“Only the people that are meant to come here notice our restaurant” said the owner and chef of the Cuyana restaurant when asked about the modern, but unassuming outside of his restaurant. For those who have incredible dining experiences on your bucket list and want to enjoy the best restaurant adventures, this Cuyana restaurant review is for you. Those unaware and simply looking for the best Mindo restaurants, you’ve just uncovered an incredible find. Their seven-course tasting menu is a one of a kind culinary delight that is as much an experience as it is delicious.
If you love local flavors and organic garden grown ingredients tied together in creative dishes with impeccable presentation this restaurant is reason enough to plan a trip to Mindo, Ecuador.
Mindo valley itself is a magical place. Located approximately two hours drive from Quito, Ecuador, the mostly traditional town is filled with small stores and restaurants. The town is tucked in by rich, jungle mountains. Its popularity with visitors has led to the opening of a locally grown coffee shop and a mini food court that has live musical performers. But the restaurants in Mindo is where the highlight for foodies lies.
The best Mindo restaurant: An experience for the senses.
Further down the main street, you might miss the unassuming modern glass façade that is home to this delicious restaurant. Walking inside you are greeted by modern furniture and views of the chef preparing uniquely crafted dishes in an open environment. Welcome to Cuyana, a culinary bucket list destination.
The Cuyana restaurant has a set menu with a great array of dishes that span from traditional Ecuadorian to burgers. The truly bucket list Epicurean delight lies in the seven-course tasting menu. This unique experience must be ordered at least one day in advance by calling or messaging the owner via WhatsApp.
They will ask for your dietary restrictions and prepare for your visit. In what one can only imagine as a mad rush of creativity, the chef then designs a custom tasting menu with seasonal products and fresh vegetables, many of them grown in their own garden.
The herbs were oregano, rosemary, spearmint, menthol, guayusa, peppermint, and a leaf of clove. The aromas of the herbs prepared us for the flavors waiting for us in the dishes ahead.
There was only one more thing to ensure we were ready to dive into our culinary adventure and that was to have the perfect cocktail to help us power through. Knowing the amazing flavor of local passionfruit, called maracuya in South America, we opted for a creation with the juice of this fruit. The cocktail arrived in what one can only call a chalice full of fresh passionfruit juice with local rum, hibiscus infused ice cubes and fresh mint.
Smoke billowed as the server lifted the glass cover up from our first course, an avocado tartar with trout. The trout is first cooked with salt and then smoked for several hours with oregano wood. The trout is finished with truffle oil to give it aroma and around it, cacao honey. Cacao honey is popular in the Mindo region due to the growth of many cacao plants. Toasted black quinoa sprinkled on top pulls the fish together with an incredible texture and crunch.
This dish hits the right notes on both taste and texture. The smoked trout’s clean and delicate flavor is balanced really well with a slight sweetness and richness of the cocoa honey giving it a deep floral taste. The quinoa crunch is amazing for a great texture contrast.
For the second course, the chef highlighted a very traditional dish from the region called corviche. Although you will find this dish at other Mindo restaurants, the chef’s take on the traditional is quite unique. The dish is made with cooked down peanuts and green plantain and then filled with artisanal cheese from Mindo. The corviche is topped with an eggplant emulsion. On the side it is paired with an eggplant bavarois and red cabbage panelized – cooked with raw sugar cane.
This dish is a very well-balanced twist on the classic dish. The crunch on the outside nicely contrasts the smooth taste of the inside. The fresh cheese was delicious, chewy with a really good texture and a balance of both salt and acid with a hint of richness. The eggplant gives it a delicious after taste.
Keeping with the theme of traditional dishes, the third course is another fresh take on an Ecuadorian cuisine classic, the famous sopa locro de papa. The soup is made with papa chaucha, and a crispy wafer of artisanal cheese on top. The dish has a lot of flavor with a hint of paprika. It’s a creamy, homey, comfort food.
The fourth dish was a tribute to the rainforest. A seasoned salad with wheat semolina and pesto on the bottom. This is then topped with fresh, lightly pickled cucumber, charred onion and crispy swiss chard. The salad is finished with a slice of green mango, cherry tomatoes with olive oil and finally the flower of a plant called insulin. And yes, the flower does have insulin regulating benefits. All of the veggies are straight from the restaurant’s garden.
The crispy chard gives it a great texture as you bite into it. The dish is very light with a hint of sweetness perfectly balanced by acidity at the end.
This tasting menu is a marathon and the excitement only kept building. For the fifth course we were served a Billfish in red wine sauce mixed with vegetables pico de gallo style, oyster mushrooms in sesame oil, pickled radish and carrots and yucca chips on top for texture. The oyster mushroom soaked in a delicious acidic sauce tastes almost pickled, but cooked. The fish was firm and juicy.
As we had a whole symphony of flavors built up from the previous five dishes, the sixth one focused on cleansing our palate with light, fresh and acidic flavors. A passion fruit mouse was served with passion fruit nitrogen foam and black toasted quinoa on top.
The dish is pleasantly sour with a hint of sweetness and perfectly finished with a crispy texture. Chunks of fruit are mixed in with the mouse to provide more complexity to the flavor and texture. It was absolutely mouthwatering and delicious.
The meal finishes with the complex notes of a seventy percent cocoa mouse, garnished with raspberries from the garden, and drizzled with mortino mousse. Mortino is a berry similar to blackberries, used for a traditional beverage for the Day of the Dead holiday – colada morada. On the side of the dish a small amount of gasified eggnog. The richness and nuttiness of the chocolate mousse pairs wells with the freshness of the garden raspberries and the compote of the mortino.
Although Mindo valley is known for many things, when looking for the best restaurant in town, Cuyana is a must-visit destination. So skip the other Mindo restaurants and head to Cuyana. Your bucket list won’t wait, so consider booking a trip to Ecuador and adding Mindo as a destination to experience this one of a kind, culinary delight.