Traditional Latin American dishes, prepared with innovative cooking techniques. This is just one of the many culinary surprises you will discover at Cacao Vancouver.
Marcela explained that she had moved to Vancouver four years ago with four kids, and initially opened a cafe, and eventually set her sights on opening a restaurant, upon which she found Jefferson Alvarez, the perfect partner in crime to execute their combined vision, to treat Vancouver to traditional Latin American cuisine with a twist. Cacao Vancouver's menu takes inspiration from Peru, Mexico, Columbia and Venezuela, showcasing the fact that Latin American cuisine is much more than just tacos.
The space is airy and open, with doors opening onto the sun-drenched patio, where a beautiful cherry blossom tree provided some shade. Various trinkets from Peru and Mexico lined the kitchen counter, drawing our attention. Marcela explained the origins of the tiny storage boxes and what looked to be a pepper mill turned out to a be a traditional chocolate milk mixer. Pictured above left, the Molinillo is a traditional tool handmade by the aboriginal people in Mexico to make hot chocolate.
The small serving plates from Peru, pictured below right, also carries unique meanings. For example, the plate positioned top right bears the Inka sign for "Pachamama", meaning 'mother earth'. Every small detail seemed to carry an interesting story, and Marcela patiently explained each piece to us as our eyes widened with interest.
As we chatted, Chef Gayowski prepped three refreshing dishes for us to try. The first was a Peruvian-style seasonal halibut ceviche. The yellow sauce is a Peruvian sauce called 'Aji Amarillo' (aji meaning pepper, amarillo meaning yellow), and packs a nice kick to complement the fresh fish. Within this beautifully plated dish you will also find Cancha corn, a special white corn grown in Peru, which is surprisingly three times the size of regular yellow corn. What we loved most about this dish is the medley of textures, the smooth sauce with the medium texture and mild flavour of the halibut, finished with the crunchy corn.
The second dish was Wild Mushrooms basked in a 50-year old mole (typical Mexican sauce but this one using Marcela's grandma's recipe). While the dish looks simple, it contains over 20 ingredients and is gluten-free and vegan friendly; the dish is commonly cooked with animal stock, but this one replaces it with a vegan friendly ingredient. The impressive list of ingredients to prepare this flavourful dish includes dried chillies (guajillo chilli, ancho chilli, black chilli), dried fruits (prunes, raisins and more), plantain, chocolate, coffee, corn, garlic, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and more! The sauce is packed with flavour, and makes for a perfect share plate to start your meal.
The third plate comes from the innovative tasting menu the team prepares every Tuesday. Each week the team prepares a 10-course tasting menu and gets feedback from their clients to see which dish the clients liked, ensuring that every dish on the permanent menu has received the stamp of approval from real patrons. We love this method, as its a win-win for clients who love the food, and the team presents a refined menu they can be proud of.
In the visually captivating dish below, the team used violet flowers, violet rock, and spirulina sponge to craft this alluring dish. Healthy eaters will likely have heard of spirulina, a natural 'algae' superfood said to be super high in proteins, B-vitamins, and packed with antioxidants. This dish creates a light sponge cake with the ingredient, and the floral scent from the violet flowers makes this the perfect dessert choice for health-conscious eaters! Jefferson also showed us the magical side of this dish, and took a little bit of citrus on a spoon and swirled it in with the blue jelly to turn it pink!
We are inspired by the passion of the Cacao Vancouver team, their determination to show diners the best of their culture and heritage, which they are very proud of. We would highly recommend you pay a visit to this creative restaurant nestled in the quiet Kitsilano neighborhood, where you will experience plenty of tasty surprises.
1898 W 1st Ave, Vancouver, BC V6J 1G5