Atmosphere: This new little space located near Kits beach on Cypress is in a great area, surrounded by other restaurants in a quiet hub off busy West 4th Ave. The room is certainly very intimate, with barely 20 seats to its name with fairly sparse decor and wooden tables. Looking back toward the semi-open kitchen at the back of the space, you can occasionally catch glimpses of Chef Alvarez surfacing out of the back to put the finishing touch on dishes before sending plates out.
Service: There were a few hiccups at the beginning (a harried-looking server clearly did not have my reservation noted but they managed to find us a table) but these things are excusable considering the place just opened last month. One thing that was rather obvious that they need to start working on is the pace of the meal, as not everyone will enjoy 3+ hours for a 6 course dinner. There was a full house on the Thursday night of our visit so perhaps more staff is needed as weeknights get busier? I did appreciate the genuine excitement that the servers had for the dishes when they were brought to our table, and appreciated the chef coming to get our reviews at the end of the meal.
Food/drink: Cacao has a small wine menu (quite pricey) but I would recommend choosing from their unique drink menu with latin-inspired drinks with recommended alcoholic options. The basil drink I had was delicious and refreshing, and my friends really enjoyed others off the same menu. The food menu is offered with a la carte dishes, but we chose their tasting menu (5 courses + dessert). We had the option of letting the chef choose our dishes, or crafting our own 5 courses menu from the a la carte offerings and we chose the latter (3 smaller plates and 2 mains). Since they had only 1 pescatarian main, they kindly made one of the meat mains into a vegetarian dish for me. The presentation of the dishes was remarkable, and each dish had a very impressive number of balanced components that worked together to create harmonious dishes.
The menu changes regularly based on seasonality, with slight adjustments have already been made in the 2 weeks since we have been there. Here are the dishes that we enjoyed in our 3 tasting menus:
Cacao exceeded my expectations and the more I think back to it, the more I like it. I hope this is the beginning of more casual tasting menus popping up in the city. The most redeeming quality is how novel the ingredients and the flavour combinations are, making it vastly different than anything else I have tasted in Vancouver. Chef Alvarez has created a unique, well-crafted menu that weaves Latin flavours into Pacific northwest fare. This may just be the most exciting meal I have had in Vancouver and I cannot wait to go back!