La Gloria, enhancing the menu with local touches

10/Noviembre/2011 | 18:53


There is a new plate now recommended at La Gloria Restaurant in Quito.  When clients hear about it or see it on the menu, the reactions range from genuine delight to skepticism.   For those who find the item disagreeable, owner Santiago Jarrin politely asks them, "But have you tried it?" Perhaps triggered by familiar images of Andean traditions, inevitably the response is "No, but the head…"

At this point, Jarrin takes the opportunity to reassure his guests that they will not see the head, or the feet.  They will enjoy simply the juicy meat of the legs, candied and fried and served with traditional potatoes and a mild peanut sauce.  Already it begins to sound inviting.

"Piernitas de cuy crocante," or crunchy guinea pig legs, is an item that does nothing less than enhance the already broad and ever-expanding menu at La Gloria Quito, an extension of La Gloria Lima, recognized as one of Peru's best restaurants.

La Gloria Quito has changed considerably since it first opened two years ago.  Owner Santiago Jarrin says they have consolidated and matured. "This is a serious restaurant with a broad menu. We have new dishes, with classical roots brought to the present day."

Though the menu is Mediterranean it is augmented by Peruvian touches, which are not unfamiliar to Ecuadorian tradition, e.g., the cuy.  Other local influences include quinoa soup, ceviches, "lomo salteado," and "tacu tacu," a traditional dish made of rice and lentils.

Santiago Macancela, Creative Director for La Gloria, says, "The plates that we are incorporating have been analyzed by La Gloria Lima.  For example, one of our star dishes is the suckling pig, but from this we have augmented plates like the crunchy cuy, the "suquet de peix," which is a fish soup from Catalonia...the menu is never going to stop growing.  We are always creating new plates with new ingredients, trying to implement, more than anything, native ingredients."

Cuy certainly is native, but with the breadth of alternatives  found within Ecuadorian cuisine, why offer guinea pig?  For many it is a dish that is somewhat repulsive, often being compared to a rodent.   "What interested me was to propose a very classical, traditional product in this restaurant," says Jarrin.  "This is a special product.  In terms of genetics it is closer to a rabbit.  The guinea pig and rabbit are herbivores and very delicate."

What often sells skeptical people on trying La Gloria's guinea pig is the presentation.   Guinea pig is traditionally served whole, with head and toes included.  But La Gloria is not a traditional restaurant.  Macancela says, "Here what we did was cut the legs and serve with a native potato and sauce…it was adapted in a way that people like to eat."

The plate is purposely not overdone with extravagant touches.  Jarrin explains, "We did not want to put sauces over the guinea pig… We simply wanted to make a presentation that would not scare away the client.   The guinea pig has very little meat, only the legs  [are meaty].  The rest is skin and bone.  And we wanted to serve it with the same traditional products, like potatoes and peanut sauce, which are very typical here."

La Gloria's new chef, Julio Ponce, is perhaps the perfect chef to help implement a dish like this.  Jarrin says, "Julio is a young chef, Peruvian, with a similar profile to our previous chefs – he has worked in many restaurants, including La Gloria Lima.  He is very dynamic and perceptive."

Ponce has served the same plate in Lima and like Jarrin, emphasizes the presentation:  "The legs of the guinea pig are more flavorful and juicier and for aesthetics this plate is well presented.   Once clients try it, many like it."  Ponce says the only change between the Lima and Quito plates are in the peanut sauce.  "This is a sauce typical of Peru…here we make it more delicate, milder… [in Peru] it is spicier."

With the peanut sauce and the potatoes, the guinea pig confit retains a familiarity to local customers, which is the whole point for Jarrin.  "In reality, guinea pig is nothing new. Perhaps it is new in high profile restaurants.  There are a lot of people who are guinea pig aficionados but do not have a place to eat it."  That has now changed.

La Gloria Restaurant is located at the corner of Valladolid and Francisco Salazar.   They are open every day for lunch and dinner.   Meals average $25.  For reservations or information call 252-7855 or 600-6842.

Actualizado por

lbrashear - en Diario HOY - Noticias de Ecuador.