The Sensation of Tasting Top Pastry Chef in the World’s Confections at Nuema in Quito

Posted by on September 4th, 2023

Have you ever closed your eyes while chewing to fully immerse yourself in flavor? Have you spent hours watching documentaries with sultry slow-mo shots of top chef’s creations? Has food ever made you laugh, cry, or shout out in sheer delight?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, and you are planning a trip Quito, Ecuador, you must get yourself to Nuema. Nuema is ranked among the top 100 best restaurants by The World’s 50 Best and has been heralded as putting Ecuador on the gastronomic map. Often over-shadowed by its much larger neighbors (Peru to the south and Colombia to the east), Ecuador has its own identity and flair to bring to the table. Utilizing the vast and varied endemic ingredients from the Amazon to cloud forests, farms and rivers on volcanic slopes to Pacific coastal waters— Nuema is elevating traditional Ecuadorian cuisine and serving up edible art in the second highest capitol city in the world.

Cotopaxi volcano looms behinds Ecuador’s capitol city, Quito

Much like the famed Central in Lima, Peru, Nuema is experimenting with locally sourced goods to craft a tasting menu designed to be a love letter to the diverse Ecuadorian terrain. The masterminds of Nuema are husband and wife duo Alejandro Chamorro and Pía Salazar who have combined their talents to create a dining experience that is a spectacular crescendo leading up to the deserts.

Earlier this year, 2023, Pía Salazar was bestowed the coveted title of The World’s Best Pastry Chef. I am a big fan of fancy dining extravaganzas and wanted to see what all the hubbub was about. So, while I was recently in Quito, I went to Nuema with my eye on the prize, desert!

Pía Salazar- The World’s Best Pastry Chef 2023, sponsored by Sosa. Photo from The World’s 50 Best Restaurants

Taste is one of life’s greatest pleasures for me. I have memories of partaking in scrumptious morsels that reverberate so strongly in me, they’re of the same caliber as my favorite concerts, visiting a bucket list destination, or dare I say, a first kiss.

I was introduced to enchiladas at 9 years old while visiting my Mexican aunt’s family. When that first wallop of spice-filled sauce hit my tastebuds, my jaw dropped open and I exclaimed, “This is food for the God’s!” I was learning about the Greek gods at the time and felt assured that if Athena or Zeus came to earth, this was the food they would be feasting upon. At 20, the first time I opened up to eating raw fish was in the form of sushi, I started laughing so hard I almost choked. I was so flabbergasted by the explosion of flavor in my mouth. In Ischia, Italy, I burst into tears after not having had fresh Mozzarella de Búfala Campana cross my lips in years. My mind was flooded with memories of all the beautiful places and people I had eaten this most delicious of non-aged cheeses with when I’d lived there almost a decade before. It was like a tiny time machine. It took my breath away in the most glorious of ways.

So yeah, food provokes emotions in me, viscerally. My love of food and quest for the zest of life led me to work in restaurants across the globe and go on to study wine. I thoroughly relished the gastro-journey and level of care that exuded from Nuema’s fare. However, if you are not an adventurous eater (like my friend who stubbornly survived off McDonald’s while playing drums on a month-long tour in Europe), these tiny plate tasting menu restaurants are not for you.

I arrived at Nuema and was welcomed by friendly staff in a refined stone and wood décor, with a tree growing in the heart of the dining room. I was sat at a small table facing the open kitchen where I could take in the mania and precision of plating up. It was akin to being able to peak behind a theatrical curtain, an invitation to observe creativity coming together before being thrust center stage. I spied Pía Salazar working her magic, she looked at home in her element, calm as a seasoned conductor tapping on the podium at the start of a symphony.

I decided to indulge in the wine pairing which consisted of a European selection and one rather sweet Ecuadorian viognier, which did a nice job of complimenting the 14-course tasting menu. A couple of Alejandro Chamorro’s most scrumptious conceptions were a trio of delectable regional root vegetable appetizers with juxtaposed color, flavors, and textures that flited across my palate in an earthy and ethereal dance, and paiche (an Amazonian River whitefish that is miraculously meaty) expertly served with sautéed wild garlic vine leaves and a pureed cashew basil sauce.

But as soon as the dessert menu commenced, I knew I was in for a real treat. Out came a puffy, creamy sweet pea mousse-like puck with an ice-cream center topped with a crunchy moringa wafer accompanied by cubed chamomile jellies and stewed pears. It was like Willie Wonka had gotten lost in a cloud forest and decided to whip up a confectious concoction with all of the green things within reach. The silky flavors were almost as savory as they were sweet. The attentive and informative server told me it was the pre-dessert dish, intended to help me step into what was coming next.

What came next, I’m still not even exactly sure how to describe. It was a gelatinous pompom of sweet-fermented Galapagos algae squiggling on top a mound of toasted coconut and flour. It didn’t look super inviting to nibble upon, but when I dove in, I was entranced. I was gobsmacked. I felt like I was unwrapping a Christmas present as the warm glow of childhood lit inside me. The crunch of the toasted coconut and flour with that crazy glob of algae brought back memories of running on the beach in Carmel, California, chasing after my big sister, windswept smiles our faces, crumbly sand in between our toes as we jumped over piles of seaweed clumped on the shore. I cherished the moment with girlish surprise—tears welling in my eyes.

Pía Salazar certainly took the cake with this bizarre and bewildering dessert, and I can see why she was named number one pastry chef in the world. There was so much joy and devotion put into this odd delicacy, I knew immediately it would be something I would remember for the rest of my life.

Eating is what traveling is all about in my book, from decadent street food to luxurious fine dining. If you are going to Quito and are an avid lover of culinary artistry, then Nuema is a top stop for you too!

Check out Nuema’s website here.


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