I’ve learned never judge a restaurant by its size, because to do so would mean you might miss out on great cuisine and learning a little about a culture you’re not familiar with. A great example is Chimborazo (www.chimborazorestaurant.com). Though small in size, it offers a warm, cozy atmosphere and the staff is efficient and knowledgeable. They are focused on preparing traditional cuisines popular to Ecuador’s coastal areas and the Andean highlands of the South American country. Located in the Northeast Minneapolis neighborhood, the Ecuadorian restaurant is popular with a variety of friends that I’ve chatted with.
The cuisine in Ecuador is diverse depending on altitude and what type of agriculture can be grown in the area. In the highland regions, preparation of meats such as chicken, beef, or pork are popular. In the coastal areas, seafood tends to be the given staple, with dishes that include fish or shrimp. Having ceviche is key to the diets of inhabitants of the coastal region.
With so many friends telling me that I need to go there, I picked a late Friday evening to go. I was pleasantly surprised that even at the late hour that I chose, it was busy with at least 90% of the tables being occupied. As I was alone, I didn’t mind being seated somewhat out of the way. I didn’t want anyone to notice the number of dishes I was getting anyway!
The first thing on their menu was the ceviche de camaron, which immediately caught my attention. I wasn’t familiar with the item patacones, so the server described it as flatten plantain chips that have been twice fried, as though it were a cracker to eat with the ceviche. I was totally in and excited when the ceviche came because it had four to five huge whole shrimp, enveloped in the cocktail sauce made up of red onions, tomato, lime and roasted corn (tostada). The patacones were steeped within the sauce, along the edges of the bowl. Make no mistake that was devoured.
Next, I ordered an empanada de carne, or beef turnover. Stuffed with well flavored beef, and then fried until the outside of the pastry is golden and crunchy, it was a wonderful transition from having a coastal dish, and now eating cuisine from the highland region. I suggest asking for extra of a fantastic green salsa they serve along with it …aji criollo. I eventually asked for the recipe.
My entrée was the seco de pollo which was stewed chicken with peppers, onions, garlic and passionfruit. Served with white rice and fried plantain, the leg and thigh chicken pieces were seasoned extremely well and didn’t rely on the sauce that it is was in to make it stand out. The added bonus was that more aji criollo was provided for this dish as well. Once I deboned the chicken pieces, mixing it into the rice and added the Ecuadorian green salsa (aji), I was on cloud nine. Probably a little too much as the couple next to me certainly gave me a surprising glance perhaps from the sounds of my elation.
Since the temptress, my server, came by and stated, “Dinner isn’t ever complete without dessert” I ordered tres leches cake. With every fork indentation into that moist pound cake, soaked with sweetened milks, and garnished with whipped cream and strawberries, I knew that my fate was sealed and that my return to this hearty restaurant will involve a totally new experience of flavors.