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There are few pleasures in life as rewarding as good food. Demanding palates are plentiful, but a good meal is much more than just satisfying appetites. It is a pleasant and harmonious atmosphere, it is background music that flows without interruption, it is natural light in play with the shadows of a slowly fading afternoon; these are the sensations that culminate in enormous satisfaction when they are complemented by exceptional warmth and personalized customer service.
I have discovered that I am somewhat of a wanderer, moving through life hoping to find experiences worth sharing. This was without a doubt one of these experiences; as such it gives me great pleasure to describe it. It was not only the wonderful flavors I had an opportunity to try, but also the discovery that when great creativity is exercised in the preparation of Bluefin tuna or another meat, these ordinary foods become delicacies that use an ephemeral language that appeals to all the senses at once, and transmits the consumer to a place beyond words.
I’m at the La Hacienda Restaurant at the JW Marriott Quito. It’s an average Monday at lunchtime, one of my favorite days of the week to explore these gastronomic paradises, looking for hidden treasures in the city.
The design and ambience of the house wine cellar welcomes me, conjuring up visions of a culinary adventure that promises to leave its mark. It imperceptibly invites me to taste the delicacies of the best vineyards with my eyes, and guides me to the table that awaits us.
The generous space, with its high ceilings decorated with exposed wooden beams, hosts two tables strategically distributed so that each enjoys luxurious privacy and the conversations of patrons do not invade one another. A large lamp hangs over the central marble table, adorned with countless candles, which will surely warm the atmosphere at nightfall.
Gonzalo listens to us intently, without suspecting that I intend to describe the moment at hand, without even knowing that his neatness could determine the outcome of my recommendation of La Hacienda to our readers. Attentive and suggestive, he listens to our cravings and, based on his wealth of experience, recommends the best combinations for today’s lunch.
We reviewed the choices of starters, soups, salads and main courses. The alternatives in each category are complementary and well balanced, there is no sign of excess, the menu is perfectly put together. A variety of meat, fish, seafood and vegetable options make their presence known with suggestive descriptions that motivate the imagination. Nothing is there to fill space, everything confidently holds its place, well thought out to work by itself or accompanied by another dish.
I request the wine list, knowing in advance that the choice will not be easy; La Hacienda’s cellar is nothing if not well stocked. Each variety and each country of origin has its space in reds and whites, sparkling and champagne. The wine is by the bottle, and also by the glass for diners like myself, and even on a Monday, we let ourselves be gently tempted by these healthy pleasures.
My choice was the Navarro Correas Malbec, from Argentina, which I had the pleasure of tasting before the glass was served. The Bluefin tuna served with ginger mayonnaise and seaweed salad was my choice to start. I complemented it with the filet mignon that arrived at my table perfectly cooked to my liking, accompanied by a delicious chimichurri that was very well received.
I was so pleasantly surprised by my meal that I took the time to observe the oblivious diners at other tables, to see if their reactions were just as satisfactory as mine. They were. They all looked comfortable in the atmosphere, enjoying the moment, with the excellent customer service and divine cuisine taken care of. Apparently the feeling of enjoyment was widespread.
My gaze followed the movements of the waiters who tended to us. They came and went constantly and seamlessly, reaching each table at the right moment, with the plates in order and in timely synchronization. They asked if everything was as we expected, and their smile of complacency was evident when they confirmed that we lacked nothing. They were an integral part of this magical space that exists to please demanding diners, and they appropriated it by giving their best performance.
On leaving I bid farewell to those who catered to my whims at this delightful lunch and in that moment decided that I will continue on my journey of discover, I will continue to seek, to make this space a place worthy of only the best recommendations. I look at the path I have walked this afternoon and decide that I will return sooner rather than later. The combination of lamb sausages and chistorra is on my to-do list for my next visit, which I will undoubtedly accompany with a Chateauneuf Du Pape, a French wine that I have not encountered for quite some time, being that it is hard to find in many places.