Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sabor Latino - San Diego

I came across this new restaurant a few weeks ago that had just opened. I didn't want to go in during the first week or so, So I waited a few awhile to let them work those new restaurant glitches out. I had been drooling over going here and thinking about the various possibilities an eatery would have with a sign out front stating "Sabor Latino" and "Latin cuisine". Sabor in Spanish means flavor. Could this place be a little gem? Possibly modeled after a Rick Bayless style of cooking? The sign out front hinted that it was possibly a cut above the standard "Berto" Brothers fare. You know the ones. Filiberto's, Jilliberto's Sillyberto's. I have said that before, But after awhile you get sick of most of them. Although quite a few offer excellent food for the buck. After being open for six weeks I thought it time to go check it out.

I went in for lunch around noonish. Just one other table was eating. The place was decorated in South American Bistro charm. Flowers on the table with nice Mexican themed place settings.

I sat down and the obligatory basket of chips and salsa came out. Chips, Hard and greasy like "Dog the Bounty Hunter"chewy on the outside, but mushy on the inside, with a side of flavorless salsa that tasted watered down and right out of a number 10 SYSCO food can. The salsa looked good. it had some green in it, pieces of what looked like jalapenos? But no flavor at all. Strike one on the "Sabor" thing.

I searched through the menu for little nuggets of a hint at greatness and imagination, Only to find Egg rolls!, Buffalo wings? and Blue Cheese burger's!? Not very Mucho Latino. This lunch menu best represents the reason why I really don't care to go to lunch at a place that purportedly specializes in dinner. The lunch menu is never any good, cast offs and throwaways abound usually. This menu was no exception. Just all over the place. Definitely put together with the help of Sally Field playing the roll of Sybil in that classic old film about a schizophrenic with 16 personalities, and in this case none of them seem to be Latino. This place used to be a Peruvian restaurant and the new owners have left a few Peruvian dishes on the menu as well. Let's see we have Lomo Saltado, Cuban style fries and fried plantains as well as Creamy Jalapeno Tilapia. Tilapia, that goldfish of non threatening tasteless and mushy equivalent to a Petco Park hot dog. Oh Boy do I need to get to a good restaurant fast as I feel I am quickly becoming the Michael Savage of the review world. OK, I just took my Nitroglycerin. Calm again.

I ordered up the Mexican Ceviche Tostada ($3.95). It looked very good when it came out. It had a nice presentation with a nice Quesso mayonase sauce. Nice size shrimp and crisp tomatoes. Very mild citrus hint of lime and lemon. On a bed of lettuce, Which I don't care for in any Mexican food and a store bought packaged Tostada round. Just very mild though. Not much "Sabor" here either. Worth it for $3.95 if you are a first time ceviche eater. Just not very authentic.
For the main course I had asked about the Chicken Mole ($8.95). Now Mole can and usually is a complex conglomeration of various spices mixed with chocolate, and just about every region in Mexico has there own style of it, usually family recipes handed down through the years from Grandma to Mom to Daughter and so on. I would compare it to a Mexican Curry type sauce. Like curry, Mole is most times an acquired taste. The waiter told me it was actually his mothers recipe. Great! I thought. Only Mexican mothers can truly make a good mole. So I quickly ordered up a plate.
The chicken was grilled and then the mole poured over the top. I like it when the chicken is actually simmered in Mole for a while to let the flavors and textures mingle. The Mole was thick and looked really nice. But like everything else at Sabor Latino it really lacked any depth of flavors and that is what you look for in a good curry or mole, is the depth of flavors usually brought together in the case of Mole with the heat of Ancho and other hotter type peppers, mixed with cinnamon and Allspice and of course Mexican Chocolate. Done right it can be heaven as the velvety sweetness en robes the inside of your mouth and then the slow heat builds. Oh my! Sounds like a Harold Robbins novel. Nope, just good Mole. This one had a little heat going on but not enough. it was great in balancing the sweet chocolate and other spices. All in all, It did work together with the grilled chicken. Just not rich enough.
the Chicken Mole came with Spanish rice and Beans. The rice had a nice flavor to them. OK, The rice had Sabor! Light and fluffy with a nice tomatoee creamy texture. A hint of garlic and possibly some Saffron going on here. Each grain of rice was an individual grain and not mushed together.
To sum it up. the owner / Chef wore an Applebees baseball cap. It all made sense to me now.
That is what this place reminds me of, An Applebees menu. Just all over the place.
A liitle more "Sabor" Por Favor.
Sabor Latino
8680 Navajo Road
San Diego
Open 7 days a week 8:30am to 10pm

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