Monday, January 11, 2010

Croquer: Cacao Mexicatessen

In a nearby mysterious land known as Eagle Rock, cool things can soar under the radar for ages, effortlessly being cool and raking in passing raves like underground legends. Take The Oinkster, Fatty's, Auntie Em's or Colorado Wine Co., all incredible, yet casually accessible whenever you make the trek out to meet them. Add a new neighborhood hero to the list, Cacao Mexicatessen.Part taco shop, part Mexican deli, part gourmet Latin food purveyor, Cacao modestly shares a Spanish duplex with a flower shop, and quietly serves the most incredibly inventive and authentic tacos this side of the border. They make and sell all their own salsas, hot sauces and moles. Their cooler case also features an interesting selection of Mexican cheeses, shelves adorned with imported candies, condiments, high-end Mexican cocoa tablets, piloncillo cones, and tamarind coated apples.After taking it all in, we ordered at the counter and sat outside on the quaint patio. Their thin and crisp restaurant style chips (which are bizarrely rare in LA) and spicy puréed salsa already had most of the city beat within minutes of sitting. To drink I decided to start with their signature - How can you come to a place called Cacao and not try their Mexican hot cocoa? As it was a weekend morning, I opted for coffee with mine and got the Azteca Mocha Latte. This divine (massive!) mug was a rich frothy treat with cinnamon, almond, chile de arbol, and chipotle notes. The spice awoke my senses before the caffeine had an opportunity. I'd certainly come back for this alone.Little did I know, the best was yet to come... Cat and I ordered a sampling of their more interesting taco options (there are many) which came out on a large platter with radishes and fresh lime wedges.First bite was the Camarones Enchipotlados - shrimp in chipotle with citrus. Tangy, spicy and wet, it was a satisfying start. Cacao's homemade tortillas are larger and thicker than most local joints, with that much more space to fill with the good stuff! Next was a bite of the Flor De Calabaza - squash blossoms, poblano strips, queso fresco. Delicate and lovely! I always appreciate the use of squash blossoms - who said vegetarian has to be boring?The next bite may have been my favorite - the Tocino Enchocolatado - supple bacon, Salsa de Cacao, avocado, and crema mexicana. This spicy sweet choco-bacon goodness has to be tried!
Unfortunately after that the Hongo De Portobello (Portobello mushroom, spinach, onion, queso fresco) was less than memorable.My interest was piqued again with the next two, first the Carnitas De Pato, or duck confit (listed with avocado, vinegar, onion, radishes, chile oil... But mine came with just the duck meat - that aside, it was the most succulent yet crispy duck! Very tasty on its own!). And lastly, the Cochinita Pibil reminded me why I wake up in the morning, a moist robust roasted pork in achiote with citrus and pickled onions. The most satisfying three bites of food anyone could ask for. After wiping my brow, and thanking everyone back inside, only a matchbox chocolate tamale stood between me and the sublime.

1576 Colorado Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90041; 323.478.2791
cacaodeli.com

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