By Robert Bradley
Danger is a common companion of artists.
They understand that a fresh perspective requires calculated risk and that this offers hidden surprises good and bad, making astute planning an absolute necessity. This challenging environment is clearly on display, and celebrated, in Andres Zambrano’s theatrical restaurant and creative space, La Guarida at Calle Mariscal Lamar and Luis Pauta.
The on-going La Guarida Film Series, well established as a venue for thoughtfully selected films, has garnered a sizable and appreciative audience. The occasional musical concert, ranging from jazz to k-pop is often well-received, and the theatrical performances, bold and thought-provoking, are attracting a loyal following. So, it came as no surprise when Zambrano turned his attention towards another pursuit; creating a morning dining experience every bit as innovative as the films and theatrical performances he showcases.
Zambrano correctly assumes that creating a coffeehouse atmosphere means opening in the early morning. This is a principle reason why breakfast is prominently featured in La Guarida’s new menu but is by no means the only reason. I think one would hit closer to the mark by suggesting that the primary reason Zambrano is serving breakfast is to offer a venue that reflects and diversity and spirit of Cuenca.
There’s the esparagus salad tower topped with poached egg, and toast-points ($5.50). Layered with mild salsa de tomate and roasted garlic.
And the artisanal Llapingacho pork sausage and sautéed vegetables ($4.50).
And yet again, the King Smokehouse sausage patties in a saddle of shredded ‘hash brown’ potatoes and a drizzle of in-house Creme Fraiche.
It is showmanship that takes center stage in the La Guarida kitchen; the plates are movie picture-perfect. Almost too much so.
Presentation at the expense of substance is always a clear and present danger confronting restaurants and I worry about it here. One dish I tasted, beautiful though it may have been, was laden with olive oil, another offering failed to properly process a vegetable prior to cooking. These simple mistakes can be easily addressed but point to the importance of detail. Admittedly, these are small concerns and, in fact, my late-afternoon tasting was excellent; I am confident that the offerings at La Guarida will continue to improve and surprise.
La Guarida is joining the proliferation of new dining venues enticing guests by offering fresh ideas and raised standards of service. Their determination to be a favorite place that appeals to many sensitivities is a lofty goal they have every intention of fulfilling. I am confident they will succeed brilliantly and I will look forward to visiting again soon.
La Guarida, Calle Mariscal Lamar 22-23 at Luis Pauta; Phone: 282 4161: Hours: ; Monday 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Wednesday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Closed Saturday and Sunday; Facebook