Every now and then I find a restaurant that is so exceptional I must return to assure myself of my first impression. Such was the case with Lola (Simon Bolivar 12-60 and Tarqui), a courtyard dining room decorated with banana trees, widely spaced white tables and comfortable chairs.
The setting features clean lines with no fussy trappings.
I dined there with friends on two occasions in a single week and loved it both times. In fact, the second occasion was with a single dining companion who is an astute and knowledgeable “foodie”, who confirmed my earlier opinion. What a treat!
Ecuador is blessed with a delicate climate that allows a 12-month growing season accommodating a fantastic variety of produce, fruit, and herbs. However, the culinary tradition is often overlooked or disregarded. Not so at Lola. The commitment to traditional creative cuisine is unwavering, and the results are delicious.
We began with Variedad de empanaditas tradicionales ($6.70). These tasty treats were light and airy and we devoured them quickly for fear they would float away.
My entree, Seco de Canilla de Ros, ($14.99) featured a massive oxtail in a rich glace de viande that was smoky and dense, enhancing the fall-off-the-bone osso buco. Pillowy whipped potatoes and roasted vegetables created a lovely presentation for a full-bodied meal sure to please any hearty diner.
My companion decided on Lola’s signature dish, Arroz meloso de Mariscos con Pescado y Langosetino a la Brasa, ($15.99). This popular offering has all the complexity of a well-made paella, only with a distinctive Ecuadorian twist. A touch of anise and garlic allowed the shrimp to come to the fore with a burst of flavor reminiscent of a briny coastal breeze on a sunny afternoon. Scrumptious!
Another Lola favorite is Seco de Chivo ($14.50). A chocolate and chilies lacquer produced a twang that astonished the senses and was a perfect foil for the tender ribs. Truly outstanding.
It is always a pleasure to find a restaurant that respects traditional foods and prepares its menu with such loving care. Lola is such a place. On each occasion, every meal was cooked perfectly and the kitchen adheres to the highest standards and is committed to excellence of service, presentation, and most importantly, preparation.
It is with joy that I highly recommend Lola for setting a standard that few other restaurants in Cuenca can match.
Lola: Simon Bolivar 12-60 and Tarqui; Tel. 099-623-9707; Hours: Mon. – Sat. 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Major credit cards: accepted; Handicapped Accessible: yes.; Facebook