On second thought…

Supposedly the only Ecuadorian restaurant in Los Angeles, El Caserio has always piqued my interest. With its nondescript strip mall location closer to the bad side of town and a large sign advertising a dead website and its ecuadorian-italian menu, El Caserio has been on my long list of “one day I should try” spots. With a humble but comfortable interior, we ambled in for a leisurely and late lunch, with almost the whole two-dining room restaurant to ourselves. A trio serving of toasty warm bread was dropped off alongside a sauce boat of what most resembled a watery salsa, spoonfuls of onions and diced tomatoes submerged in the theatrical blood coloured sauce. Aji is a chili-based condiment and ecuadorian culinary institution, meant to compliment almost anything eaten on the menu. Initially eye-widening fiery, the taste subsides into the sort of tasty heat that tempts your mouth for just one more bite. The menu offered a range of beef, pork, chicken, goat, seafood and pastas; disappointingly, the italian choices at El Caserio seem to be common pastas seen almost on any neighborhood italian menu. But of the ecuadorian choices, there are a few striking temptations that immediately caught our eyes. The first being the fritada criolla with llapingachos; fried pork “riblets” served alongside a cardiac arrest inducing combination of lightly pan-fried potato pancakes (think the love child of a latke and mashed potatoes) slathered with cheese and a fried egg draping it all. With each bite I considered how I’ve become a vocal fan of pork dishes just recently, with swine becoming a more common choice where once beef dominated. The ecuadorian preparation is simple, but like an italian osso bucco or french poulet frites it satisfies a craving for comforting tastes. Seco de chico is a goat stew served with a mound of rice and an accompaniment of fried plantains, the gamy meat cooked hours to a grandpappy’s gums-friendly tenderness.

Strangely, I left unimpressed, despite the believed consensus of all three other diners I was pleased and impressed with my meal. I think its simplicity underwhelmed me initially. But now thinking back, I think I really enjoyed each bite of pork, potato and egg, staples of the ecuadorian diet. I guess I was partly swayed toward indifference because of the sloth south American service which left us unattended after our food was served. Considering its almost midnight and I can still feel my afternoon meal taking a siesta in my gut, I know El Caserio isn’t meant to be a weekly destination. But I think I’ll go back one day when I finally pass the remnants of this meal, and try the humitas (corn tamales), caldo de patas (beef hoof soup), and any of the meat dishes that are served with a plantain and peanut butter sauce that I spied some other diners ordering. That is if I can hail down a waitress….

El Caserio Restaurant
309 North Virgil Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90004-3623

One thought on “On second thought…”

  1. After two pleasant visits to this restaurant my third visit on Sep17th was really disappointing. I ordered a Chicken marinated with tarragon sauce and spices accompanied by rice and vegetables (cauliflower, carrots and zucchinis) I asked the waitress to please substitute the vegetables for lentils, she refused. Then I asked her to substitute the vegetables for plantain she said NO. Then I asked if I could substitute anything for the vegetables. She told me that she can delete an item from my order but not substitute it for another side order (with no adjustment to the price). I felt it was unusual because my request wasnít unreasonable because I was asking substitute a ìside foodî for another ìside foodî, I asked her why and she just told me ìwe canít do thatî. She offered me a portion of lentils for an additional cost. I refused, and I completely change my order for something else. This situation soured my experience, and in a way ruined my dinner because I felt forced to eat something that I didnít want to eat.

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