Cari Taylor-Carlson
Dining

Sabor Tropical Offers Unique Latino-Inspired Cuisine

Not easily defined, this restaurant serves a mashup of Latino-inspired dishes.

By - Oct 2nd, 2019 11:37 am
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Sabor Tropical. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

Sabor Tropical. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

Sabor Tropical quietly opened in Bay View in November 2018 when they moved into the building formerly occupied by Riviera Maya. Riviera moved down the street to 2327 S. Kinnickinnic St. and now Bay View has Sabor, where they serve neither Mexican nor Puerto Rican exclusively, but instead, a servers a mashup of many Latino-inspired dishes.

The Ropa Vieja, for example, a Cuban stew made with shredded beef, usually flank steak, green and red peppers, onions, and olives, had an elegant simplicity that came from combining basic ingredients and letting them shine. At Sabor, they serve it with white rice and tostones, deep-fried plantains. The flank steak, tender and juicy, dominated the dish, named for “old clothes” in Spanish, traditionally a way to use up leftovers. The stew was satisfying, simple, comforting, just like Mom’s beef stew. The tostones, plantains smashed and twice fried, were, in my opinion, bland, perhaps an acquired taste.

A traditional Puerto Rican dish, Mofongo Rellenos, offered a glimpse into that complex cuisine. To make the mofongo, the chef mashed fried green plantains with salt, garlic, pork skins, and butter, stuffed them with shrimp, and topped them with more pork skins and cilantro. A sauce that tasted of garlic gave the plantains additional flavor and took this humble dish from bland to delish.

The single Empanadilla, the Picadilla Cubano my companion and I split, was stuffed with chopped beef and potato. It needed the Caribbean tangy aioli to add interest, which we later learned was a blend of mayonnaise and Ketchup. The empanadilla could be improved with more filling and less crust, however, it was clearly homemade as evidenced by the lovely crimped pastry edges.

The Puerto Rican Rice, one of many sides, was a delicious surprise. The rice combined gandules, or small beans known as pigeon peas, olives, and bits of pork. Next time I will replace the white rice that came with the Ropa Vieja with the Puerto Rican rice to experience more of the flavors of Puerto Rico.

On both visits, as soon as my companions and I sat down, our server brought a basket of plantain chips and a dish of chipotle salsa, delectable nibbles while we debated our entrees. On my second visit, our server facilitated that decision by offering us the Sampler Platter at the Happy Hour Price, $9.00 instead of $18.00, a deal too good to pass on. He said it would give us a chance to taste almost everything on the Appetizer menu.

Tostones Rellenos, mini baskets made with fried tostones filled with marinated pulled pork, left us wanting more. The pork had a sweet-sour background which soaked into the basket, a happy marriage of meat and plantain. For our Latino Quesadilla, we chose the steak filling, the best choice if you want your quesadilla generously stuffed with small pieces of tender steak along with asadero cheese, a melty cheese similar to mozzarella. It came with more of that mayo-Ketchup aioli.

Three Tropical Chicken Wings served with pureed green chimichurri, needed a napkin to soak up excess oil on the surface of the wings. Likewise, the Amarillos, or sweet plantains, needed a few dabs from a napkin. Once degreased, the Amarillos were mushy, sweet, a contrast to the rest of the Sampler Platter.

Four desserts offered irresistible choices: Cheesecake Frito, or cheesecake wrapped in a flour tortilla, deep-fried, tossed in cinnamon sugar, and topped with caramel or hot fudge; Flan De Nutella, vanilla custard topped with Nutella, caramel, and strawberry sauce; Argentinian Chocotorta; and Pastel Borracho.

We found the Argentinian Chocotorta, several cookies layered and topped with dulce de leche, heavy, more than enough to share. The Pastel Borracho, or drunken cake, a mini bundt cake soaked in rum sauce, came with a scoop of vanilla ice cream drizzled with caramel and hot fudge, the tour de force to bring us back for more dessert.

On weekends, Sabor offers brunch, mainly a reprise of the flavors found on the rest of the menu. There’s a plantain waffle, ropa vieja on hash browns with eggs, and scrambled eggs on white rice with chorizo.

Every Friday from 7:00-8:00, in the front of the restaurant, they turn the floor over to salsa dancers, a show, not a you-all-join-in event.

There you have it, a few reasons to dine at Sabor Tropical and to experience Latino culture on KK.

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