Monday, January 7, 2008

Cacao - New Year's Eve at an Argentine Paradise

Cacao - 141 Giralda Avenue, Coral Gables, FL, 33134

I'm so glad that we chose to spend New Year's Eve in this beautiful, chic Argentine restaurant. It offered a stupendous 5 course tasting menu that left us pleasantly satisfied yet not too full to dance some salsa.

Sleek, modern and welcoming, this place has a way of drawing you in. The exterior has an interesting "pueblo" tiled roof that looks quaint and inviting. And the inside is totally modern. The decor is simple, showcasing clean and tasteful furniture--the ultra-modern light fixtures and oversized photographs of cacao plants are my favorite.

The crowd ranges from twenty to thirty to forty somethings. The clientele is sophisticated and definitely appreciates inventive Latin food. And there's certainly a nice mix of Latin and American patrons.

Overall, the food at Cacao is top-notch. I can confidently say that it was one of the best quality restaurants I've ever been to.

Our 5 course menu started with duck confit. I've had this dish before (at Island) and it was absolutely horrendous so I was wary of trying it again. But it came with our meal as a fixed plate so I gave it another try. In all honesty, it ended up being my favorite dish of the night--thick, creamy and not too gamey. It tasted like leek soup with perfectly roasted duck!

Next came the mixed greens salad with apples, nuts and balsamic vinaigrette. This was also served beautifully and the veggies were crisp and very fresh--nothing not to like. Our following course consisted of appetizers. I ordered the beef topped with chorizo and chimichurri sauce. Like everything else thus far, it was delightful. The beef was cooked nicely to medium-rare and the chorizo topping really made this dish--I just loved its salty bite and the crunchiness it provided. Dan ordered prawns wrapped in filo dough with curry sauce. I had a bite and it was an interesting combo--the exterior dough provided a nice loud crisp and the prawns were more on the chewy side.

For my main course, I ordered the rack of lamb with mozzarella mashed potatoes. While I loved the potatoes and the sauce, the lamb itself was a bit fatty and hard to handle. Nonetheless, it was tasty but did not surpass my expectations. Dan's seabass with assorted veggies and rustic mashed potatoes on the other hand, was worth raving about. The fish was deliciously flaky, buttery and had interesting accents of miso and chili pepper. But the mashed potatoes were not as good as mine.

Dessert presented two options, the dulce de leche pyramid cake or the berry cookie tart. We naturally got one of each so we could taste both. I liked the cookie tart a lot better because it was super light and filled with fluffy rum cream and plump berries. The pyramid looked very impressive but its consistency was way too rich to handle after a 5 courser.

Service and Cost:
The service was mediocre. It started out shaky--we got our bread and water but no menus? It picked up traction towards the middle but then disappointed us again later--we waited for over a half hour for our entrees! Not sure if they were trying to space out the meal because of New Year's Eve but it still seemed way too long of a wait.

This place is not cheap but for New Year's Eve, it was a decent deal. For a 5 course menu with several glasses of champagne and live music, we paid $110 each. Sound familiar, New Yorkers?

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