By Sylvan Hardy
It goes like this. Ecuadorians leave home, spend years working in U.S., Canadian and European restaurants, then return to Cuenca and open their own restaurant, bringing their foreign experience with them. It has vastly improved the quantity as well as quality of local cuisine, providing a vast array of alternatives to the city’s traditional comida tipica menu.
One of the best examples in Cuenca is Anubis on 12 de Octubre. Chef and owner Marlon Peña worked for 12 years in some of the best restaurants in Baltimore, including the famous Charleston on the Waterfront, as a waiter, bar tender, and cook, before returning to Cuenca in 2013 to open his own restaurant.
The result, Marlon says, is a menu that’s 70% North American and European, and 30% Ecuadorian. And it’s all excellent, served in a cozy environment with good service and Marlon checking in personally to make sure that customers are satisfied.
The appetizers are as impressive as the main courses, and include fried Calmares, $5, Anubis nachos, $8, and spicy and sweet chicken wings, either for $5.
Main courses all get rave reviews and are priced from $8.50 to $12. There’s langostino in garlic sauce, filet mignon, BBQ ribs, fajitas, chicken carbonara, pesto, filet of corvina, and several other choices.
If you have room left over, the desserts are top-drawer too, including the bread pudding, bananas Foster, and chocolate cake.
Anubis is especially notable for its selection of cheeses; Marlon became a cheese aficionada in the U.S. Among the choices are Brie, Camembert, Pategras, Roundel de Cabra, and Gouda, all served in $3 portions.
An impressive array of cocktails show off Marlon’s award-winning bartending skills at the well-stocked bar, just inside the front door. Most drinks are priced at $5 or $6. Appetizers and cheeses are serviced at the bar as well.
The wine selection is equally impressive and includes French and Spanish labels, which are rare in Cuenca.
Although most of the dining at Anubis is downstairs, there’s a causal loft, perfect for drinks and appetizers with friends.
Marlon’s wife, Mercy Reinoso and daughter Domenica Peña, who were with him in Baltimore, make up the highly attentive service team.
A caution: Anubis is not for those in a hurry. Meals are slow-cooked in the old-fashion style, so come with the expectation that you’ll set a spell. If you do, you won’t be disappointed.
Anubis: Av.12 de Octubre at Gonzalo Pizzaro, two blocks south of Av. Don Bosco; Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to midnight, closed Sunday and Monday. Tel. 093 979 9754. See their location on a map.