Mi Cocina, the neighborhood kitchen

05/Octubre/2011 | 21:04


Success in the restaurant business does not come easily for anyone.  It is hard work and long hours, but those who know their clients, their tastes, and stay on top of things are often able to create something very special.

Mi Cocina Restaurant began 26 years ago in Quito, with a location on Amazonas Avenue.  After sixteen years, they moved to the Megamaxi Shopping Center where, according to owner Marcel Bueno, for ten years, they have served approximately 100,000 clients every year.   

Mi Cocina is not a big restaurant.  They have a seating capacity of 130, but Bueno says, "There are days when more than a thousand people come in during the fanesca season."  Mi Cocina is perhaps the preeminent restaurant to enjoy fanesca, the traditional dish served only during the Easter season.

But Mi Cocina is not a seasonal restaurant or a restaurant for occasions.  It is an everyday restaurant that has served everyday people for a quarter of a century.  The demand for Mi Cocina food now has warranted a second location.

At the corner of Zaldumbide and Valladolid, along the small round-about in La Floresta, sits a beautifully restored, brightly painted house, which is the new Mi Cocina Vanguardia.

The Megamaxi location has traditionally been a lunch restaurant with a morning clientele as well, but the new Mi Cocina will offer an alternative for night time diners, as well as a few other touches. "The idea of the new location is to have attention all day. I think at night it will have a lot of success because of its location," Bueno says.

He emphasizes that Mi Cocina is a place for everyone - essentially  a neighborhood restaurant: "We wanted to maintain the lunchtime restaurant with food at an accessible price – a restaurant that is formal and informal so people can come as they wish.  It is the character of the restaurant.  It is a restaurant with good food and very accesible prices, for all kinds of people."

Same Great Menu

The menu at Mi Cocina  is extensive, which explains its popularity.   From typical Ecuadorian cuisine, to international plates, and even vegetarian options, it has something for everyone.   "The menu has a large Ecuadorian base but there are a lot of international plates," says Bueno.   Mi Cocina has  daily specials, but people come back for the same things time and again.

Bueno says that what people ask for most are the national dishes: empanadas de morocho, locro, fritada, seco de chivo, and mote con chicharron.  "Ours is the best chicharon you can eat in the city.  We sell out almost every day." Bueno adds, "The star plates are the typical, Ecuadorian dishes, nonetheless, we sell a lot of fish and meat dishes."

Shrimp, salmon, and sea bass (corvina), are among the fish options, prepared in a variety of ways, including in an array "encocado" sauces (a traditional coastal preparation using coconut).  Mi Cocina also offers sirloins, filet mignon, and chateaubriand.   And for the simpler, down-home appetite: roast beef with mashed potatoes.

At Mi Cocina one cannot overlook the ceviches.  They have twelve different preparations available each day, including one not found in most restaurants: "Vuelve a la vida" (Back to Life), with oysters and prawns, accompanied with avocado.       "I was in Mexico one time and I ordered a good ‘Vuelve a la Vida,’ it is a Mexican ceviche.  I liked it so much I put it here, on our menu," explains Bueno.

The desserts at Mi Cocina also deserve special mention.   They have  seventeen different options, from brownies and crepes to traditional figs with cheese.  But the new location goes a little further.

"The new restaurant will have a special attention to desserts.  We are going to have a shop inside the same restaurant dedicated to desserts with sponsorship from Republica del Cacao," referring to one of Ecuador's renowned chocolate producers.  "We are going to make an alliance to sell chocolate desserts." And, Bueno adds, "We are going to have diabetic desserts, as well."

Family Business

With all of the expansion and success, Mi Cocina remains a family restaurant.  Bueno and his wife run both locations, but the new restaurant was made possible, in part, by architect, Paula Bueno, Marcelo's daughter.  "She directed the construction and did the design."

Mi Cocina Vanguardia is both elegant and comfortable.  They have outdoor seating, but indoors one finds a sense of openness and warmth due to the quantity of natural light entering the two-story windows.  Though the new restaurant is larger than the Megamaxi location, Bueno maintains a similar seating capacity in both places.

"I did not want such a large restaurant.  I really do not like gigantic social areas."   The design reflects his wishes.  And to help break up some of the spaces in the newer, larger building, they have not only the dessert shop, but a game room upstairs with pool and card tables, which he finds is popular with many customers.  "It breaks up the ambiance and is more than just a restaurant."

The new Mi Cocina is located on the round-about (redondel) at Zaldumbide N24-163 y Valladolid.  For reservations or information call 290-0647 or 223-9345.   Or visit their original location in the Megamaxi shopping complex on 6 de diciembre near Aleman, 224-1210.  Starters and desserts average $5 and main courses $12, taxes and service included.

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