Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sabor de Cuba, Frederick Maryland

6 February 2012: I was so excited to read in the Frederick Maryland Online web site (which I subscribe to and sometimes post comments) that a new Cuban restaurant was opening in town. It's called Sabor de Cuba and it's located on Patrick Street in downtown Frederick Maryland.

This past Saturday was First Saturday, a monthly event held in Frederick. We decided to try Sabor for dinner. We arrived at 6:30pm (no reservations) and were seated immediately. We went in expecting slow service, as Sabor only opened on 1 February. We know that restaurants take some time to work out any kinks and we were not in a rush to leave.

The restaurant was full, a good sign I think. There is a small bar with about 5 bar stools and the dining room for about 50 people.

The menu looked great with lots of typical Cuban dishes, although I did review it on their web site.

Appetizers range from $2 to $10 and include items such as empanadas (beef or chicken), tostones (green plantains stuffed with either beef or shrimp), croquetas de jamon, etc. Two items of note were the bread and butter or bread with garlic butter appetizers at $2. Unlike many Cuban restaurants we’ve been to (and even most other restaurants) you pay for your bread if you want any.

There’s a soup and two salads ($4 to $8), and four choices of sandwiches ($8 and $9) including the Cubano (one of my favorites).

Entrées include a nice selection from Bistec de Palomilla, Picadillo (another favorite), Ropa Vieja, Arroz con Pollo, etc. Price for dinner range from $14 to $18.

We ordered the Empanadas de carne ($5), the Pollo a la Plancha for myself ($14) and the Bistec de Palomilla ($16) for Tony. I also ordered a glass of Pinot Grigio ($5.50) and Tony had a soda.

As I said, we know service can be slow with a new restaurant but I felt 40 minutes was a little on the long side to receive our empanadas. It even took some time to get our drinks, although I saw them sitting on the bar.

The empanadas were wonderful! Nice and meaty inside and very flavorful. The dough was golden brown and not greasy at all.

Our dinners arrived 15 minutes later. Tony's dish included black beans and rice, as well as sweet plantains. The bistec, which is pounded thin and grilled, was hidden under the plantains. It was a small 2.5 to 2.75-ounce piece of overcooked, dry meat.

My chicken (citrus marinated and grilled) came with sweet plantains, not green plantains I was expecting, as stated on the menu. It was also supposed to come with black beans and rice. My chicken looked to be about 3 ounces total. It took at 15 minutes to get my rice and beans after the young waitress told me my dish did not include rice and beans, and after I asked to see a menu and pointed it out to her. Most typical Cuban meals include rice and beans. It shouldn’t have taken 15 minutes for her to bring out my food when the mistake was discovered. In fact, I had to ask the hostess, who saw what was going on to bring me the food, which she did.

Tony and I were very disappointed in our food. To be charged $16 and $18 for our entrées with meat portions no larger than 3 ounces was unacceptable. This is a Cuban restaurant – foods that are simply made with wonderful flavors, and with inexpensive ingredients. I noticed other dishes that came out of the kitchen and the portions looked much bigger (i.e., the Picadillo, Camarones Enchilados (sautéed shrimp, and Ropa Vieja). Our bill arrived and I was charged $23 for my glass of wine, the price of a bottle. The bill was corrected. After dinner, we sat at the bar and hand a round of drinks and chatted with two bartenders (mother, daughter). At one point Tony made the comment about how small the meat portion was but was shrugged off by the employees.

We will return to Sabor after the dust settles and to give it a second chance. We have to believe our dishes were just not properly prepared with the correct size portion of the beef and chicken. And I want my green plantains! After all, their web site states, “Simple food, complex flavors.” That usually means good food and reasonable prices to us.

After dinner, we walked around town checking out the various ice sculptures. Fire and Ice was the them for February's First Saturday.

Sabor de Cuba9 East Patrick Street, Frederick, MD 21701

26 JULY 2012: A much happier note. I returned to Sabor with a friend for dinner wanting to give Sabor a second try. I was not disappointed.

We arrived at 6:30pm with only six other diners in the room. Two more tables eventually filled; one couple at the bar.

We were warmly greeted with smiles by Mike, our waiter, who is also the chef and co-owner.  Asking if we had been here before, I said yes, to which he thanked me for returning. Mike told us about his popular dishes, which all sounded delicious. The description of the roast pork caught my attention, while my friend zeroed in on the ropa vieja.

We ordered the chicken empanadas as our starter, but after five minutes our entrees arrived.  Mike apologized when I asked him if he had placed our order for the empanadas. He seemed embarrassed, but it certainly wasn’t a problem: the plates were full of food. In fact we took half our entrees home.

My pork (with sliced onions) was very flavorful and tender, having been marinated for hours, although some pan juices would be an added nice touch. There was plenty of rice and the black beans were tasty.  On top of the rice were four plump fried sweet plantains. Yum!

My friend enjoyed her ropa vieja, which also came with sweet plantains; her rice and beans were mixed together.

Mike offered us empanadas to take home or dessert. We chose the tres leches, a light yellow-type cake that’s soaked with a sweet milky liquid. It was excellent!  The cake was so moist from the liquid. It was topped with whipped cream and drizzled with a strawberry pureé.

Our bill came to $30, which was reasonable for the amount of food we had.

I was so happy to have had a much better meal and much better service. I even met the owner and chatted with her for a few minutes. I’m looking forward to returning to Sabor soon.

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