Recently opened Otorongo is more than just great food, their space is meant to provide everyone with a feeling of calm and tranquility surrounded by plants and nice music. Being sensitive to actual-world problems, they also follow ecology and no waste movements and try to implement as much of it as they can. We met with co-owner Patrick to find out how it all got started…
Hi. So you own Otorongo?
There are 3 of us. Me, my brother and my friend from school days, Gabriel.
Are you all vegans?
I would say rather vegetarians. It’s hard to be 100% vegan so I cheat sometimes! Our menu is actually 90% vegan and 10% vegetarian.
Whose idea was it to open?
My idea ? The idea was born many years ago after I studied in France for 6 years and then ended up in Columbia and Peru.
Does the French accent work with the girls?
Hahaha. Rather yes but I have a girlfriend ?
How did you end up in South America?
My mother was raised in Venezuela so I was always around the Spanish language. I guess I wanted to give it a try. The idea of living in a jungle seemed like a fun idea!
Yes. I went to live in an eco-community in Peru to experience life off-grid. The point of the community was to protect tribal wisdom and traditions and try to revitalize them.
What did you actually do there?
My main job was taking care of the kitchen. We had a specific approach to what we ate and treated food as a medicine for the body so it was very healthy eating ? It was here that the seed for Otorongo started.
So no meat?
No. Strictly vegetarian.
And then you came back…
Yes. I ended up being in between things in Warsaw and mostly working in kitchens. It was during this time I started to lay down the groundwork for Otorongo. I gained a lot of cooking experience also which has helped me to this day.
Did you at anytime feel in danger during your travels?
Not really, I mean, everywhere can be dangerous if you are not prepared. Of course, South America is seen as a dangerous place because it is totally different than Europe. For example, you cannot walk by yourself during the night in certain cities and you have to be aware of your surroundings, crossing one street can lead to a part of the town where you shouldn’t be, but with a little asking around, danger is easily avoided. In fact, I was even surprised by the generosity of everyone. Staying off-grid though is also a good way of avoiding danger
Does Otorongo mean something?
It means Jaguar in Quechua language which is an old language descending from the Incas in Peru.
Did you ever see a Jaguar in the jungle?
Unfortunately not. In that part of the world though, the Jaguar is thought of as the protector of the jungle which is why I wanted to connect it with our restaurant. For those that haven’t been to us yet, we have tried to make the inside of Otorongo resemble a jungle with all the amazing plants we have.
Did you bring any food ideas back with you?
Of course! For example ‘Arepas’. A South American staple, particularly in Columbia and Venezuela, arepas are stuffed cornmeal cakes that are crispy outside and fluffy inside. They’re a popular food item for street vendors and are eaten at all times of the day, often as a snack or side dish to the main meal.
We also use Quinoa which is a traditional South American ingredient similar to Kasza in Poland. I recommend you try our Mandala z Komosy Ryżowej. Delicious!
How about something exotic to drink?
Sure. Muña Muña is popular. Muña leaves are high in calcium, iron, and phosphorus, making it beneficial for strong bones and teeth. It is said to be good for digestion, so you’ll often encounter Peruvians sipping a cup of muña tea after a big dinner.
Guayusa from Equador is also medicinal and a great energy booster and helps you to focus.
What is your favorite dish you serve?
The Arepa Classic with Vegan chili, soya ‘meat’, and aji salsa which is based on onions, cilantro, tomatoes, and lemon juice! Aji Salsa is commonly used in South America like salt and pepper. For example, in Columbia you will find it on every restaurant table.
Do you serve breakfast?
We have all day breakfasts such as vegan pancakes, Shakshouka or homemade Granola. Each option is a healthy option served from 10 am.
How did Covid-19 affect your business?
We actually opened a few months before the lockdown so it was a difficult start for us. We wanted to do our bit though so we were busy cooking for the health workers during the lockdown. Fortunately, since we opened up post lockdown, things are slowly getting back to normal ?
Well, we love Otorongo and can confidently recommend it to all our readers. Finally, will you ever go back to South America?
Sure. I love South America and left some good friends behind so I will be back for sure!