Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Chicago Dining World Tour: La Sierra Provides Tasty Opening to the Ecuador Way

La Sierra
Ecuatorian (and Mexican)
1637 W. Montrose, Chicago

Not too long ago I saw an article about Ecuador that noted the South American country has become a popular retirement destination for American expatriates due to a low cost of living and a nice way of life, including fine weather.

Shortly thereafter I noticed a restaurant on Montrose Avenue, La Sierra, whose awning heralded both Ecuatorian (or Ecuadorean) and Mexican food. I made a note in my iPhone and subsequently went there, curious about the cuisine of Ecuador, primarily as a new entry in my Chicago Dining World Tour but also because, who knows, I might one day live there.

The menu has separate listings for Ecuatorian and Mexican dishes, and though I love Mexican food, especially as I've already written about it, this was solely an equator-bordering gastro-ethnic expedition.

But you would be forgiven for thinking there are culinary similarities between the two cultures, at least in terms of how they crossover at this Chicago storefront eatery.

Not only I brought a bowl of chips and salsa--two different kinds, both tasty--but in ordering an appetizer identified as Ecuatorian and called Humita = corn meal masa filled with cheese steamed in a corn husk, what I got was essentially a tamale. A rather fresh and savory tamale, but largely tamale-like nonetheless.

I asked the pleasant waitress--quite possibly one of the proprietors--for an authentically Ecuatorian entree recommendation and she suggested Carne con Maduros = strip steak served with plantains along with white rice and some salad.

As you can see, it was a rather thin piece of meat--even more so than what passes for steak in France--but it was quite nicely seasoned and tasted very good.

Similarly, though it was neither the biggest nor best portion of sweet plantains I've ever had, it nonetheless was an accompaniment I enjoyed, as always.

I won't pretend I know a great deal more about what I might eat on a daily basis in Ecuador than I did before I went to La Sierra--and likely won't have to worry about it for awhile--but based on a small sample size, I think I'll be all right.

I also really liked the apple-flavored soft drink I got, called Manzana, so if I do wind up spending my golden years straddling the equator, I shouldn't go too hungry or thirsty.

And if you happen to be near Montrose and Ashland--hint: the northern Margie's Candies and ice cream outpost is just a few blocks west by the Ravenswood L--La Sierra will likely equate to a rather tasty and unique choice for lunch or dinner.

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