We have been to Zazu four times in the four years we have lived in Ecuador so you can see it has become something of an annual pilgrimage for us (their web site is here). Our most recent visit was during our two day stay in Quito at the Hotel Sebastian. The restaurant’s modern building and grey, minimalist decor have not changed although we did see a plaque stating that Zazu is now part of the Relais & Chateau group. The plaque seemed new to us, but Zazu has been a member since 2014.
We had arrived for lunch about 1:00 and found the restaurant partially full. The other patrons were well-heeled Quitenos. Most seemed to be business people enjoying a good Friday lunch with coworkers and associates. The wait staff seated us efficiently. It is not clear that they all spoke English, but we were happy to practice our Spanish so no problem.
A bowl of tomato soup was the opening number for both of us. These were very well done. The deep, roasted tomato flavor came through.
After the soup, we moved on to the appetizers. M. chose the suckling pig taquitos with gruyere and a chipotle aioli. She was quite pleased with this. I decided to go with the Andean grains and vegetables. This was presented with a creamy, rich sauce which had a mild flavor with a distinct undercurrent of yellow Bell pepper. The crispy, toasted quinoa added a pleasant crunch. My feeling at the time was that this was a dish comprised largely of local ingredients presented with an international flair.
The Andean grains were a very enjoyable appetizer, but I have to admit the taquitos were richer and more satisfying.
It is always fun to select wine at Zazu, given the large selection housed in their famous, 25 foot tall cylindrical ‘cellar’. We had initially selected a cabernet sauvignon-shiraz blend as we intended to have meaty main courses. What was brought was a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and shiraz. The waiter did not show us the bottle and we did not think to ask for it nor notice the discrepancy until after it was opened.
The wine we received was very acceptable and went well with our lunch selections. Furthermore, the prices of the two wines were similar so no serious damage, but still, a miscue.
For the main course, there appeared from the kitchen two absolutely massive, bone-in hunks of meat. I had originally requested the ossobuco since I had had a pleasant encounter with this dish on a previous visit. Unfortunately, this was not available the day we were there. The waiter suggested rack of lamb as an alternative. M. had selected the Uruguayan rib eye (bife ancho).
The lamb was flavorful and fall-off-the-bone tender. It was good enough to make me forget my disappointment at not getting the ossobuco. The beef was a little different story, however. The seasonings used were great, but we had requested it be cooked medium. The dish arrived much closer to rare. The piece of meat was large enough that M. could have a satisfactory lunch by nibbling the more well-done edges and she chose not to send it back. Still, this was disappointing.
Incredibly we still had room for dessert. The chocolate lover dish was suitably rich and decadent, but the crème brûlée took the cake, so to speak. The creme brulee was presented topped with a large mound of spun cotton candy. At the table, flaming bourbon was poured over this, which reduced the sugar to a glaze covering the crème brûlée. A dramatic and effective presentation for a delicious dessert.
As always, we enjoyed the food and the experience during our lunch at Zazu. There were a couple of glitches in the service, which was otherwise good. The service and the food were nearly flawless in our previous three visits so perhaps the errors this time were a one-off. I hope so.
We also enjoyed a very good Italian lunch in Restaurant Pavarotti although we were not very well organized for preparing a blog post of the experience. The owner himself took our order and the rest of the service was of a similar high standard. The food was as good as the service. I particularly remember the calamare appetizer as being tender and delicious. The restaurant is located in the La Floresta area of Quito, which is developing a reputation as an up and coming area for restaurants.