Though Peru has been in Latin America’s culinary spotlight for the past decade, Ecuador has its own roster of dishes and flavors that are worth traveling for. On a custom-designed journey to Ecuador with Latin Excursions, we can make it simple for you to taste the best that the South American country has to offer. In fact, there is a new offer on the scene that we are excited to introduce you to.
Having opened its doors as recently as February 7, 2022, INES is a new restaurant inspired by traditional Ecuadorian flavors of yore. Located inside the 5-star Illa Experience hotel in the capital of Ecuador, INES is named after chef Juan Carlos Donoso’s grandmother. Chef Donoso will be accompanied by chef Cristina Ceron, a Basque Institute graduate with previous work experience at Celler de Can Roca.
According to María Soledad Vaca, the General Manager of ILLA, “INES will be curating family recipes from around Ecuador yet re-interpreting each dish with vanguard cuisine techniques, rescuing not just recipes but flavors and traditional ingredients.” In order to nail their goal, team members spent the previous year finding ancestral flavors of rural Ecuador and quality suppliers.
Supporting the next generation of chefs
A tribute to grandma recipes from around Ecuador, INES is part of the hotel’s NESTS project. The initiative aims to showcase Ecuador’s gastronomy while supporting up-and-coming chefs through a paid internship program.
According to Vaca, amateur chefs participating in the 6-month NEST program “will learn haute cuisine and world-class techniques to showcase the flavors of their ancestors, ILLA will be their platform. After the 2 years, we will select 1 from the entire group and will finance a restaurant within their community.”
Location and surrounding sites
Brimming with wide views of the city as well as the hotel’s garden, ILLA is conveniently located within walking distance of the Bolivar Theater, the Colonial Art Museum and Quito’s historical center. Also referred to as the “Old Town,” this interesting part of the city is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the best-preserved historic center in Latin America. With cobblestoned streets, expansive plazas, and impressive churches and monasteries, a stroll through the historic center will make you feel a world away from the rest of the urban area.
Food in Ecuador
Ecuador’s coastal cuisine is seafood-heavy and ranges from the famous ceviche, or raw fish marinated and “cooked” in citrus, to seafood simmered in coconut and garlic-lime sauces. The coast also uses a lot of plantains and the bolon de verde, or fried green plantain dumpling stuffed with cheese, is a staple breakfast item. In the Andean region, you will find much more pork, yucca, potatoes and varieties of corn, from fresh corn humitas to fried or baked whole pig, to llapingachos, or fried mashed potato pancakes.
Due to the chillier climate in the highlands, soups are also core to the Ecuadorian Andean diet, and of course, the cuy, or guinea pig, is considered a local delicacy. The Amazonian cuisine of Ecuador incorporates a lot of exotic fruits, yucca, plantains and river fish. The most typical dish from this region is maito, or slow-steamed fish in bijao leaves. Ecuadorian cuisine is truly a feast for the senses!