I was a little disappointed that I forgot to bring my camera to Cacao. The Kitsilano eatery is one of the highly anticipated new restaurants in the city last year. Their take on Progressive Latin cuisine does sounds like a refreshing addition to the diverse local food scene.
The dining room of Cacao was dim and cozy, boasting a similar warm and comforting ambiance with their competitor, AnnaLena right across the street.
Still slightly annoyed by the missing camera and trying to improve my mood, I wasted no time to order a bottle of white wine to share with my 3 buddies. Normally I would like to have dry white wine to start. But tonight, our pick of the Torres Vina Esmeraldo ($38) seemed to have a slightly sweeter taste similar to Moscato, but was not too too sweet. The pleasant aroma kind of made up for it.
The Venezuelan-born chef, Jefferson Alvarez was at the house tonight. He prepared and served us some amuse bouche inspired by his Venezuelan root. The Aprea was a set of mini slider-looking corn flour sandwiches filled with finely chopped fresh ingredients with tangy appetizing flavours. I could clearly taste the sweetness from corn and the acidity from tomato.
For appetizer, I felt like hitting the jack pot with my Sturgeon Chicharron ($14), a dish packed with different textures and beautiful flavours. The deep fried sturgeon skin was crunchy but firmer than pork rind, and complemented by a smooth and creamy sturgeon mousse underneath. And the fish flavour was enhanced by the smokiness from the paprika aioli, as well as the ingenious ashes made from sturgeon skin sprinkled all over the plate. I could imagine all the fun the chef was having while deconstructing a piece of Sturgeon fillet, transforming it into such a spectacular dish.
My buddies were enjoying their starter dishes as well. The Foie Gras & Guava ($17) was a showcase of molecular gastronomy, in which guava was transformed into a gel form, covered with finely shaved frozen foie gras, resulting in different unexpected textures. The Albacore Ceviche ($15) was light and delicate with leche de tigre, mint oil and arepa crisps. The thinly sliced lotus root was a nice touch for the visual and texture – something that I use a lot in my cooking as well. The Chayote Salad ($12) tasted a lot better than it looked, and it was my first time trying pickled chayote.
The main dishes were full of surprises as well.
The Bransino & Pico de gallo ($22) definitely would please any fish lover. The bransino skin was perfectly crispy, and the pico de gallo flavour is pronounced. Visually the dish is stunning. But it reminded me that I didn’t have camera with me and it was quite upsetting!
The rest of the dishes showed us why cacao was important in Latin cuisine – it was used to create the sexy dark colour in the Bison Asado Negro ($35), and to be incorporated in sauces (similar to Mole) for the rich and smoky flavours in the Duck Confit ($28) or the Braised Lamb Leg ($28). I also enjoyed bits of brilliance in the tasty duck confit baked in filo pastry, and hints of cumin in the potatoes that came with the bison dish.
It’s dessert time! However some of us were more keen on trying their house-made drinks and cocktails. Besides the house cocktail list ($10/each), they have a list of house-made latin inspired drinks for $5 each, and each only costs $2 more if you want to add alcohol. The Pisco Sour ($10) was delicious. I found the use aquafaba, a vegetarian replacement of egg white quite interesting, and I liked the touch of blueberry float on top. The El Negroni Favorito ($10) here took a pretty classic approach with a bit extra aroma from rosemary infused gin. We also tried one of the house made drinks, the Ginger & Basil and added gin ($7), which was rather refreshing.
And finally we had a taste of their dessert dish, the Cacao ($9). How could you miss out the namesake dish of the restaurant? We found cacao nibs incorporated in a foam on top of dark chocolate ganache and acai berries. It such was a whimsical and flavourful treat.
The dinner here was great, as none of the 9 dishes we tried disappointed. The chef has captured both the essence of “Latin” and the meaning of “Progressive”, by incorporating the ingredients form the Latin world, as well as using modern techniques from different world cuisines. The flavours are bold and the presentation is refined. I was particularly impressed with the Sturgeon Chicharron, created on deconstructing a piece of fish fillet, which definitely screams Michelin quality.
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