Sunday, November 8, 2009

Ecuadorian, Argentinian Style

I won't lie. I've been craving the old Ecuador lately. Lots of things are different here, and something about the adventure of life in Ecuador is to be desired. So I asked a friend in Cuenca who lived in Buenos Aires for a year if he knew of an Ecuadorian restaurant here. He gave me the address--a literal hole in the wall on Avenida Corrientes y, get this, Calle Ecuador. Perfect.

I finally got myself over there yesterday. It's in Once, the neighborhood known for Jewish, Peruvian, and Korean citizens. I think Once reminds me of the rest of Latin America more than any other place in Argentina, and maybe that's why I like it. Vendors selling everything and shouting anything in the streets, the hustle, the grime. I love it. I wound my way around the streets to find the place, but it didn't help that it was on Calle Ecuador. Every time I asked someone if they knew of the Ecuadorian restaurant, they thought I meant any restaurant on this street.

At a Peruvian restaurant I asked a man who said he didn't know, but as I walked past he whistled at me and pointed at a door. Just a random door that looked like someone's house. He motioned for me to go in. Awkwardly I pushed open the door and the first thing I saw was the Ecuadorian flag hanging proudly. The salsa music was blasting, and the few diners there looked up at me. I was at home again.

A group of friends took turns taking pictures by the hanging picture of President Correa, and the waitress showed me what they had. Unfortunately, they had no ceviche, encebollado, or Pilsener. Though they had Brahma, which is close enough. This was an Ecuadorian restaurant but with Argentinian prices. I ordered the seco de pollo, at a hefty $18 ARG pesos. It was worth the treat. They even had some green aji, which wasn't the hottest I've had, but it was the best I've found so far here in Argentina.

The meal came out and, surprise surprise, there was a mountain of white rice next to my chicken. It was so welcoming, and I loaded on the aji just like the old days. It was more of a relief to have this food again, listening to that music, surrounded by other Ecuadorians. It felt familiar. I wouldn't say the food in Ecuador was great, but I will say that Ecuadorian food cooked in Argentina is good. I was happy with the meal, and once I was finished a guy at the table across from me invited me over to talk.

He was from Quito and has been living here for 6 years studying, and his friend was from Argentina. We shared some beer and talked about how I knew of the place and Ecuador. And then, in typical Ecuadorian fashion, he invited me to join them at his apartment in Recoleta for a beer. Before leaving I paid up, $28 pesos for the meal and a liter of beer. That works out to about $7.30 USD, and a meal like that in Ecuador would normally cost $2. But what can you do?

We went to the apartment with a Heineken and from the terrace on the roof looked out over the city with no clouds or noise at all. It was high up but not outrageous, yet in this neighborhood the noises of the city were far away. It was good to talk to the guys, and in more traditional Ecuadorian (Ecuanapping) we went out to a free symphony performance put on by the Law Faculty of the Universidad de Buenos Aires. The performance was well done, and after the intermission we went back up top and sat down on the stairs.

The next thing I knew, my new friends had ditched me. I turned around and they were gone. How bizarre. Why would they buy me beer, coffee, and invite me to a show just to ditch me? It was head-scratching material, so I slipped out and started off for home. Later I met up with a couple of other guys and we went to a birthday party at a bar in Palermo. The birthday girl had paid for 20 bottles of champagne, and so sitting next to the water bucket, I drank a fair share of champagne. Once the 20 free bottles were gone I even bought another.

No surprise here, a hangover was in store for the day. But the day was not to be a wash...

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