Best Fusion Restaurant - 2008
Cacao - CLOSED
Tired of pretentious Pan-Everywhere eateries where fusion equals confusion and deconstruction means some sadistic chef screwing with your mind? Try this nonconfusing fusion place, where deconstruction is done for fun — as in congenial, creative chef Edgar Leal's marinated shrimp/mussels/calamari Argentine-style empanada ($14) — and all lunch specials are $11.99. Leal's childhood years — spent swinging back and forth between rural Venezuela and New York City — seem an ideal background for sensibly dealing with the foods of many countries (though mainly Peru, Argentina, and Venezuela) and also imbued him with an instinctive flair for transforming traditional rustic dishes into cosmopolitan contemporary creations — such as his warm "cachapa" soufflé with creamy guayanes cheese ($12), an elegantly lightened take on a common corn cake street snack. New-style ceviches and tiraditos, subtly flash-marinated and garnished to evoke the varying typical flavors of numerous nations, are definitive must-not-misses — an exciting comparative taste test, and a gut-level lesson in the benefits of international coexistence.