, and would feed to their cows.
According to Andrés, this is part of Casa Gangotena’s strategy, to emphasise iconic Ecuadorian ingredients, and not to import from other countries.
“We try to use as many products as we can that are not popular. Like mountain garlic. Normal garlic isn’t Ecuadorian, all of it here is imported from China!” he says.
Participate in an exclusive San Francisco experience in Quito, only available to guests of Casa Gangotena. Please inquire with our staff for more details.
In the lobby of Casa Gangotena, the customary aristocratic serenity is interrupted by a frisson of anticipation. A group of six or so guests have gathered and speak in hushed voices, not certain of what is about to come.
They are waiting for Casa Gangotena’s newest guest experience to begin, a tour of San Francisco monastery with exclusive access to some very special parts of the emblematic complex. And I, a privileged outsider, have come along to see what happens.
When Casa Gangotena’s bar launched a new signature cocktail menu at the beginning of September, the challenge was not just to come up with a pleasing range of drinks, but to create a complete concept that was both perfectly aligned with the hotel’s philosophy and that would push the boundaries of Ecuadorian cocktail-making.
For this, Jossimar Lujan was enlisted, a Peruvian from the historic city of Arequipa who has been elbow deep in the art, science and magic of cocktails since he was 15 years old.
Working in conjunction with Elizabeth Arévalo and Cristian Moscoso, members of the cocktail team, Jossimar began to work around the idea that the new menu had to be 100 percent Ecuadorian, take into account the restaurant’s concept of Cocina Mestiza and infuse regional products with cutting edge techniques.
He named the final result ‘Homenaje’, the Spanish word for ‘homage’.
“I decided on ‘Homenaje’ because my professional career as a creator of restaurant concepts really started here, and this was one of my first concepts. So it’s ‘Homenaje’ for personal reasons. And it coincides with the concept of the hotel, and of the restaurant menu. It’s an homage to Ecuadorian ingredients,” he explains.
One of the key ingredients particularly honoured in the concept is caña, the Ecuadorian version of aguardiente that is drunk at traditional festivities, and which has unfairly fallen out of fashion among Ecuadorians in favour of international spirits like gin and vodka.
“We are the first bar to make premium cocktails with caña,” he says. “We really want to promote caña. It’s a really good national product. As a foreigner, I say that Ecuadorians should be proud. It’s a mega product.”
In order to create a truly Ecuadorian menu, Jossimar scoured the country for unusual ingredients and iconic flavours.
“I had to investigate a lot for this concept, and go to a lot of markets. Truly, the markets are where everything happens. I’d go and talk to all the people, getting to know local chefs,” he says.
On his travels he discovered tangerines from Patate and pears from Tungurahua, raspberries and two entirely different kinds of blackberries, which all feature on the menu.
Furthermore, the bar team has undertaken to create all of their ingredients (aside from the alcohols) from scratch, from the syrups and reductions, to a clarification of serrano ham and melon, boiled together and filtered for 48 hours.
“Everything is 100 percent natural and homemade. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it to have these unique products,” he says.
The overall effect is complex journey through the flavours, ingredients and traditions of Ecuador, brought up to date with the latest techniques, and a fair amount of industrial-looking toys, including a smoke machine, giant balls of ice, and a specially designed perfume dispenser.
“People come here to have an experience, not to drink 10 cocktails,”says Jossimar.
“The idea is to drink what you want, but come and enjoy the experience of our menu. It’s like an entire dish in one drink.”
Jossimar talks us through some of the options, and the concepts behind them.
Zarza del Monte
“The name comes from the fact that it is alcohol free, and has an angel design.”
“Just like the Quito neighbourhood, this drink has it all! The idea is that the flavour keeps on changing. We’re playing with your senses – you smell one thing but taste another, or see a colour and expect a certain flavour.”
“The flower is given an aroma that hits you before you take a sip. Like alchemy, it is the perfect balance of liquids.”
“This one takes its name from the black amaranth and, based on caña, is probably the most Ecuadorian option on the menu. It’s made of a concentrated Agua de Frescos, and a beaten egg white gives it a sour texture. It is finished with edible flower confetti.”
“This is a refreshing gin and tonic – Ecuadorian style.”
“This cocktail is served in a cup moulded to look like a lion, which we had especially made for this drink. It was inspired by the lions depicted on the outside of Casa Gangotena, which are known as its “guardians”. It is based on pineapple-infused rum and contains a clarification of serrano ham and melon.”
“We have created a deconstructed version of the warm Ecuadorian classic, and it comes with a smoking palo santo stick and is lavender scented.”
Zarza del Monte
“This is quite like Floresta but alcoholic. It fizzes on the tongue.”
“It’s based on Peruvian pisco, and the side is dusted with a lemon biscuit.”