Latin Delights at Sabor

3221 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90405

I was turned on to Sabor in West Los Angeles and told that the cuisine was a mixture of Spanish/Cajun/Mexican that you would die for. The restaurant has been open for nine years and is well worth checking out for a variety of reasons, an adventure for the taste buds. The menu format has been imported directly from New York, but is not considered “Nuevo Latino”, at least not by the owners. In fact they were keen to point out that it has taken Sabor a long time to shake of the perception that it was just another trendy Mexican restaurant. Despite that denial, the menu still heavily features Mexican dishes such as the Thin Crepe Corn Tamales and the Roasted Pasilla Chile Rellenos. The chef has been with the restaurant since opening day, and hails from Zacatea in Mexico. His menu is small and compact with an emphasis on chicken, seafood, pasta and steaks, and the mesquite grill in the kitchen gets plenty of action.

The décor is very impressive with a hacienda style, very comfortable high back chairs, and an impressive collection of Aztec and Inca masks and antiques throughout the restaurant. The atmosphere is also very comfortable with a lot of earth colors to accentuate the rather cutting-edge food on offer.

Appetizer of choice for me was the Calamari ($6.95), sautéed with fresh oregano, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and limejuice. The sauce tended to dominate the dish, but it was served piping hot and more tender than chewy, and well accompanied with the excellent bread baked right on the premises. An example of the food style can be found in the Yucatan Chicken Lime Soup ($4.95), with grilled chicken breast slices, Pasilla chiles, roasted tomato, fresh avocado and corn chips in a chicken broth. Other unusual menu items included Popcorn Florida Rock Shrimp ($7.95), served with cascabel chile Remoulade, and Coxinhas, which are buttermilk-flour crispy puffs filled with chicken, goat cheese and herb mousse.

The Seafood Pasta ($17.95) that I had for the main course was a real winner, not too moist and perfectly cooked. A generous selection of seafood tossed with a lobster saffron, shitake, red bell pepper, and a sauvignon blanc and olive oil sauce. I also tried the Tamales ($11.95) and the Chile Rellenos ($12.95), and my only complaint about the former was its’ tendency to fall apart rather quickly. Aside from that it was an interesting shape, long and thin and filled with shredded chicken and sun-dried Guajillo chile, and topped off with a spicy sausage, tomato and basil sauce. The Chile Relleno was stuffed with black bean, manchego-cotija cheese and fresh herb mousse-very tasty and filling, but also very light.

The wine list is extremely impressive with an extensive list of foreign and California wines, including a Pouilly-Fuisse Domaine de l’Artilliere 97 for a bargain $28. Also a capital choice of seven dessert wines was a real surprise, capping off a very good meal that we can recommend highly if you are in the mood for something different.

Mike Hepworth, January 2001

Lunch: Monday thru Friday 11:30 am to 2:00 pm
Dinner: 5.30 pm to 9.30 pm-7 days a week.
Price of dinner for two w/wine $60
Tel: 310-829-3781
Fax: 310-582-8256
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