What do you get when you combine dishes in the style of Peru, Mexico, and Argentina along with friendship and some spicy décor? You get Sabor Latin Cuisine, Reno’s newest Latin-American fusion restaurant. You’ll find the eatery on East Moana and Kietzke Lanes occupying the space formerly used by the Peruvian restaurant, El Tumi.
It should be no surprise to Reno’s food enthusiasts that another gem has found a home inside a somewhat dilapidated strip mall. Remember the adage about books, covers, and judgements when you approach the restaurant. Despite a banner instead of a sign and a cracked window scheduled for replacement, Sabor would surely be in the running for Reno’s chicest restaurant design.
A Passing of the Torch
When the parents of Raul Contreras, the former owners of El Tumi, moved on from restaurant ownership, Raul and his best friend, Marco Perez picked up the torch. Perez offers the restaurant flavors from Mexico while Contreras offers flavors from Peru. The two knew they had the goods to produce great food, but they needed someone to add some flare to the space.
Contreras and Perez found just what they needed in the design eye of Katie Irvine. Irvine, now the restaurant’s manager and primary server, chose the restaurant’s modern Midtown-esque décor.
The only pieces of El Tumi kept by Sabor were the tables. Every other detail of the space was updated. A simple but attractive bar was added to the rear of the restaurant. The new crew painted the long walls of the restaurant black, and accented one of them with a sharp, white and orange logo. Warm lighting, modern flooring, and small cacti bring the restaurant’s aesthetic together. I claim no eye for design, but I really like the look of the restaurant.
Food that Draws from North and South America
The menu at Sabor is diverse with offerings of fusion-burgers, steak, elote, beef-heart brochettes, mashed potato cakes, mussels, chile verde, fried plantains, and more.
Lovers of fine libations will enjoy their craft cocktail menu. Irvine very generously offered my fiancé a complimentary Pisco Sour. The Peruvian cocktail included Pisco brandy, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, egg whites, and bitters.
My fiancé described the drink as crisp, fresh, and citrusy. “This is so good. It reminds me of a lemon-drop candy, but with lime. It’s so creamy,” she said.
Daring to drink outside my typical glass of water, I selected the chicha morada ($3.50), a non-alcoholic purple corn beverage of Peruvian origin. The drink reminded me of a cold mulled wine with warm spices and a touches of acidity and sweetness. I thought it was refreshing and one of the tastiest parts of my meal.
Next up was the complimentary yuca cheese bread. The biscuit-like rolls included yuca flour and what seemed to be mozzarella cheese. They were served warm on an attractive wooden plate. The flavor was mild and pleasant, but the real draw for me was the texture. They were slightly dense, chewy, and springy. I enjoyed them so much, I might attempt to make them at home.
My fiancé ordered the tilapia a la parrila for $14. The grilled tilapia was served with sautéed zucchini, carrots, and asparagus. The presentation was beautiful. The perfectly cooked fish was delicate and moist. The vegetables were cooked to that perfect medium between soft and crisp. The primary flavors were salt, butter, and the fish and vegetables themselves. Avocado added a wonderful creaminess that paired well with the butter and delicate fish. I think the price point is spot-on for this well-executed dish.
I ordered the lomo saltado for $17. My dish included beef strips and French fries sautéed with roma tomatoes, green and red onions, and white rice. If I’m not mistaken, lomo saltado in English means stir-fried sirloin. I’m stumped on what the chefs used to season and/or marinate the beef. The flavor reminded me a bit of BBQ potato chips.
The components of the meal were seasoned especially subtly. I would have preferred bolder flavors. The beef was a bit tough. The green and red onions coupled with the tomatoes added flavor and moisture to the dish. The fries lacked the crisp and seasoning that I usually prefer. The rice absorbed some of the juices from the vegetables and meat, and grew to be one of the tastier parts of the meal.
I am by no means a chef, but I think a more marbled cut of beef alongside some garlic and an acidic sauce would give this dish the oomph it lacked. The dish’s tough beef and especially subtle seasoning make the $17 price point a bit steep in my opinion. Value, though, will always be relative to the diner.
I will say without reservation that I think many Reno diners will find many things to enjoy at Sabor Latin Cuisine. The variety of dishes, cool drinks, warm service, and inviting atmosphere would make a great date night.
Sabor Latin Cuisine is located at 585 E. Moana Lane in Reno. They are open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Call in your take-out order at 775-433-1308. Visit them online at sabornv.com.