In recent years the cuisine scene in Quito has improved by leaps and bounds. Now travelers to Ecuador’s capital city can find gourmet guinea pig, super sandwiches, inventive fusion, outstanding seafood, a great burger, craft beer, and even dinner on a bus. Here are our favorite restaurants and bars to ensure you eat and drink well when visiting this UNESCO World Heritage site city.
The dining scene in Quito, Ecuador is surprisingly diverse.
Fine dining in Quito
The number of ambitious fine dining restaurants in Quito continues to grow. Here are a few of our favorites.
You may be surprised to learn that there is a Relais & Chateaux recognized restaurant in Quito, but there is. It’s called Zazu and it’s established itself as a fine dining destination in the city. The space is sophisticated with subdued lighting and a chic palette of grey, white, and silver and the food is equally sophisticated. We had a seven-course tasting menu which started with an amuse bouche of house-made bread, including a delicate quinoa bread, and a glass of Spanish Cava. Standouts from the rest of the meal included a bite of black clam ceviche on a mini patacon (a disc of flattened and fried plantain) and tender Uruguayan lamb with quinoa. We did find the service a bit puzzling with dishes whizzing out to our table at breakneck speed and waiters looking at their cell phones in the dining room.
Just part of our tasting menu meal at Quito’s Zazu, the only Relais & Cheataux restaurant in Ecuador.
ZFood is a stylsh seafood-focused place from the same people behind Zazu. Opened in 2015, ZFood has indoor and outdoor seating, a fish market style display of the goods, and a beachy, clam shack esthetic with lots of natural light, simple wooden furniture painted white, and accents of sea blue. Staff t-shirts say “Nice to Sea You”. The place attracts a casual but clued-in crowd that appreciates the high quality of the seafood and fish. The 100% seafood (no fish) bouliabase we had was rich, fish and the ceviche, made tableside, was clean and refreshing. The place has a creative cocktail menu as well, including a fantastic combination of a seafood cocktail and a bloody Mary.
It’s all about seafood with style at ZFood.
Urko opened in 2014 on a mission to present Ecuadorean ingredients (the kitchen didn’t use olive oil when we were there because there’s none produced in Ecuador) to tell the story of cuisine across the country. The space is divided into different levels with a small bar and a la carte dining on the first level, a kitchen garden on the top level, and tasting menu dining on the second level. Each of the 12 courses on the tasting menu is inspired by iconic ingredients, techniques, and combinations from four regions of the country. Our tasting menu meal included a coastal dish of sea bass cooked sous-vide with housemade cilantro oil and a peanut-based sauce which should have made it like satay, but didn’t. From the north came pork aged for 45 days then slow cooked for 48 hours. Urko’s inspiration and goals are similar to those of Central in Lima, Peru but in a less famous, less manicured form which makes the experience more approachable.
Urko uses exclusively Ecuadorean ingredients to take diners on a delicious ride through regional foods in the country.
La Gloria is not the most avant-garde restaurant in Quito. It is, however, a great place to try reliably well-prepared dishes you might not try elsewhere — like the restaurant’s gourmet take on cuy (guinea pig). Cuy is a beloved food in Ecuador and is usually served whole after being cooked on a wooden stick over an open fire. At La Gloria just the legs of the cuy are fried, then finished in a pan. The presentation is elegant and the cuy is like a richer, smaller version of duck. We also love the restaurant’s well-stocked walk-in wine room where diners can choose their own bottles at retail rates.
Gourmet guinea pig at La Gloria.