Noah and I decided to try the Ecuadorian restaurant El Caserio, which had recently opened a new location near us.
I had been hesitant to try it because of the large hedges that obscure the place from view, coupled with a large sign that depicted the inside of the restaurant to those who were interested. It just seemed weird.
The large ceramic monkey that greets you by the door didn't help matters, nor the lack of patrons in general inside the restaurant.
Noah and I waited just inside the bar by a large naked statue holding a cowboy hat for someone to lead us to a table. After a few minutes of pacing, a member of the staff finally did arrive, and we were seated. The restaurant as a whole, must of cost a pretty penny. It's just a shame that none of those pennies added up to any taste. What could have been a beautiful restaurant instead looks like someones Latin American vacation has thrown up everywhere.
Noah and I remained optimistic.
Our waitress was very pleasant, and Noah immediately ordered a pitcher of Sangria..that was watered down, and 2 glasses of water. Before our water arrived, the Aji was placed before us with a basket of bread. To say that this Aji (sauce that contains tomato, cilantro, and hot peppers) was hot would be an understatement. It's hard to describe, but I felt as if the roof of my mouth was literally being peeled off, and at the same time I could not stop sucking the stuff down! The water finally arrived, and i gulped both glasses down, and had to actually point to my order when the waitress came back, because I couldn't speak. Noah seemed to think this was all quite funny, and I probably would have laughed myself, but I was having trouble breathing.
After looking over the confusing menu, that by the way also had a plethora of Italian dishes (this did not bode well),we ordered the Duo De Humitas, which are sweet corn and cheese tamales.
Noah ordered the LLapingacho con Fritada for his main course, and I the Halibut Al Caserio.
The tamales were heavenly, which was a god send because everything fell flat after. They had a wonderful creamy consistency which left us wanting more, and when our main dishes arrived, we were ready to forget the strange atmosphere and dig in.
My Halibut was broiled and served with a tricolor rice sauce and plantains. The plantains were marvelous. The fish was not. Now when tasting food from Latin America, one is usually struck by the robustness of flavor. Spices,textures. None of this could be said for my dish. My fish was almost completely over cooked, and in regards to flavor.Well. There was none. From where I sat Noah's dish of grilled pork, with cheese covered potato patties, fried egg, and cheese sauce didn't look much better. The pork looked dry, and the rest of the dish was a mess. Noah didn't look too happy either, and we decided to finish our watered down Sangria, move the food around a bit on the plate, and get the check.
We did take a side of the Aji with us. So who knows the meal could have been great, since we could very well not have tasted any of it, what with our pallet's burned off.
Bottom Line: I'll pass.
El Caserio is an Ecuadorian restaurant with two locations in Silverlake. It also offers Italian pasta dishes, with no explanation of the correlations between to the two cuisines. Aja and I made sure to stray away from the pasta as this was our first Ecuadorian experience and for the reason that we are not big Italian fans.
We went to the newer restaurant of the two, which is located on Silverlake blvd just north of the 101. It appears that their original location on Virgil has been doing really well, because they invested a heck of a lot of money in this place. When you go to El Caserio’s website, it calls itself a fine dining restaurant and bar.
It does have a bar, and they do serve food, though the ridiculously faux ornate décor does not make this place a fine dining establishment. As can be understood just by looking at the pictures of the food.
As you walk in, you will learn the specials written on a chalkboard next to an enormous heavy oak door, which will lead you inside to meet the hostess. However, Aja and I were not greeted, for the hostess was in the back chatting with the chef, for it seemed unusual for a customer to come in on a Thursday. The place was almost empty, but we were starving and were still optimistic that the food was going to be delicious.
We were finally seated and quickly became friends with our waitress. She is a short, plump, Ecuadorian woman who only spoke a couple words of English, though was able to answer many of the questions Aja and I had in regards to the menu.
We first ordered half a quart of sangria, and shared a caiprihina, which is the Brazilian equivalent to a mojito. Before our drinks came, our waitress brought us some Aji and bread. Aji is the infamous Ecuadorian salsa. We loved it! It is very flavorful and addicting, however, it is extremely hot. When our drinks came, Aja drank both of the waters in just seconds and kept an ice cube in her mouth until it melted away. Even though we learned the consequences of the aji, we could not stop eating it.
We ordered the Duo De Humitas, which are sweet corn and cheese tamales that are roasted and served with Aji. This was the best part of our entire meal. These tamales are not stuffed like the traditional Mexican tamales I am used to. The solid corn tamales sweetness counteracts the mouth burning aji. Sadly to say, these were by far the highlight of the night. We ate them fast!
For our main course, Aja got the Halibut Al Caserio and I got Llapingachos Con Fritada, which were both recommended by our waitress. First, Aja’s was undercooked and was lacking flavor. Even the natural flavors of the fish were not there!
My Pork dish was visually unpleasant and did not taste must better than it looked. It seemed as if we were just playing with our food from then on out, trying to figure out ways to make it look like we ate most of our plate to not upset our new friend. Though, in reality we were upset that we listened to our waitress on this one.
We will definitely go back to El Caserio for the Aji and the tamales. Though, next time we will visit the location on Virgil, for I am told it has a dumpier, hole in the wall feel.
Italian & South American Fine Dining
401 Silver Lake Boulevard, Los Angeles