Sucklingpig prepared with the recipe of a traditional hornado, empanadas de verde stuffed with en cocado de changurro, tree tomato desserts and, of course, cocoa.These and other mergers of Ecuadorian gastronomy with cuisine from Spain an dthe Basque Country proposed by the Ikaro restaurant were recognized on November21, 2018 with a Michelin star, an award that is given to culinary excellence.
In front of Ikaro – a small restaurant located in the north of Spain with a maximum capacity of 30 people – are the Ecuadorian Carolina Sánchez and her partner Iñaki Muria. The place has been working since April 2017 with the concept of three-party stoves: the Ecuadorians of Sánchez, the Basques of Muriaand the Rioja, where the restaurant is located. In an interview with ELCOMERCIO, Sánchez says that the idea of the place began cooking a little more than a year before its inauguration.
This Ecuadorian arrived in Spain from Cuenca to study a master’s degree at the Basque Culinary Center in San Sebastián. Initially, Sanchez planned to stay alone for the year that the postgraduate course lasted, but she met his partner and together they settled in La Rioja with the dream of one day having theirown restaurant. The dream was fulfilled and now it is materialized in a small place where nine people work. “We have the tables we want”,distributed comfortably in the restaurant space. “We try to make the service very personalized, very careful”, says this Ecuadorian chef who is happy to have achieved what she wanted with her restaurant in less than two years.
Ikaro,says Sánchez, is based on a tasting menu that allows diners to enjoy a variety of dishes. “Our idea always from the beginning was to notice that fusion,we wanted to make a mix between the three kitchens. That’s what we offer,”she says.
Due to the difficulty of getting fresh ingredients from Ecuadorian cuisine in Spain,the local touch Ikaro is present above all in the preparation of the dishes offered by the restaurant. This is how part of their current offer are traditional cascaritas prepared with suckling pig, a typical Spanish product.This dish is prepared with achiote, for the color, and served with mango chili.
Another Ecuadorian dish that Ikaro diners have liked a lot is Melloco. “Here nobody knew them until we put them in the restaurant, we made them with lemon and chile powder,” says Sánchez. The originality in the dishes was what made Ikaro get the Michelin star, because the guide awarded the restaurant for its “modern vision of La Rioja gastronomy”.
The Michelin seeks every year originality, consistency and quality, but keeps the evaluation of the premises in secret. Sanchez says that one of the inspectors sent by the guide visited the premises a year ago. “They reserve, they come, they eat and at the end of the meal, when they pay, they tell you look,I’m from the Michelin and they give you the card.” This first visit of an inspector was successful. “He told us that he had eaten very well, we still had to learn, but that we would be recommended in the guide,” he says.
Ikaro had a second visit months after this event, but this time the person did not identify himself. “He never gave us the card, but then we found out about people from other restaurants who had been an inspector and who had eaten very well and who had loved it.” Neither Sánchez nor Muria knew more about the guide until a month before the awards gala, when they received an email with an invitation to attend the event that took place on November 21, 2018 in Lisbon.
Five days before the gala, the couple received a physical invitation, but still was not sure that Ikaro would be awarded “we did not tell many people, because we really did not have the assurance that they would give us anything,”says Sanchez. “It was a bit uncertain, but in the end we went and they gave us the star, so we are very happy.”
For this young chef, hearing the name of her small restaurant during the awards gala left her breathless. “I think we were both like floating in a cloud.It was a moment that we will never forget the truth, very exciting, “she says.
The’equatoriality’ of Ikaro goes beyond gastronomic preparations. Some pieces of the tableware and cutlery with which the restaurant serves their dishes are oriun of the country. An example of this are some dishes made from emptie driver stones from the Nabón canton that the couple brought to the restaurant.”We brought 30 kilos of stones, it was crazy, people did not believe us,” she laughs.
In addition to these dishes, the diners enjoy the Ikaro meal with cubes made from shell of the sea, traditional from the coast. They receive their accounts in baskets of straw shawls from Cuenca and sweets and shots of cocoa served in an emptied cocoa pod. “People love it,” says Sanchez, who says diner shave an interest in buying the little baskets in which they receive it”they like it very much” accounts.
While now Ecuadorian food is highly valued within the restaurant menu, at first the chefs were doubtful before including the merger in their offer. This was due,according to Sánchez, to the fact that the people of La Rioja are more traditional. But the Ecuadorian touch did nothing but help Ikaro take off. It had a lot of acceptance and the demand is increasing. So much so that diners want a day or night dedicated only to Ecuadorian food or to increase the off erof this cuisine in a menu that grows with the inspiration that the couple gets when they see the country. (I)