El Encocao is on the north side of Av. Las Americas, just a few doors down from Camino a Miraflores. The restaurant is set back from the street a bit to allow a few parking spots in front. The entrance is through a roll-up garage door.
Jackie and I went there for lunch because we’d heard good things about the place. Happily, the recommendations were warranted.
El Encocao is deceptively large, with some twenty tables inside, plus another two outside under umbrellas. This is not a fancy place. The décor is rustic, with low ceilings, somewhat dark inside, mismatched chairs and tables, a bit funky, but with a homey, welcoming feel.
Cuenca is a tough place to have a restaurant, with new restaurants and cafes opening and closing every month, but according to the friendly owner, Boris Bennett, who spoke passable English, El Encocao has been operating at this location for about 23 years! That in itself is a testament to the quality of the food, which is unpretentious, basic, moderately priced, plentiful, and very, very tasty.
Jackie had the “Encocaomixto,” a delicious platter of fish, rice, shrimp, salad and plantain chips. Like the name of the place, “encocao” means that the food is cooked with coconut milk, which adds slight thickening, a solid base to the sauces, and a hint of sweetness. The sauces really are the stars of the meal.
I had the “Bandero con pollo,” a platter of chicken, rice, spaghetti, and potatoes, with a wonderful sauce that mixed well with everything. And I mean a platter! These we not just dinner plates, but large oval platters heaped with food. I had not had breakfast that day and arrived there really hungry, but could not completely finish the meal. (No dessert for me!) The chicken was not just a back and a wing, but half a breast and adjoining mystery part (Chickens here are not always butchered along normal anatomical lines.)with a lot of very tender meat, cooked to perfection.
We were there over an hour and noted a steady stream of customers, with not a single expat, except us of course. This is truly an Ecuadorian restaurant. Our meals were among the more expensive ones on the menu, and our total bill was only about $12, very much worth the price.
El Encocao Restaurante, Las Americas y Camino a Miraflores
Hours: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day except closed Mondays
Quality: Very good
Credit cards accepted: No