By Sylvester Grahame
Woohoo! Lovers of fine cuisine can rejoice. La Caleta is back.
Previously located a single block from my house, La Caleta, took up residence in the charming Casa del Aguila hotel just around the corner. My walk is now two blocks; I can use the exercise.
I know of no other chef so dedicated to new Ecuadorian cuisine, or so talented in the kitchen. Diego Gutierrez is a master who has managed the nearly impossible; the new La Caleta is even more comfortable and inviting than his earlier vision.
A soft palate of pastels and frescos grace the walls creating a country ambiance certain to soothe weary travelers and locals alike. Comfortable chairs and attractive lighting whispers of good things to come. And, boy do they ever.
I began with an entree; Roasted turnip, coconut, mixed greens, and peanuts. ($6.50) It is as refreshingly innovative as it is delicious.
Chef Gutierrez imports fresh edible flowers from Quito daily to grace his plates; an attention to detail few others pursue. This simple compliment to the plate is an example of the kitchen’s focus. Everything is considered, the presentation is masterful.
My second course was Lamb, ripe banana, kefir, and guava, ($15.70) Fruity and full-bodied, it is an inspired preparation of a rustic dinner. The lamb was, as expected, perfectly cooked, with a hint of pink tucked inside the crusty seared meat, the kefir adding depth and character.
I rewarded myself with dessert — afterall, I just walked two bocks – by tucking into a blend of smoked milk, pumpkin seeds, thyme, and sagu honey. I all but floated home.
Fine cuisine need not be fussy or overbearing. It does require a team willing to be at their best every moment, and for every offering they serve. La Caleta is an exceptional restaurant and remains one of Cuenca’s crown jewels.
La Caleta, Mariscal Sucre 13.56 y Juan Montalvo; Lunch, 12:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every day. Dinner, 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Credit cards accepted. Phone; 099-394-1618. Email: lacaletaecuador@gmail Facebook