CaCao Mexicatessen: Are You Game?
With beloved eateries like Casa Bianca Pizzaria and Oinkster, Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock is quickly becoming "home to all things delicious." One restaurant at East LA Meets Napa had served wild boar tacos — and I missed it. So it was like instant karma when I met a friend for lunch at CaCao in Eagle Rock. What was that on the menu? Wild boar! This was the place. Colorado Boulevard scores again.
Other exciting items on the menu are duck confit, venison, and huitlacoche. For those new to huitlacoche, it it commonly referred to as "corn smut". It is a fungus that grows on corn and is a delicacy, like truffles. Some diners may turn up their nose at something called "smut", but remember where mushrooms grow compared to pristine corn cobs.
Cacao's duck confit is defined by Jonathan Gold and more of a confit-carnitas hybrid. The rich meat is succulent, and probably makes for the best taco. The boar chorizo is ground, dark and nicely charred. The char mixes with an intense flavor that only vaguely hints at pork. Tacos are also an ideal vehicle for venison. The combination of gaminess and sweetness in the meat can be slightly offputting. But the smoky salsa dominates any funkiness.
CaCao allows you to choose your vehicle, and I also chose quesedillas for the huitlacoche. It was a perfect match. The cheese softened the earthiness of the smut without overwhelming the smoky corn flavor. In a taco, served with green salsa and cotija cheese, the woodsiness is more pronounced.
If duck confit is too intense for a burrito, try the chicharron de pato, or fried duck skin. Mixed in with a bean and rice burrito, the rich, crunchy bits are sublime. Other intriguing house specialties are cochinita pibil, "smoked pork in achiote and citrus", and tocino enchochocolatado "house cured bacon, salsa de cacao, crema, bean puree, serrano chiles with a handmade flour tortilla". That's right, bacon and chocolate.
Vegetarians are not ignored, but are pampered. Besides the usual cheese dishes plus calabacitas and nopales, CaCao offers squash blossoms, hibiscus blossoms, portobello mushrooms and the swoon-worthy huitlacoche.
In addition to their regular menu, CaCao offers happy hour and weekly specials. This week the special was rabbit in a sauce of orange and pomegranite. The fruit brought out the sweetness in the meat and made it very juicy.
The CaCao comes into play with their hot chocolates, with ingredients like cinnamon, almonds, chiles and chamomile. The menu runs the gamut from street food like our favorite bacon-wrapped hot dogs, to modern snacks like mole fries all the way uptown with filet mignon. In spite of the exotic and the upscale, I will probably return for the pinches nachos. With a name like that, they must be good.
The room is brightly painted and casual. Order at the counter and grab a table. They also have a deli where you can grab some chile rellenos to go, and a small selection of Mexican imports.
They are closed Mondays. Check out their website for hours, which vary throughout the week.