Dining Out: Sabor Mexicano fare lacks necessary heat

Restaurant offers variety of tasty dishes; meals served lukewarm during visit

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Why: Sabor Mexicano has been open since last September and is family owned and operated. The restaurant occupies one of the long-standing spaces in Vancouver’s Uptown Village; the most recent tenant was a pasta restaurant.

For those familiar with the tamales the restaurant serves at the Vancouver Farmers Market, Sabor Mexicano is an expansion of the same. In addition to tamales, the restaurant serves authentic and sometimes hard to find items, such as ceviche and pozole.

Atmosphere: The space imparts an outdoor patio ambiance. Crown molding defines the dividing walls below a black ceiling. The main wall displays a mural-style countryside landscape with Tuscan flair. The stained concrete floor further lends to the outdoor feeling of the environment. Furniture is an eclectic mix of tables, chairs and various pieces commissioned for securing the needs of food service and division of space. It’s comfortable enough for the duration of a meal, but not quite cozy enough to linger very long thereafter.

What I tried: I tried an array of items that included ceviche, pozole with chicken, street tacos made with birria, and tamales with pork. My dining companion had a burrito made with al pastor (grilled pork marinated in guajillo chili sauce).I had high hopes based on my past experiences at the farmers market, I always enjoy the steaming hot chicken tamales that are truly the best I’ve had. With this as my expectation, I was disappointed with what was served at Sabor. Every food item we ordered on our dinner visit arrived lukewarm instead of hot. Not a solitary vapor of steam rose from anything — not even the burrito, or the soup, which is usually a given. The general practice of Mexican restaurants’ use of pre-heated plates is not observed at Sabor, which further hindered any heat retention, leaving us with less than warm food in no time at all.

The ceviche was a pleasant departure from chips and salsa. Although the menu denotes the use of “chopped shrimp,” tiny pink shrimp are used. These are marinated and combined with onions, tomatoes, and cilantro.

Temperature aside, the highlight of my meal was the street taco made with birria, for its flavorful impression.

Of my other selections, I found the meat in the pozole (hominy soup) tough to chew, but the soup did have a favorable taste. The tamale was a poor representation of what is served at the Farmers Market.

My dining companion noted that his burrito was overstuffed with dryish ingredients and lacked some much needed sauce, which would have brought balance to it.Menu highlights beyond what I tried: In addition to birria, the street tacos are available with carne asada, chicken, al pastor, carnitas and shrimp. House specials include camarones rancheros and enchiladas suizas. Fried ice cream and a seasonal fruit dish with sweet cream sauce and granola (bionicos) are on the dessert menu.

Other observations: The service was friendly and attentive. Food arrived within five minutes of placing our order. A substantial amount of onions were used in making the selections we ordered. Take-out is available. I concluded that “if” the hot items had been hot, our overall experience would have been quite different and I might have been persuaded to try brunch on the weekend. The food did not lack flavor, the presentation was acceptable, and the menu does stand apart from some of the other Mexican food options in Clark County.

Cost: Appetizers are $3 to $7. Street tacos are $3, except for the shrimp variety, which is $3.50. House specials are $4 to $12.50. Kids’ (younger than 12 years old) options are $4 and $5.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Brunch is served 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Happy Hour is 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Telephone: 360-719-2075.

Where: 2108 Main St., Vancouver. www.sabormexicanrestaurant.com

Health score: Sabor Mexicano received a score of 13 on March 1. Zero is a perfect score, and Clark County Public Health closes restaurants with a score of 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.