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March 30, 2010

Where to Eat Now

The Quito connection

If you're headed on a cruise around the Galápagos Islands, you'll probably spend a few days in Quito, Ecuador—and that's not at all a bad thing. This capital in the Andes, with a lovely historic center, has surprisingly good restaurants. Theatrum (dinner, $50; Calle Manabí; 593-2/257-1011), on the second floor of the National Theater, looks like a bordello that's been decorated by Ian Schrager (tomato-red curtains, brass chandeliers with black tassels). The cuisine is just as nuevo: Ecuadorian prawns come topped with avocado mousse and roasted grouper is accompanied by an artichoke ragout. Nearby, across from the presidential palace on Independence Square, is Mea Culpa (dinner, $50; Calle Chile; 593-2/295-1190), a jacket-required venue for an expense-account crowd. The seafood and tapas—try the blue crab-and-shrimp crêpe—are as beautiful as the views.

The anchor of the hip Mariscal Sucre neighborhood is Café Cultura (dinner, $35; 513 Robles; 593-2/255-8889). This Mediterranean-style villa has 26 charming guest rooms and a handsome bistro with wood floors and paprika-colored walls. The menu leans toward simple, hearty fare like grilled steaks and homemade pasta; the wine list is long on South American vintages. Simplicity of a different sort is served up at Sake (dinner, $40; N30-166 Paul Rivet; 593-2/252-4818), a sleek spot featuring goldfish ponds and the city's freshest sushi.