From the second dock of San Bartolo to a second location in Quito, Segundo Muelle’s formula for success

07/Junio/2012 | 11:16

By Lance Brashear

[email protected]


Though franchises, in general, hinge on doing things the same everywhere, success often requires tweaking a few elements from market to market.

When Segundo Muelle came to Quito three years ago it was the first time Ecuadorians got a genuine taste of the traditional, coastal dishes from Peru.  But, the acceptance of Segundo Muelle by diners in Quito illustrates how it has adapted to the gastronomic sensibilities of Ecuadorians in the capital city.


Peru has hundreds of traditional dishes and endless ways of combining their native products with different and new techniques.  When you visit Lima, though you will discover things you never imagined and you may be surprised also by what you do not find.

Though Segundo Muelle has five locations in Peru’s capital city, not one is open at night.  If you want to eat their tradition Peruvian coastal food in the evening, you will need to come to Quito.

“Peruvians are not used to eating their typical seafood at night.” says Daniela Rodas, General Manager for Segundo Muelle in Quito.  She says the people of Quito perceive seafood as much healthier, much lighter.  “But they (Peruvians) have the perception that seafood and fish are not good for eating at night.”  

As the gastronomic currents of Peru have drifted north in recent years, Quito has established a well-anchored gastronomic scene, which includes trendy restaurants with executive chefs.  And those chefs have been increasingly imported from Peru.

But when Daniela Rodas and her family were looking to establish one more restaurant among the many that seem to surge forth every year onto the gastronomic scene, they reasoned that success could never hinge on a local celebrity cook.  “The idea was not to be a restaurant with a Peruvian chef, but a restaurant that was traditionally Peruvian.”

At Segundo Muelle, Daniel Manrique is the symbolic head of an expanding chain that represents Peruvian seafood - an integral part of the country’s culinary heritage.  

Manrique spent his childhood hanging out on the second dock (the “segundo muelle”) of San Bartolo on the coast of Peru.  Today, with half a dozen locations in Peru, as well as franchises in Panama, Spain, and Ecuador, he simply wants Segundo Muelle to be known as the best Peruvian food.

Although they offer a few plates for the non-seafood lover, like “papardelle de lomo mar adentro” and “tortellinas rellenos de cangrejo y ricotta,” Segundo Muelle is, by and large, typical coastal food.  “It is the food that Peruvians have eaten in their homes since they were young,” says Rodas.

And though the emphasis is on tradition, novelty is never absent in any of the Segundo Muelle locations worldwide.  “The menu always has a selection of three plates that change constantly,” says Rodas. “They are called ‘New from Daniel.’  Every six months we are changing them…you could say that this is where the new creations of our food come from.  The rest of the menu is made of dishes that are very ‘criollo’, or very typical.”

An example is tiradito ponja.  This is a twist on traditional tiradito – raw fish in a presentation that resembles sashimi – using a local fish, linguado, but with a presentation that includes avocado.  “Generally, linguado does not have avocado,” explains Rodas. “This new dish also has sesame seeds, which is part of the Nikkei fusion - the Japonese-Peruvian tradition.  And it has a sweet sauce which is also a fusion.”


The key to success in Quito was not just opening at night.  The menu has subtle variations from what you find in Panama, Spain, and even Peru, which work in this market.

Sometimes the differences are in the presentation.  In Lima, Segundo Muelle offers fried chita fish, which is considered an elegant offering in Lima, but which is served whole with the head included, something that would not appeal to Quito diners.

But Chita also is a fish that is not available in Quito, so it is not part of the local menu.  Many dishes at Segundo Muelle depend on products not found in Ecuador, so the Quito franchise either uses a local substitute or it imports them from Peru.

An excellent example is the “ajis,” or chili peppers.  The varieties of aji in Peru are what give their cuisine its distinctive flavor in so many dishes, and they simply are not produced in Ecuador.  “We work with yellow aji, rocotto, panca.  They are not found here,” says Rodas.  “We [in Ecuador] have a criollo aji, but it is nothing like the ajis On the other hand, Ecuador has products that Lima does not.  “We have a fish served in pangora sauce,” says Rodas.  “Pangora does not exist in Peru. Normally we serve the plate (in Peru) with a grated crab.  But when Daniel [Manrique] came to Ecuador he was fascinated by the pangora.  So, we put our fish with pangora.  It is one of our best-selling dishes.”

Rodas says one thing that Quito diners have adapted to is the Peruvian style of eating.  “Peruvians are not accustomed to ordering an appetizer, a main plate, and a dessert for each person when they eat typical food.  They order various plates and put them in the center of the table and each person tastes a little of each.”

For this reason, their top sellers are from the “piqueo” menu, which is a menu composed of smaller versions of main dishes.  “One client can try a little of each plate.  The piqueos are our best sellers.”  Specifically, she refers to the Piqueo de Tres Ceviches (Ceviche Classico, Ceviche Segundo Muelle, and Ceviche Tres Ajis) and the Piqueo Frio Segundo Muelle that consists of Tiradito de Linguado, Causa de Cangrejo, and Ceviche Segundo Muelle.


With rapid acceptance of Segundo Muelle in the Floresta District of Quito, Rodas and her family opened a second franchise in the Quicentro Mall.  They have the same menu with one exception.

“In Quicentro we have a maki bar,” which is a kind of sushi bar.  “It is totally Peruvian-Japanese fusion.”  Here the lunch time crowd, which includes many area executives, can eat somewhat more informally, sampling maki de pulpo de oliva, maki cevichado, or maki de lomo saltado.  

And whether in Quicentro or central Peru, there is one menu item which never needs changing and in Ecuador it is by far the best seller – better than any food dish:  Pisco Sour.  The traditional Peruvian drink is so popular that Segundo Muelle Quito has added additional sours, in the tradition of the pisco, but which use home grown products, like uvilla and naranjilla.  

It is clear from Manrique that if Segundo Muelle stands for anything, aside from great seafood, it is local inspiration that makes great food possible.  As he says in his menu that welcomes you to his restaurant:

“The second dock at San Bartolo was always my fountain of inspiration because there we stood with our friends, there we jumped through the waves, and there we went with our planks to throw our nets and the best of all, from there came the name of my restaurant.”

Segundo Muelle is located at the corner of Isabel La Católica and Gangotena in La Floresta Neighborhood.  For reservations call 222-6548.   For their Quicentro location dial 224-8796.  Meals average $15-20 not including drinks.

Ciudad Quito

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lbrashear - en Diario HOY - Noticias de Ecuador.