Ecuadorian and Italian by the freeway
401 Silver Lake Blvd. (just above the 101)
Phone: 213-273-8945 | map
Restaurant Ecuatoriano El Caserio
309 N. Virgil Ave. (just below the 101)
Phone: 323-664-9266 | map
Having taken over some residential buildings right next to the 101-North onramp, El Caserio has planted an Ecuadorian Elysium. A magnificent front door of wood and iron faces you, heavy enough to flatten your car if it fell on it. Inside and past the bar is rippled wood flooring, paintings of Central American streets, serious furniture, and a modern but well-chosen tonal design on the booths. Outside is a stone-tiled patio. Bossa nova plays overhead (we heard Sérgio Mendes's version of "Mas Que Nada" on our first visit, which is always nice).
El Caserio is Ecuadorian with an Italian influence, or perhaps the other way around, and doesn't mind sharing itself with Brazil, Chile or Colombia. Bianca gets a glass of Casa Lapostolle, our favorite Chilean Cabernet; I sometimes get a can of Postobón manzana, which is a Colombian apple soda. You are served bread with a hot onion salsa that torments the tongue with unexpected vigor; it must be their version of aji sauce.
We can recommend the frito de calamari, too large to be the mere appetizer it says it is, squid fried into a perfect crunch without being too chewy, served with a full-bodied marinara. Don't eat it all, because you will weep when you can't finish dinner.
On that subject, the arroz de marinera is a masterful dish, basically a mixed seafood fried rice--almost a risotto--flanked by clams, mussels and firm-textured shrimp; slices of elegantly soft whitefish hide underneath, with plantains that give Bossa Nova a serious run for its reais. I am also hooked on the seco de chivo, boneless goat braised with potatoes in a red beer & herb sauce, tender and shreddable, absolutely OMG-worthy, with a cup of shiny, airy white rice and a bit of lettuce and avocado for coolness and color.
There is a restaurant parking lot, which is valet at night. The other location is on Virgil, moments away in a more dingy environment but perhaps more closely Ecuadorian in origin.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Italian, Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Echo Park, Ecuadorian )