>> Cancun Olé Ecuadorian Restaurant | Eat the World Los Angeles

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Cancun Olé Ecuadorian Restaurant

ECUADOR 🇪🇨

COVID-19 UPDATE: Throughout the summer and into autumn, a large tent in the front yard hosted a growing number of diners. This is on pause, but the block is a bit backed up on Sundays because of all the cars double-parked grabbing their orders.

In the landscape of Greater Los Angeles, it would obviously make sense that some of the best Ecuadorian food in the city would come from the kitchens of two Mexican restaurants. The cooking of Carmen Platon was first available at Hollywood's Dos Burritos over two decades ago. Caldo de salchicha, an Ecuadorian dish not seen anywhere else in the city, was quietly added to the menu and word starting spreading among the city's residents originally from Ecuador.
 
Eventually the flag of the country was a mainstay in the restaurant and on their menu and more offerings were available daily until the restaurant closed five years back. In early 2016 much of her cooking started showing up on weekends at her and her husband Alejandro's other restaurant in East Los Angeles called Cancun Olé. Name changes require a lot of money and navigation in the byzantine bureaucracies of city licensing, and besides they had already successfully done it before with a non-Ecuadorian name.

Perfect for breakfast: empanadas de queso with morocho.

Rather than the foods of Mexico's Atlantic Caribbean coast of Quintana Roo, the specialties are from Guayaquil and the Pacific Coast of Ecuador. Once again word started spreading in the small Ecuadorian community of Los Angeles, as well as their South American neighbors. Cancun Olé became something of a community center, offering dancing and drinks all week long and home-cooked Ecuadorian meals on weekends.
 
2020 has temporarily shut down these types of gatherings, so the spirit (and chef) of Cancun Olé has relocated and become a home-based operation at Carmen and Alejandro's home in Larchmont. For much of the year a large tent was set up that seated a dozen or so, and music was always audible on Sundays, when Ecuadorians from around the city descended to enjoy meals, camaraderie and music, and some football matches from back home.
 
 
For now, Sundays are just for pickup orders as outdoor dining is not allowed. You can get in touch through the Instagram account and eventually have Alejandro's mobile number on speed dial like most of their customers presumably do. Favorites like encebollado de pescado and seco de chivo are on the menu every week, but other specialties come and go like that caldo de salchicha that made the chef famous way back when.
 
On a very recent visit, their nephew had just returned from Ecuador with crabs on a Saturday and those were used the next day for an outstanding ensalada de cangrejo ($18, above). Most of the meat is removed from the shells, except for the two meaty arms, always the best part. The rest of the volume is made up of potatoes, while a crisp and sour marinade pervades the crab and onions.
 

Available everyday until they sell out (on one attempt some weeks back it was gone by 14:00), the encebollado de pescado ($14, above) seems to be a crowd favorite. It comes with a whole lime cut in half, but the broth is already plenty sour from citrus and does not need a squirt. You can give it a kick with the fiery onion salsa they include with all orders.

Encebollado is full of meaty whitefish and large hunks of yuca, all cooked with plenty of onions as the name of the dish gives away. When summer comes back and the breeze runs under their front yard tent, it will be easy to imagine yourself at a seafood shack on the coast somewhere near Guayaquil.
 

 
Also available everyday is seco de chivo ($14, above), as is seco de gallina. This goat stew is rich and fatty, the meat falls right off the bone as it should giving you the feeling that it has been cooked low and slow since early last week. The rice is heavy with oil and/or butter and a touch of annatto powder to make it yellow.
 
If you arrive early enough on Sundays and still have a craving for breakfast, their fried empanadas de queso ($3 each, see top of article) and cup of morocho ($4) are very satisfying. The morocho is thick with its namesake kernels, much like hominy. It is served in a cup but is more the consistency of pudding and needs a spoon to get out. It is milky and sweet, with a dusting of cinnamon and some large dried raisins.

In other news for fans of Ecuadorian food, Carmen and Alejandro are not taking 2020 sitting down. They are currently in the process of renovating the space where Cancun Olé lives in East Los Angeles and it should be ready to go sometime next year when everyone can get back together again.

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