Get to know culinary Quito before or after your time at the Camp on an urban safari of exotic flavors, unusual ingredients and atmospheric eateries; a foodie tour of the city’s best eats that leaves the guidebooks in the dust.
The Ecuadorian capital has a colorful history, a fascinating melting pot of cultures, and off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods worth exploring. The up-and-coming city is also home to a growing, internationally recognized restaurant scene and competitive chefs who are putting great food back on the map in Ecuador.
Keep reading to find out more about the insiders’ Quito restaurants that are at the forefront of the Ecuadorian capital’s food renaissance.
Zazu is a Relais & Châteaux-recognized destination restaurant that puts the food first; bringing an international flavor to the farm-to-table concept in Ecuador. It’s the Quito restaurant to celebrate, relax, choose a bottle from the astonishing tunnel of a wine cellar or a decadent cocktail, and watch the city’s slickest let their hair down. Leave the cargo pants and hiking sandals at the hotel for this one – people come here to see and be seen.
Part of a group of six, hip, hotspots; power-couple Jan and Michelle Niedrau started the award-winning restaurant in 2004; growing the majority of the produce for the five-star dishes on their farm. Fresh fish comes directly from the coast, where the Niedraus and their teamwork side-by-side with a hand-picked team of local fishermen to create sustainable relationships.
The menu includes pistachio-crusted tuna, Galapagos lobster, and inventive interpretations of traditional Ecuadorian and Peruvian dishes. The chef’s seven-course tasting menu is a favorite; an open invitation to try seasonal delicacies such as stone crab ceviche, suckling pig taquitos, and a melt-in-the-mouth beef carpaccio.
The couple’s pioneering vision sparked an influx of international restaurants across the city. Together with Galapagos Safari Camp alumnus Chef Wilson Ampala, they keep the food scene moving; taking the best ingredients and serving inspired cuisine to foodies from all around the world.
The other members of the Z-Restaurant group are Zao, Zinc, ZFood, Zuni, and the newest addition, Zerdo.
Zao is Asian cuisine par excellence, while Zinc is a bistro-style eatery to have a glass of wine and sample some of the chef’s specialties end of the day. Zfood displays the day’s fresh seafood catch packed in ice around the open kitchen, serving the sort clams in white wine and butter – and a gem of a Bloody Mary – that make you go weak at the knees. Zuni, in Cumbaya, is the neighborhood hip hangout, serving a well-rounded selection of fish and meat dishes as well as putting on a popular weekend brunch. Zerdo, the most recent addition to the portfolio headed by Chef David Picco, is a bastion of all things meaty, specializing in sticky, smoky, steaming pork. The vibe? Grown Up sports bar with a good dollop of rustic fine-dining.
Mariano Aguilera 331 & La Pradera
Taking the lead in a crowd of stylish, hipster-inspired eateries, Laboratorio is a fresh approach to pop-up restaurants. Every few months, a new team moves into the immaculate, open kitchen in an industrial-chic former factory space.
Aspiring chefs take turns creating menus, working hand in hand with the founders of the collective to bring original flavors to the table, the drinks served in test tubes immersing you in the laboratory concept.
What wins one over at this Quito restaurant is the community it creates, and the vibrance of the chefs-in-residence. People go for an adventurous night out, watching the kitchen at work and cheering the food and the staff getting it so right.
Menus have included Vietnamese, Pacific fusion, and top-tier Mexican. Past chefs extend to those who have won cooking contests to work in the kitchen, and rising stars that graduated from prestigious culinary schools after apprenticing overseas.
If you are in town for the weekend looking for a Quito restaurant, call to find out about the fixed-menu brunch. Each team creates their own combination of big and small dishes to choose from, complete with cocktails and infused juices.
Lizardo García between 12 de Octubre & Tamayo
+593 2 255-4365
Many Quito restaurants profess to serving traditional Ecuadorian cuisine using premium local ingredients. Few manage to make locals go misty-eyed at the mere sight of the menu, and leave them in tears of nostalgia by the end of the meal. La Purísima is one of these rare beasts, wowing Ecuadorians and discerning foreigners alike.
Based on the proposal of Chef Carlos Fuentes to rescue authentic dishes from oblivion – some from our grandparents’ era, some from the 1500s – La Purísima celebrates the lost customs and flavors of yesteryear while somehow managing to present them in fresh, thrilling ways.
It’s not just the meatballs in sweet peanut sauce, smoked pork ribs and coconut fish stews that spark the wistful whimsy, even the crockery and cutlery are reminiscent of a bygone epoch. The restaurant is located within Teatro Bolívar, an institution of Ecuadorian culture that burnt down in a fire but has recently been renovated and reopened, with a fashionable new bar and coffee house.
Beverages are one of the pillars of this exciting eatery, often with promotions on their signature cocktails and home-made syrups and liquors. Likewise, desserts aren’t the afterthought that they can be in some Quito restaurants: save space for donuts, creams, cheeses and fruits that will make any foodie smile.
Espejo Oe2 – 43 & Guayaquil
+593 2 295-6527
Located on a quiet tree-lined residential street in a popular neighborhood north of the new town, Viola is the off-the-beaten-path Quito restaurant for an intimate romantic evening or a low-key festive night out with friends.
The fondue menu hits the right marks with a sophisticated selection of cheese and meat combinations. Wine comes by the bottle or glass; refilled by the European owner who oversees a staff of two others.
What makes the greatest impression at Voila is the quality of the ingredients. Finding good cheese in Ecuador is a rarity. The owner-chef of Voila has connections, and uses a variety of different kinds to create mouth-watering flavors.
The ambiance of this Quito restaurant is classic; small tables are scattered throughout the covered, open-air dining area in clusters. Served with a watchful eye and a touch of old school charm, each party is shown how to prepare the fondue using the burner at the center of the table. Weekends can get busy with groups, call ahead to avoid a lengthy wait.
+593 2 252-1142
This top-shelf Vietnamese restaurant in the heart of the La Floresta neighborhood started at Laboratorio; turning heads with tasty, traditional sandwiches, tangy Asian wings, and crowd-pleasing flavors of home-made ice cream.
Today, the expanded menu continues to set the bar for low-key Quito restaurants. Starters include savory bone marrow, crispy rice chips, and a rich chicken liver pate. Banh Mi sandwiches are still on the menu, sitting next to other favorites such as Pho, curry, and a tender pork belly.
The talent of the kitchen is what brings the crowds to the friendly outdoor terrace throughout the week. Each dish has an inspired twist, bringing subtle textures to light using a mature depth of flavor.
Aside from the food, the energy of the staff and owners is a refreshing change. There is a spark in the air, each person happy to help and ready to explain the smallest of details. Expect a fun crowd, and be willing to eat at the bar without reservations.
Andalucia N24-234 & Cordero
098 906 3281
For more information about the best places to eat around the city, and the day tours that we can arrange, contact our team through our site or toll-free number.