While typically our rule around seafood is if you can’t see the sea, don’t eat the food, Quito has some pretty incredible ceviche. It is one of the main lunch and dinner staples and is served anywhere from buckets on the street to holes in the wall, to the top rated restaurants in Quito. We set out to try the ceviche in 3 different places just to see how they stack up.
First stop – Los Ceviches de Guápulo.
A local recommended this place to us, advising us to get there when they open at 10am before the line starts and they run out of ceviche. Breakfast ceviche! We eagerly hiked a few miles from our AirBnB to arrive at 9:45am. We weren’t sure if we made it to the right place as there are absolutely no signs and the posting on Google maps was not accurate (don’t worry, team, we updated it.) Perhaps not surprisingly, we were the first ones there which made us happy as we’d have first pick of the seats, but also nervous since we weren’t actually sure we were in the right spot. A little after 10 someone let us in and we sat out in the sunshine underneath an umbrella with a view into the hills, surrounded by gorgeous flowers and succulents. The other outdoor tables were soon taken up by locals. We ordered a fish ceviche and a mixto (octopus, fish, shrimp) as well as deditos de yuca – fried yuca filled with cheese. We were brought out a chile sauce, fresh popcorn and fried plantains. We ate the popcorn and plantains separately, but later we learned that you actually put it in the ceviche. Who knew!? The yuca was great, as were the fresh popcorn and plantains, but the ceviche was hard and did not taste that great. I think we overhyped the place.
Price: $21.00 Ceviche: 3/5, Ambiance 5/5,
Second stop – Manolo’s Cevicheria
Now that we had tried the secret hole in the wall, we opted for something that was on TripAdvisor that had good reviews, but looked like a place frequented by locals. We landed on Manolo’s Cevichería for a late lunch. We were again the only tourists in the place which was an encouraging first sign. The place is absolutely enormous, it smelled of stale cigarettes and looked like it was decorated in the early 90s with a fisherman theme. We ordered a couple beers, cheese empanadas, ceviche mixto (fish, octopus, shrimp) and encebollado. Encebollado is another Ecuadorean staple, it is a warm ceviche soup with onions. It sounds a little strange, but it is delicious. Like ceviche, it is served everywhere – however ceviche and encebollado is where we draw the line on trying street food. The ceviche was fantastic, but my personal favorite was the encebollado.
Price: $24 Ceviche: 5/5 Ambiance 3/5
Third stop – Zazu
Our last dinner in Quito we decided to splurge and chose to go out to Zazu. According to TripAdvisor Zazu is #5 out of 1,510 restaurants in Quito and $$$$. Since we are backpacking this adventure we really only have hiking clothes (awkward) but we decided to go anyway… treat yo self. As soon as we arrived we were greeted by a host in a full suit… and we felt a whole new wave of embarrassment as he looked at us in our hiking boots and chacos. It’s one of those places with full white linens, too many pieces of cutlery, fresh roses and an amuse-bouche. So far on our trip we have learned that cocktails really aren’t a thing here, but this place had a full cocktail menu and bar so we took advantage and ordered some pisco cocktails. They had dried moras (Andean blackberries) and were tangy and delicious. We ordered cuy (guinea pig) which is another common food here. We felt it was our duty to try all of the Ecuadorean staples. Since leaving Quito, we have seen cuy roasting on spits all over the side of the road in the highlands. The guinea pig arrived in 3 forms – raviolis, a type of tostadita, and fried. All were surprisingly delicious, it tasted like pork but gamier. I was very happy that the entire guinea pig didn’t come out on a plate, as it appears to do in most other restaurants. Since we were on the great ceviche quest, we also ordered ceviche mixto (same as the others + calamari) and it did not disappoint! Instead of the popcorn we were presented with basically unflavored (and much tastier) corn nuts. It was by far the most delicious ceviche we tried so far… funny, you get what you pay for. We also ordered a brioche crusted sea bass with poached shrimp, bok choy, and shrimp bisque. We were too full for dessert, but they still brought us out key-lime sorbet on top of chocolate cookies. It was a phenomenal meal, most certainly our favorite so far. But it also cost about the same amount as 3 nights in our airbnb in Quito… worth it.
Price: $85 Ceviche: 5/5 Ambiance: 5/5