Cacao Mexicatessen in Eagle Rock has been a regular go-to place for me when I'm in the mood for a quick but homemade tasting bite.
When people ask me what I like there, I only have to say two words before I find them writing it down or entering the name into their smart phone - DUCK CARNITAS. As Food Critic Jonathan Gold described it, it's a cross between carnitas and confit. Intense and delicicous.
In this brightly colored, always busy family-run restaurant, beside Trader Joe's in Eagle Rock, that everybody should be lucky to have in their neighborhood, hardly anything on the menu disappoints. The Hecho en Eagle Rock signs and t-shirts always amuse me as do the deli offerings that you can take to go.
They have all the Mexican specialties, a great assortment of tacos, guacamole, aguas frescas, solid coffee, Mexican hot chocolate, a kids' menu. After ordering at the counter and looking for a seat, I personally enjoy their cajeta latte and cajeta flan, cajeta being goat's milk caramel that has a bit more bite then super sweet, regular caramel.
Probably a year ago or more, I met a long time dear friend here simply because they offer a full vegetarian menu. And by vegetarian I don't mean a few side veges and green salad. They serve squash blossom tacos and quesadillas, squash, hibiscus, wild mushrooms, huitlachoche (corn truffle) and panko breaded avocados!
With breakfast, lunch, dinner, happy hour and more, there are numerous things to try on their menu.
Recently I met a friend there and tried out two of their specials. Their weekly specials, which they post at the counter and will email to you every week, come to my inbox. And I suggest you subscribe as well. They even include discount coupons in the weekly mailers.
These in particular were well worth the trip, and I'm even scouring the emails for their return.
Taco of the Week - Sea Urchin & Blackened Sea Scallop
At $6.75 each, this seems somewhat pricey for a taco, however given the ingredients and flavor, they are worth it.
The scallops are fairly large and blackened with chile arbol. The scallops sit on a small pool of serrano chile-soy salsa, all on top of a tortilla de jicama taco shell! That crunch and freshness adds so much to the very fresh seafood. The jicama is already pliable like a tortilla, but the salsa makes it even more yielding.
The generous helping of Santa Barbara sea urchin tops the scallops and a topping of micro-cilantro and a slice of lime garnishes it all.
Next, we shared the other special - Pescado Encachahuatado
This flavorful, satisfying dish consisted of crispy skinned Icelandic Arctic Char, topped with Crema de Cacahuate, a creamy peanut sauce. The fish sits on top of a light and fluffy cilantro lime rice and cebolliatas, or grilled scallions.
On top of the sauce, a generous portion of pico de gallo, a tomato, jicama, cilantro, onion, chile and lime salsa adds appropriate acidity to the well balanced plate.
Finally, we wrapped up the delightful meal with elote de la calle - steamed white corn coated with a thick spread of queso cotija (Mexican cheese), crema and powdered chili. All served up on a stick.
As creamy as it is, the corn still retains its crunch and sweetness. This dish is one of my favorite Mexican street foods and Cacao's version is spot on.
I enjoy taking shots of the table after eating or the empty dishes. AS you can see, this corn was devoured and fully enjoyed.
These dishes inspired me so much, I tried to emulate their Arctic Char a few days later. My version swapped the creamy sauce for fresh lemon, dill, sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Sides included crimini mushrooms and an avocado salad.
It's always great to thoroughly enjoy a meal, then get inspired to cook something like it.Thanks to Cacao for the delicious choices!