Cacao brings progressive Latin cuisine to Kitsilano

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      The West 1st Avenue block between Burrard and Cypress Street is already home to quite a few culinary establishments (AnnaLena, Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co., Koko Monk Chocolates), and the latest restaurant to join the area certainly adds to its diversity.

      Cacao (1898 West 1st Avenue) recently opened in the Kitsilano neighbourhood, with a unique menu that Vancouverites aren’t used to seeing in the city.

      The 30-seat eatery offers progressive Latin cuisine—dishes can include everything from Peruvian flavours to Brazilian spices, Colombian tastes to Venezuelan creations, and more.

      “Progressive Latin means we are always developing,” chef and co-owner Jefferson Alvarez told the Straight. “We are trying to do as many Latin flavours as we can…one dish can have three different continents.”

      The Venezuelan-born chef teamed up with business partners Marcela and Andrea Ramirez to open this brunch and dinner spot that was previously Epicurean Caffe Bistro. The trio are working together to expand the city’s knowledge of Latin-American food, with a focus on using local and sustainable ingredients when possible.

      “The menu will change because whatever I buy is what I sell,” Alvarez explained. “Sometimes I might not find certain ingredients at different times of the year, so I’ll have to change it.”

      The eatery offers progressive Latin dishes.
      Jefferson Alvarez

      Current creations on its menu include sturgeon chicharron (paprika aioli, radish, crispy shallots, and charred sturgeon), pork shoulder and burnt pineapple (braised pork shoulder with pipián verde, or simple pumpkin seed sauce), and pabellon (shredded beef, black beans, rice, and plantain).

      “I use a lot of fish because it reminds me of eating fried fish on the beach when I was a kid,” Alvarez said with a smile. “The pabellon is a traditional Venezuelan dish that I haven’t had in ages, and now I have it here.”

      When asked why he decided to create progressive Latin dishes, chef Alvarez credited one person who influenced his decision to change course in his culinary career.

      “It was because I had a friend of mine that came in from Latin America to cook with me, and he inspired me to go back to my roots,” said Alvarez. “I was doing food, but I had no region, no country…I was just doing whatever I found.”

      “When he was here, I couldn’t really take him to a Latin American place that I was proud of,” Alvarez said. “So I had to do it for [my] community.”

      The chef and his co-owners are currently working on renovating the second floor of the restaurant, which will eventually add another 30 seats to the simple but warm and welcoming space.

      “I think people will appreciate our new Latin flavours to the city,” Alvarez said.

      Take a look at the photos below of the new restaurant.

      Cacao's two-storey building was previously occupied by Epicurean Caffe Bistro.
      Jefferson Alvarez


      Cacao's interior space seats 30 guests.
      Whey They Find Us


      Burnt Banana with gluten-free tonka bean streusel, horchata ice cream, and dulce de leche.
      Jefferson Alvarez


      Albacore ceviche with sweet potato yellow chili.
      Jefferson Alvarez
      Follow Tammy Kwan on Twitter @ch0c0tam and Instagram @ch0c0tam.