Updated 30th Oct 2010: this restaurant is closed.
You guys remember Rey? Well … if you remember, he’s the one who promised to bring us on a culinary adventure of Filipino cuisine. Rey is a Filipino community advocate and he wanted to create awareness of the third largest visible minority community in Vancouver by encouraging the creation of local Filipino content on the internet.
Last month, Rey introduced to us the Chinese Filipino food by bringing us to Little Ongpin in Richmond. In the second leg of the adventure, Rey next introduced us to Spanish Filipino food.
The Dulcinea Chocolate Cafe is located on Denman in Vancouver Westside. We were met by Mari and David, who opened this delightful outlet with their daughter since October 2008. So this place is just 6 months new. Mari and David are both of Spanish descent from the Philippines. Mari told us she is a chocolate lover … and the place was started out of her love of chocolates! She’s so friendly and approachable that I can see that she connects to her customers very well.
I was told by Rey that pure Spanish Filipino makes up only 2% of the population in the Phillipines. Despite the low number, the Spanish has a lasting influence in the Filipino culture having colonized the country for 333 years. That is why most of the Filipino names are Spanish names.
When Rey suggested Dulcinea and raved about their Hot Chocolate, we initially thought “what’s the big deal”? We soon changed our perception of hot chocolates after this experience.
The name Dulcinea came from the name of Don Quixote’s true love in the novel of the same name. We had always thought that Dulcinea was pronounced as Doo-See-Nea. A big sign on the wall says “Doo-see-nay-ah”. You learn something new everyday. The name Dulcinea means overly elegant sweetness — a perfect name for a chocolate cafe.
Dulcinea started off as a Spanish Chocolate Bar in the Vancouver Westside neighborhood. Mari told us that the place evolved quickly since they started six month ago … from starting to serve tapas, then soup, sandwiches … and Dulcinea took life on its own when customers requested for certain food and Dulcinea responded.
We went to Dulcinea at 4PM. It’s an odd hour, I know but Rey wanted us to treat this like a Merienda. I had always heard that the Spanish culture has a really odd day … like taking a nap after lunch, having dinner at 9:30PM and Meriendas in between meal times.
We half expected the place to be empty at 4PM and thought that Rey suggested that time because Mari and David would be the least busiest. We were amazed that even at 4PM, Dulcinea was packed … with people … having … Merienda! The crowd actually taper off at about 5′ish.
This is it … the above is what Dulcinea is famous for. Their signature Hot Chocolate which is called the 1528. It is a shot of thick chocolate. It is like the espresso of chocolates … but much more thicker. Any thicker it would not be drinkable! Even the spoon provided is designed to scrap off the thick chocolates from the sides of the cup.
The 1528 costs $2 per shot. If you have never tried it before, go to the counter and ask for a small sample. They pass out samples and once you take a sip, you’ll probably want one for your own.
Now … if you want a solo cup of the 1528 … listen here … FOR FREE … just go and tell Mari, David or whoever at the counter that “Chowtimes Loves Xocolatl” and you will receive a solo cup of the 1528. Serious! I suggested to Mari and David that they put in a little fun promotion to benefit readers of chowtimes and was surprised to hear a yes from them. I suggest you know what a Xocolatl is (see below) and how it is pronounced (pronounced as choco-latl).
Consider this is like Suanne and I buying you a cup of hot chocolate. :-)
Update 05-Apr-2009: The offer for the free 1528 had now expired. Mari and David expressed their thanks to everyone who had taken time to visit their store and tried the 1528. However, Dulcinea will continue to offer samples of the 1528 (just not a solo cup of it). There could be more offers coming. Just stay tuned. I hope those who had the 1528 enjoyed it!
Oh … 1528 … that is the year that the Spanish took cocoa from Mexico and shipped it back to Spain. That year was the start of Europe’s love of chocolates. Nice name, I thought.
If you’re not into thick hot chocolates, there is the Classico … a more watered down version but still really rich and creamy.
I had the Hot Chocolate with Chai. These are not very large cups like I am used to (i.e. we drink Milo at home and we make really big cups and gulp them down real fast). Here I find that I took my time to savour every sip.
The Xocolatl (how do one pronounce that again?) is quite exciting. I’ve never seen a dried chili served with hot beverage before. This one is a hot chocolate with chili nutmeg and cinnamon. The chili wasn’t that hot. Be brave and go try that one. You’ll probably love the contrasting flavours here.
What’s chocolate without fondue? It’s something about fondue that makes it the favourite of just about everyone. I think it’s because it’s a fun food to have with friends. We noticed that the grapes were frozen … not sure why only the grapes were frozen while the banana and strawberry wasn’t.
Besides the delightful hot chocolates, Dulcinea has absolutely the best cakes and pastries one could find in Vancouver. This is coming from our resident cakes fan, Suanne. Our fav has got to be the Lava Blanco above which is chocolate mousse with white choc inside of it.
Instead of ordering each item by itself, we actually ordered the sampler which gives us a little of everything we wanted.
I love how they name their products. This next one is Xango — it is a cheesecake wrapped in tortilla.
The Torrijas is a bread pudding. Simple bread pudding but was absolutely marvelous.
Being a cheesecake fan, Suanne loves the Angelita. It looked deceptively bad for your heart but it is actually low calorie and low sugar that even a diabetic could eat this. We can’t differentiate this from the normal cheesecakes … yummy!
More cheesecake … the Catalana Cheesecake Bar is simply awesome especially with the dribbles of chocolates all over it.
The El Diablo is a chocolate pie … pure chocolate pie. It’s more like eating a chocolate bar than a pie! Simply delightful.
And then there is the Duende Moreno. Chocolate brownie served with ice cream.
LOL! At this point Arkensen starts to shudder at the sheer amount of chocolates and declared he needed something salty (which, sigh, we took him for salted fish fried rice. Yeah … again!).
Mari and David told us that they get really busy particularly after dinner time, especially in summer. Dulcinea is constantly adding new stuff to their menu. Coming up next is the churros which will be perfect with their amazing hot chocolates. The machine is there already but they had not started production at the time we were there.
See that sign above of the Flamenco dancer … it’s Dulcinea’s logo … and they actually have Flamenco dancers on every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month.
Here are more info we received just prior to posting this. Dulcinea now will have flamenco from different troupes every Sunday. They will also start music nights during the week… jazz, classical, sevillana. So, lots of entertainment lined up. Call them up to confirm the details if you are interested.
If you are around the neighborhood, go check out Dulcinea … say hi to Mari and David … and ask for a sampler of the 1528 or better still … say “Chowtimes Loves Xocolatl” to receive a solo cup. You’ll like it … am sure about it … and you will probably think of hot chocolates differently.