TGI Fry-Day: Fritada con Torta de Papa from Restaurant Ecuador
Though Restaurant Ecuador has been serving Logan Square since 1985, the Ecuadorian flag-bearing Diversey storefront can be easy to miss if you aren't careful. Walking inside is a different story. Much like my experience at El Rinconcito Cubano, I found myself surrounded by a small family, some scattered office and construction workers, and a TV tuned to Ecuadorian soccer—all indicators of a great meal to come.
The expansive menu has a whole section of frituras, or fried foods, and in my line of work, it doesn't get much better than that. Along with a number of plantain preparations, you can choose from a selection of fried entrees. The Fritada con Torta de Papa ($8.50) is the most fried of the bunch. Some post-gustatory internet research revealed that fritada is a popular and traditional dish from Ecuador's mountain region. Based on the pictures I saw, Restaurant Ecuador's version is representative.
Meaty pieces of bone-in pork ribs are cooked in an orange juice spiked broth until tender. The broth is reduced to nothing more than a glaze, which allows the pork to crisp up in its own rendered fat. Sounds just like carnitas, right? It tastes like it, too, with the tender-crisp pork tugging back slightly before coming clean off the bone. The fritada is served on a bed of iceberg lettuce and topped with curtido de cebolla y tomate, a pickled red onion, tomato, and cilantro salsa that adds welcome acidity to the fatty pork. The dish is also served with mote (boiled white corn kernels from the same family as hominy), the aforementioned torta de papa (also known as a llapingacho, an achiote-flavored cheese stuffed potato patty that's griddled until crisp), and a sprinkling of tostado (basically pan fried Ecuadorian corn nuts). Though flavorful on its own right, I didn't object when the waitress recommended drizzling the dish with the accompanying fire red Ecuadorian table salsa. I could certainly see myself eating this hearty tri-fried component dish high in the Andes mountains, but I'm more than comfortable swinging into Restaurant Ecuador here in Chicago in the meantime.