When I asked my friend Andrea why she chose to open a Latin American restaurant with her mom instead of a Mexican restaurant (they're both from Mexico), she told me that it was because people are not aware of how rich in ingredients and blends Latin American food is. Also, no one ever thinks that Latin American food could be "high-end" given that the first thought that pops in someone's head when they think of that type of food is "tacos".

I honestly thought that this was very clever of them to do, which is why I decided to pay them a visit at their new restaurant called "Cacao" in Kitsilano. At first, when I got there, I was very intrigued by the layout of the place, given that one can see the inside of the restaurant from the street; this just gave me the perfect getaway vibe from Vancouver's rainy days.

Yael Apt

Once you go in, the soft Latin music playing in the background combined with the chill yet elegant atmosphere of the restaurant draws you in completely. No matter where you sit in the restaurant, you have a view of the kitchen and the chef, and you can actually approach his station and watch him carefully prepare the dishes; it's an entrancing and mesmerizing experience.

A little bit of history on Cacao

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"Cacao" started out as an European-styled coffee place called "Epicurean Caffe Bistro" which served all kinds of people for about two decades before Andrea and her mom, Marcela, made it into what it is nowadays. They partnered up with Venezuelan chef, Jefferson Alvarez and transformed the Latin food landscape in Kitsilano. Today, "Cacao" can be described as "progressive Latin" due to the different amalgamations in the types of foods that they serve. To prove my point, let me paint the picture a little better...
Yael Apt

Drinks and Appetizers

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I started with a house-made drink called "Ginger & Basil". This smooth yet sparkly (I asked for sparkling water instead of vodka, oh well) drink was as good to the mouth as it was to the eye. I felt so refined and healthy drinking it that I felt proud to ask the server on his recommendations for drinks beforehand. Among other drinks that the restaurant has to offer, the Rosemary Rose" and the "Honey Dew Melon & Thyme" are two of the most popular ones. And if you want to go for something a little bit stronger, then you can never go wrong with the "Pisco Sour" (just take my word for it).

Yael Apt

The appetizers came, and Venezuelan chef, Jefferson Alvarez, had crafted this amazing mini-arepas stuffed with lobster and mushrooms to prepare us for our upcoming meals. I loved the presentation almost as much as I loved the exquisiteness of these arepas. I actually ended up splitting one of the arepas with my friend Raquel because they were too good to be true.

The Main Event 

Because I went with a group of close friends, I was able to try four different main dishes, and I cannot tell you which was better than the other.

Pork Shoulder & Burnt Pineapple

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On the menu, the dish already sounded amazing, even though I did not know half of the ingredients that were in it. When I got my plate, it looked so pretty that I almost didn't want to eat it (almost). The combination of the slow-cooked pork shoulder with the pipian verde, and the burnt pineapple was unbelievable. Add in the brussel sprouts, which I had never tasted before, and you can taste heaven. Every bite tasted so different from the last one that I can't even explain it.

Bransino & Pico de Gallo 

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For those of you who don't know what bransino is, it's a type of fish. The bransino was placed perfectly on top of green plantain and the pico de gallo, which is a mixture of chopped onions and tomatoes seasoned with cilantro, lemon, and whatever else Chef Jefferson added that made it taste delicious. I tried a tiny bite of it, but my friend finished it all before I could ask for another one. Honestly, I can't blame her. 

I also got to try the "Bison Asado Negro" and the "Pabellon", and they were just as good as the ones I've already mentioned. So, instead of giving you a full-on description of those as well, I'll let you figure them out on your own the next time you go to "Cacao". 

Dessert

Once we finished, the server asked us if we wanted dessert, and we didn't even have to check on each other to know that the answer was "yes!". 

Cacao

Yael Apt

Honestly, this dessert couldn't have gotten a better name. This ball of dark chocolate ganache sprinkled with nib rocks and joined with a soft acai-berries foam was the perfect closure to my day. I ate every bit of it with perfect care because I didn't want to finish it.

Burnt Banana
Yael Apt

Burnt banana peal on the outside, creamy banana on the inside, horchata ice-cream on top and dulce de leche. That's all I need to say. 

Final Thoughts

I gotta be honest with you guys, this is not a place where you go and eat with your friends whenever you feel like it. You've seen the pictures, I think that you can tell just by the presentation of the dishes and the mouth-watering descriptions that I gave you, that "Cacao" is a place you take your parents to eat when they visit you (more like, your parents take you because they pay for everything), or maybe take your SO out for a "this is how much you mean to me" date. However, no matter the excuse you give to visit this amazing restaurant, I guarantee you will always have a great experience and enjoy great food with great people. I know that for me, I'll be having brunch there some time soon!