Monday, July 19, 2010

June 27 - 28th - Quito Restaurants - Hunter's and Choza - Overpriced!!!

One of the pieces of advice I received about Ecuador before I went down, was that it was very affordable.  That is outdated information.  My friend N, went down about 5-6 years ago.  He managed to feed himself for a couple of bucks a meal.  I certainly saw that in the local joints in the Zona Antigua or Old Town.  Though you need to be a bit brave and know where you're going if you're planning ahead for a taxi at night. 

In that sense, Quito has definitely changed since N went down.  One of the pieces of wisdom I received while I was in Ecuador, was that it is not very affordable for tourists.  A local lamented to me that it was not right that there were separate 'prices' for locals and for foreigners.  He worried that it made his country look untrustworthy and economically unstable.  I agreed.  All the meals we saw in the Grigolandia or places listed in all the guide books were at least 10 US$ for a main.  Even the Rough Guides and Lonely Planets released this year were out of date on this. 

That meant we were way off on the amount of money we took out of the ATM at the Houston Airport.  We did that because there are higher tariffs on the Ecuadorian banks and even higher on the Galapagos banks on foreign withdrawls.  As well, if you opt to use your credit card there is often, if not always, a 10% service charge to use it.  You also need to be aware that there is a 12% Tax and 10% default Service Charge on all bills.  Then there is a separate line for tip even though te 10% Service is already there.  Watch out for this.

We did lunch in the more modest places during the day for snacks in class cases like Quimbolito (Corn Muffin in a Banana Leaf) or Humita (Corn and Cheese tamale), chips aka Chiflas and juices everywhere.  MMMMM Jugos for less than a dollar. Jamba would never make it here.  Wonderful. If you are worried about the water, have them made with milk for a bit more. But we were still on rest of the world time not Quito time.  Quito is renown for their restaurants closing at 9pm.  Even their rival town, Guayaquil mocks them for this.  So we were limited on the first couple of nights before we figured this out on where to eat.

Sunday, 27th, was the hardest.  Apparently the week before we arrived, the Ecuadorian government implemented a new law restricting the sale of alcohol late at night and most of Sunday.  We were horrified when we sat down in Plaza Foch at Azuca for the Brasil match to be offered coffee.  We walked away thinking we could buy bottles of beer and go back to the hotel.  After walking and walking, we returned to watch a dry match.

Crestfallen and sober, we went to the only restaurant we knew for certain to be open after sundown near our hotel.  Many on our walk home were closed for Sunday.  Hunter's is located across the road from the Quito Hotel and Casino.  From the outside it looks like an Aussi / American bar/restaurant.  It has a big red neon sign and bamboo decor.  Inside the menu was all Ecuadorean with Gringo-hotel adjacent pricing.  Mains or Platos Fuertes were 10$ or more.  HOWEVER, they had done some moral rationalisation with themselves and considered that Beer was not alcohol.  I noticed a few bottles on a table near us and the waiter told us that the law did not apply to beer.  I did not inform him that all the bars in Plaza Foch and the 5 grocery stores we went into did not agree.  Rather, we ordered two large local Pilsners and ordered some food. 

D ordered the Horneada special.  It was roasted Pork.  It came with Potato Cheese Cakes called Llapingachos, half an avocado and Mote aka Hominy.  It was interesting. The menu had translated the Mote as Popcorn.  So we were rather confused by the gigantic kernals of boiled white corn on D's plate.  They were easily the blandest then I have eaten in my life.  We found out much later in our trip, from a local, that we should have put hotsauce on it.  The Pork was nice, moist.  The Llapingachos were tasty though a bit salty which would prove to be a reoccuring issue in Ecuador which we ascribed to a cultural taste difference like spice.  The Mote, D left on the plate.

I had Grilled Corvina (Sea Bass).  I was not grilled.  It was breaded.  It was also very over cooked which was also very common for fish while we travelled.  Only once did I see a slightly delicate fish.  That's later.  It came with a sad slice of cucumber and carrot and cold french fries.  Ecuadorians called what I would have called in Spain, Patatas Fritos or Fritos de Patatas, Papas Fritos.

The beer was good. 

Ambiance: not really
Cost: $$$$ (relatively speaking for where we were)
Upside: Beer on Sundays!!!
Service: Friendly

Av. 12 de Octubre 2517 y Muros

Quito - Ecuador
(593) (2) 250 4880

The next night we read the reviews in the guide books and chose somewhere Frommers' needs to friggin update in their 2009 guide book.  They refer to it as a modest place with dishes in the 4$ range.  Later, I read the Rough Guide to see it is referred to as swanky and upscale.  It was in the banking district!!!! the decor was rather posh for Quito.  There was a three piece live band playing.  The band and my starter were the only things that made the visit worth it.
I had the Empanadas de Queso.  It was a Corn Flour turnover filled with cheese.  It was quite nice.  My main was a grilled Corvina AGAIN!  This one was not breaded.  However it was disgusting.  DISGUSTING.  It was served in a white sauce with mushy Asparagus spears.  I mean baby food mushy.  It was obviously frozen Sea Bass.  It was mealy, raw in the centre and chewy on the outside.  That would tell me they took out a frozen filet and put it on the grill.  GROSS.  It was very expensive for what we got and for the area.  Avoid! 
Cost: $$$$$ (Waste!)
Ambience: Swanky South American
Service: Acceptable but a little unattentive.  We had to go find someone for our bill.
Wine: Limited by the glass. Very expensive.
La Choza
12 de Octubre N24-551 y Cordero
Quito, Ecuador

2230 839, 2507 901

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