We’ve been living in Ecuador for two months now and every time we meet someone who’s been to Quito, my first question is “Did you eat at Zazu?”
When they reply with a yes, I’m inclined to high-five them. If their answer is a no, I slowly look away and shake my head in disappointment.
Because honestly, Zazu is the BEST restaurant we’ve eaten at in South America and to visit Quito without dining there is like going to Rome and skipping a visit to the Colosseum.
Zazu is the highest rated restaurant on TripAdvisor, which is how we discovered it, and rightly so.
Atmosphere at Zazu restaurant
When our taxi dropped us off, I felt as though I was walking into a million-dollar show home rather than a restaurant. The doorman leads you through a short hallway dimly lit with floor lights, before introducing you to the maître-de who seats you.
The design of the restaurant is modern with a sunken floor leading to a bar that has liquor bottles back lit behind the counter. You can enjoy a cocktail here while you wait for a table, or even just pop in for a drink and a few nibbles rather than a full meal.
On the other side of the hallway is the main seating area with alcoves within the walls displaying artworks. Mirrors make the space feel larger and the tables are not so close that you can hear each other’s conversation, but close enough that you don’t feel isolated.
My favourite part of the restaurant’s design was the wine cellar. Located on the left-hand side of the joint, it’s housed in a climate-controlled circular room that’s about six metres high. It’s the equivalent of an adult’s candy store and my immediate reaction was to take a snap and send it to my dad (this wine cellar definitely smacked his out of the ball park).
Food and drinks at Zazu restaurant
Where we’re from, Perth in Western Australia, has a very strong fine-dining scene. The cashed up miners want a place to spend their money and expensive restaurants thrive in Perth. The quality of these restaurants is exceedingly high, from The Boatshed Restaurant where we had our wedding reception, to Sittella Winery housed in the infamous Swan Valley a forty minute drive from the city.
But I can safely say that Zazu’s food and wine was on par with the high standards of these Australian restaurants.
The owner of Zazu is German and he married a local woman from Quito and employs only Ecuadorian people to work in his restaurant. His standards are high but his Ecuadorian chef is superb and it doesn’t surprise me that they’ve won awards for their food.
Dave and I couldn’t help but eat a three course meal here. He had ceviche, pistacio-crusted tuna and a chocolate soufflé pudding. I ate pulled pork wrapped in delicate filo pastry, red shrimp curry and a trio of creme brulees.
All of the ingredients are sourced from Ecuador, aside from some lamb and steak dishes which originate from Uruguay and the US – but these are clearly marked on the menu.
The food is Ecuadorian fine dining at its best and showcases all the tastiest food the country has to offer – with a fusion twist on the traditional dishes.
Dave and I ordered the second cheapest bottle of wine on the menu because we were being budget-concious. Although it was still a delicious Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile and went well with our food.
Service at Zazu restaurant
As expected for a restaurant of this quality, the service was of an extremely high standard. Our waiter noticed whenever our wine glasses were getting low and would re-fill them without being invasive.
I dropped my knife on the floor by accident and it was quickly replaced with a fresh one – before I even had a chance to pick the old one up off the floor.
It felt that everyone who works at the restaurant is bi-lingual, so don’t worry if you can’t speak Spanish. However, ensure you make a reservation (which can easily be done online) as the place packs out every night.
Overall thoughts on Zazu restaurant
Unfortunately, Zazu isn’t a restaurant for the average-paid Ecuadorian. With the average worker earning only US$350 a month after taxes, Zazu is way out of the price range of many living in Quito. It’s certainly a place for the middle-class and you can tell by the expensive way the locals who dine here dress.
But for a special occasion, I feel Zazu can’t be beat. It’s a once-a-year kind of treat and one you won’t regret.
Dave and I are returning to Quito for just one night on our way to Colombia later next month and I’m very tempted to catch a one-hour taxi each way to and from the airport just to have the opportunity to dine here again.
Can we offord it? Well, you only live once, don’t you!
What you need to know:
Cost: Dave and I paid US$125, including tips, for a three course meal including wine. This is extremely expensive for Ecuador (you can get a three course lunch in a cafe here for US$2.50) but it’s a unique experience and we felt it was worth the money.
Plus, in Australia we’d pay around US$300 for a similar meal so we actually thought it was good value in comparison.
How to get there: Zazu is located on the corner of Aguilerra 331 Mariano and Prairie in Quito. The best way to get there is via taxi, and they’ll also call you a taxi when you’re ready to go.
When to go: Zazu is open Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday just for dinner, and is closed on Sunday.