When our oldest son, Kevin, was visiting a couple of weeks ago, we decided to treat him to a working-class Ecuadorian vegetarian restaurant and took him to El Paraiso by the San Blas Plaza. It’s a deceptively delicious restaurant that looks unimpressive with no decorations other than posters advertising their products.
The furniture is old, the walls need paint and the workers look a bit haggard. The noise inside is a bit too loud for conversations among old gringos so we ate al fresco, in the row of tables in front of the restaurant.
The food and the prices are well worth the mild inconvenience.
Kevin ordered the chaulafan while we ordered our usual selections, the ensalada especial and the tigrillo vegetariano. The chaulafan was massive for only $2.30. The rice was cooked perfectly and very well-seasoned but the dish didn’t have much else. If you really like fried rice, you’ll get your fill here. Kevin was so full, he was unable to finish his order.
Our two favorite dishes have never failed to please. The ensalada especial for $2.70 is a large goblet of yogurt loaded with fresh fruit. The glass goblet is a beautiful display, filled to overflowing with chopped apples, pineapples, strawberries, and mystery fruits that we haven’t been able to guess. The yogurt fills in the gaps between the fruit chunks. This head-sized goblet is topped off with a scoop of ice cream, a large dollop of whipped cream, a tasty vanilla wafer and at least one piece of special seasonal fruit. The yogurt selections are mora, mango, and peach.
My favorite is the tigrillo vegetariano for $2.80. It is a large oval platter mounded with three different kinds of substantial salads, a lentil stew, a red bean stew, two long slices of fried plantains and avocado slices, all on a bed of shredded lettuce. It is a thing of beauty, I tell you. There’s some kind of savory, creamy potato salad in the center of the plate under avocado slices. I have no idea exactly what is in it but I usually hoard it for myself. The other salads are all savory and satisfying. Their plantain slices are not grilled but fried, a perfect balance of sweet and tart.
We like our regular orders so much that we haven’t tried anything else on the menu.
Note: For those living close to the El Vergel neighhorhood, El Paraiso has a second location at Av. Jose Peralta, around the corner from Supermaxi, half a block east of the stadium.
El Paraiso: Simon Bolivar and Manuel Vega and at Av. Jose Peralta, half a block east of the stadium; Hours: daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Phone: 098 991 2143; Cash only; Notes: Restaurant is disabled accessible Reviewer’s comment Recommended see: Facebook for further details.