***Please excuse the picture quality as we took the pics on my iPhone 3GS. I had no clue what we were getting into.***
If there is one thing on this earth that Shaun and I are not ashamed to spend money on, it would be food. Living in Austin has spoiled our taste buds and we are constantly looking for a new high when we’re home. It has taken a long time for me to admit something. Food in Ecuador caught us off guard.
My name is Erica, and I’m a foodie.
Being a budget traveler totally ruins any semblance of mindnumbingly good food. After endless plates of rice, meat, and beans, there comes a point where we have to splurge. For our sanity. I’m not kidding.
On each big trip we have had our most “memorable” meal, whether it be a Pakistani restaurant in Madrid, Spain that changed our minds on curry, or the posh, upscale, Gonpachi restaurant (inspiration for the House of Blue Leaves) in Roppongi, Tokyo.
After an awesome suggestion from Dave of GoBackpacking.com, we decided to indulge.
Our target – the renowned Tiesto’s in Cuenca, Ecuador.
I don’t know what we expected but we walked in, hoping for the best, only to be asked for reservations. Cool, this place obviously has a demand. Luckily for us they had a free table next to the door for the next few hours.
We had gone into the restaurant with a cool head. We were going to stick to our budget. We just wanted a little taste of something good. Everything on the menu looked fantastic but we did have trouble making up our minds.
When we thought we couldn’t be more overwhelmed, a basket of homemade bread came out with 8 different sauces/sides to satiate your tongue with. Chimichurri, traditional ecuadorian salsa, pineapples with star anise, pepperoncinis, cinnamon/pineapples/pepperoncinis and onion, pickled onions, and 2 other spicy bowls of undisclosed yumminess. We dove in head first.
Oh man. It was going to be a good night.
Then Chef Juan Carlos stepped out. A bigger man (never trust a skinny chef!), he cracked a smile as he introduced himself and he had the warmest demeanor. He suggested the special for the night, langostinos and and order of lomo fino (filet minon of sorts).
This is where the budget went out the window.
When a chef comes out personally and suggests something, by golly, you better order it! You would be doing a disservice to yourself if you ignored him.
Before we knew it, Chef Juan Carlos came out personally to present his masterpieces. The first lid came off as steam came pouring out and a familiar smell came across my nose. Langostinos (a cross between shrimp and lobster), covered in the most delectable butter sauce I’ve ever seen. My eyes nearly came out of my head. The next lid came off and I unknowingly started licking my lips in anticipation. Covered in Parmesan, tomatoes, and a secret cream sauce, the delicate meat, cooked medium rare of course, beckoned me. I hadn’t had anything of this caliber in 9 months.
I felt like I had been fasting.
Our table slowly filled up with small dishes of sides: couscous, corn, corn salad, cucumber salad, potatoes, rice, and an extra plate of fried potatoes with Parmesan, brought by Chef Juan Carlos himself.
We ate like it was our last meal. Actually, it was like we hadn’t had sex in weeks. A build up to a release. Savoring every bite, rolling it around our tongues, we were delightful moaning to the point that it verged on obscene.
The meats, with their own amazing, simple flavors were complimented with complex sauces and simple sides. They don’t overtake the main courses.
In our food porn frenzy, Chef Juan Carlos came over to show us different combos of sauces and sides, gracefully spooning the sauces onto them. He even gave a lesson on how to gather the “essence” of the langostino, or in other words, savoring the delicate contents of the head. At one point, Shaun was convinced he was about to be spoon fed.
Hell, Shaun sat there in silence, almost in tears.
“This is better than any lobster I’ve ever had.”
That is quite the compliment.
Juan Carlos definitely has a passion about his food and it comes across in his cooking and customer service that blew my mind.
At the end, a pile of langostino shells was all that was left. Somehow Shaun and I polished off everything. No clue how.
In food coma, we made it home, and we couldn’t have been happier. Full bellies and full hearts, we felt culinarily satisfied for the first time in almost a year.