Ask any old-school Queens food nerd, including yours truly, about Ecuadorean cuisine in the World’s Borough and the first thing that comes to mind will be the cluster of food trucks on Warren Street underneath the 7 train in Corona or perhaps the ladies who grill cuy—guinea pig—in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. About year ago though some very trusted Queens food nerds of a more recent vintage, like my pal Instagrammer @Wendalicious888 started to talk about a new place Rincón Melania on the border of Sunnyside and Long Island City.
“How good can it be? There are no Ecuadoreans over there,” I thought to myself. Good enough for a glowing review in The New York Times it turns out. Which is why I’m so glad that the next Queens Dinner Club will convene at Rincón Melania November 13th. Make sure you don’t miss out on this very special dinner by signing up for our mailing list here.
Personally I’ve been a little late to the Rincón Melania party, but I was glad to sit down last week with Nestor Jazmani Dutan to learn more about the restaurant named for his mother Lucila Melania Dutan. The menu for the evening’s festivities ranges all over Ecuador. Bolon mixto—a golden deep fried orb of plantain filled with mozzarella and chicharrón— hails from Guayaquil in the Costa, or Pacific Coastal region. It is a revelation: The golden mantled crust yielding to an interior studded with bits of fried pork and filaments of mozzarella. The secret, Nestor says, is that it’s made fresh and fried twice.
“I would refuse to like fight about that because it doesn’t make any sense. At one time we were all one country. People like to fight about it,” Nestor says with a laugh when asked whether ceviche was invented in Peru or Ecuador. QDC will feast on bright and bracing ceviche mixto—octopus, shrimp, and bass cooked in lime—that’s been a family favorite for years. It’s served Sierra style, with tostones, thick planks of fried plantains. There will also be a vegetarian ceviche—an invention of Nestor and his half sister GiGi—that features quinoa, garbanzo beans, and cherry tomatoes. QDC co-founder Chef Jonathan Forgash was shocked by how good it was; I can’t wait to try it.
The evening’s main dishes hail from the Costa and the tropics. Seco de chivo is a rich earthy goat stew cooked with Cerveza Pilsener—an Ecuadorean beer—and passion fruit, which tempers the goat’s muskiness. “People eat it over there at 7 a.m.,” Nestor says. “It’s not a breakfast dish, but it’s a hearty dish that will keep you full during almost the whole day. Sango de camarones, shrimp in a hearty gravy of green plantains and peanuts was a favorite of Times critic Ligaya Mishan.
For dessert there’s Amor. It consists of poached tomate de arból served with vanilla ice cream and Amor cookies, a staple of Ecuadorean childhood. There will be a cash bar for the evening’s festivities with beer; sangria; and several Ecuadorean specialties including Quaker Avena a refreshing blend of oats, passion fruit, and pineapple.