Cacao: 99 Essential Restaurants 2011
Why isn't duck carnitas on every Mexican menu in town? If you think about it, the dish is almost inevitable — duck meat simmered in fat until it nearly collapses, perfumed flesh arranged atop crisply fried sopes, a shotgun marriage of traditional and European cooking techniques of the sort that has been going on in Mexico since the conquest. Duck confit, a kind of duck carnitas from southwest France, involves salted duck legs cooked in their own fat for many hours. At Cacao, a bright, happy storefront in Eagle Rock, duck carnitas split the difference between carnitas and confit, with a lingering presence that suggests the bird was cooked in pure lard. A duck carnitas taco is about as much happiness as $3 can be expected to buy. There are chilaquiles and spiced café de olla at breakfast, chile-spiked hot chocolate for rainy afternoons, a full vegetarian menu and inexpensive quesadilla plates for the kids.
There are very acceptable plates of chicken in mole poblano at Cacao, stacked enchiladas and tequila-marinated pork belly served on a bed of refried beans stiffened with cheese. But the basic unit of consumption here is the taco, a very homemade-tasting thing filled with roast turkey, or bacon in chocolate-tinged salsa, or potatoes and house-made chorizo. Cacao will always have its detractors. But if suffering good coffee, folksy music and the bourgeois presence of duck is the price one has to pay for access to Cacao's chiles rellenos, unbreaded roast poblanos stuffed with cheese and sweet corn or squash blossoms with cod, sometimes sacrifices have to be made. 1576 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock. (323) 478-2791, cacaodeli.com. Breakfast., Tues.-Fri., 8 a.m.-noon; Sat.-Sun., 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Lunch and dinner, Tues.-Sat., 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-7 p.m. No alcohol. Limited parking in rear. MC, V. Mexican.
99 Essential L.A. Restaurants 2011:
Church & State
Din Tai Fung
El Huarache Azteca
Euro Pane Bakery
Fab Hot Dogs
Good Girl Dinette
La Casita Mexicana
Lazy Ox Canteen
Meals by Genet
Musso & Frank Grill
Nem Nuong Khanh Hoa
Newport Tan Cang Seafood Restaurant
Night + Market
101 Noodle Express
Palate Food + Wine
Pollos a la Brasa
Sapp Coffee Shop
Son of a Gun
Tacos Baja Ensenada
Waterloo & City
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