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Ecuador Restaurants

Café Cultura
513 Calle Robles
Tel: 593 2 2224 271

The capital's coolest hotel also happens to house its coolest café-bistro. From breakfast to dinner (which tends to be early—as is common in Ecuador, the kitchen here closes at 9:30 p.m.), the jeunesse dorée, the migrant students of Spanish, and the great and good of Quito drop in—for the scene as much as for the excellent food. Once the French Cultural Centre, the turn-of-the-century mansion was restored by owner László Károlyi with due respect for its Anglophilic patrician lines: Peruse a guidebook over an aperitif in the wood-paneled library, or take a snifter in a leather armchair before a crackling log fire after dinner. The dining room is candlelit and cozy, with ocher rag-rolled walls and a Renaissance-style angel mural; by day great arched windows allow views of pretty wraparound gardens and the resident peacock. Unpretentious food (ceviche, curried chicken with rice) is accompanied by house-baked breads and pastries, homemade jams, and fresh-squeezed juices by day, and a good wine list by night.

Casa Alonso
Mansion Al Cazar
Cuenca , Ecuador
Tel: 593 7 282 3889

A short walk from the Parque Calderon, this handsome restaurant located inside one of Cuenca's best hotels is equally popular with locals and visitors. The recent influx of Americans to Cuenca has definitely had an influence on the cuisine—the menu offers traditional dishes like shrimp ceviche with hearts of palm, lupini beans and avocado, and mote sucio–style corn, alongside continental favorites like Caesar salad and pasta primavera. The menu has a number of cosmopolitan choices, too, including vegetable tempura soup and steak smothered in gorgonzola, so there's likely to be something to suit most palates. And it's all served by a superbly attentive staff in a picturesque glass-encased dining room with daytime views of hummingbirds at work in the gardens outside.—Cathay Che

Las Palmeras
Tel: 593 6 2922 607

The sister property of the gorgeous Hacíenda Cusín, Las Palmeras sits just up the hill from the stalls of the Otavalo market and is big with shoppers in search of a restorative lunch. Three-course menus of Ecuadoran staples—which always include soup, since this country has as many words for soup as Eskimos do for snow—are served by smiling waitresses in embroidered blouses, either outside in the garden or in a beamed dining room with carved wooden chairs. It's slightly hokey, but it hits the spot, especially given the freshness; most produce is grown right here in the organic garden. If you're moving on, drop in to order a picnic for the road.

Red Sushi
Red Mangrove Hotel
Avenida Charles Darwin
Puerto Ayora
Tel: 593 5 2526 564

The disconcerting "red" in the restaurant's name refers not to rice or fish but to the place that houses it, the Red Mangrove Adventure Inn just outside Puerto Ayora on this central Galápagos Island. With its pink-tented roof supported by tree-trunk pillars and views through the wild mangroves to the ocean, the setting could hardly be more romantic. The dinner menu has all the familiar sushi-house staples: maki, sashimi, and sushi, plus yakitori, udon, and soba-noodle dishes. All are beautifully fresh. Lunch is possible, too, but must be requested at least two days in advance.

Restaurant Cabanas del Lagos
San Pablo Lake
Tel: 593 6 291 8108

It's a bit of a hunt to find this little family-run restaurant on San Pablo Lake, the largest lake in Ecuador, about 60 miles from Quito. But the hunt is well worth the effort if you're in the mood for delicious regional favorites like costeñitas (fried green plantain turnovers stuffed with cheese and topped with a spicy red sauce), mote con chicharrón (traditional pork stew with avocado, tomatoes, and onion), and choclos con queso y habas tiernas (corn on the cob with local fresh cheese and fava beans). The dining room has floor-to-ceiling windows with panoramic views of the lake; if that's not close enough for you, the restaurant also has an open-air deck for dining by the water, and operates a nearby marina with Jet Ski and kayak rentals.—Cathay Che

Restaurante Posada Ingapirca
Posada Ingapirca
Tel: 593 7 282 7401

Housed inside a converted farmhouse just a few minutes' walk from the Ingapirca ruins (Ecuador's most famous archeological site), this hotel restaurant can be crowded at lunchtime with tourists who've come into town on day-trip buses. But a stay overnight at the small hotel will allow those who want to spend more than an hour exploring the 15th-century Inca ruins to savor not just the site (which is best viewed in the morning) but also some simple, hearty southern Ecuadorian foods like quinoa soup, various tamales, and meaty stews that change daily and are very satisfying after a day of exploring in these chilly temps.—Cathay Che

Royal Palm Restaurant
Royal Palm Hotel
Santa Cruz Island
Tel: 347 587 8595 (U.S.)
Tel: 593 2 252 0000

Nestled in the highlands of Santa Cruz island in the Galápagos, this tony restaurant at the Royal Palm may seem out of the way, but it's actually near one of the island's major attractions—the giant tortoise sanctuary—making it a great spot for a post-visit lunch or dinner. Like the plush surroundings of the hotel's jungle villas, the food is anything but rustic—appetizers include Galápagos slipper lobster salad and the Royal Palm ceviche marinated in lemon, ginger, and sesame oil; entrées are more Euro-focused, with dishes such as roasted suckling pig or beef cheeks in port wine, and spicy pasta di mare. There's also a 12-page wine list, and a large swimming pool open to lunch guests—that's a lot of luxury for such a remote and far-flung place.—Cathay Che

Theatro National Sucre
Tel: 593 2 228 9669

Located in the heart of the historic Old Town, the first surprise when you enter Theatrum is how enormous it is. The main dining room has 50-foot ceilings and a terrace overlooking the plaza that seems like it should be reserved for royal weddings. There's also a stylish wine bar in a separate space with 1,000 bottles on offer and a dozen wines by the glass to choose from, along with small plates from the tapas menu. The decor is a little over the top—red velvet curtains and brass chandeliers with black tassels add to its operatic ambience. But you don't even have to be a wealthy patron of the arts (most entrées are under $15) to afford dishes like grilled asparagus soup with sheep's milk and goat cheese, grilled octopus over mixed greens with garlic in a pesto vinaigrette, or fire-roasted Ecuadorian prawns with yuca purée, parsley, and oregano. For dessert, try the exotic Ecuadorian fruits—a tasting menu of naranjilla, cherimoya, guayaba, babaco, and guanabana that comes with a pictorial guide of naturalist drawings for each fruit.—Cathay Che

331 Mariano Aquilera
Tel: 593 2 254 3259

Known around town as Quito's hippest restaurant and bar, it is actually Zazu's food that keeps people coming back. Founded by two Peruvian chefs, the restaurant's focus is clean, lean, spicy seafood—traditional ceviches, Japanese-style sushi, and marinated, grilled fish—although lamb, osso buco, and rib-eye steaks are also on offer. There are many fusion dishes too, such as the grouper sashimi roll with amarillo sauce, the shiitake mushroom empanadas, the tuna and foie gras ceviche, and Langostinos Zazu (tempura prawns with couscous, plantains, chile marmalade, and rocoto sauce). Although the bar gets quite frenetic on the weekends, the restaurant is separate—a serene beige room where you can happily enjoy a relaxed romantic dinner. That is, if you can get a reservation.—Cathay Che

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.