Little old Frederick is now big enough to boast two Cuban restaurants, which I have ignored long enough. I decided to dip my toe into the world of Cuban cuisine by starting at Sabor De Cuba, located at 9 East Patrick Street in downtown Frederick. Let me first digress by saying I don’t have much experience with Cuban cuisine, so is Sabor authentic? I really can’t tell you that. Is is good? The answer to that is a qualified yes. Like any restaurant it had its pluses and minuses. The restaurant is tastefully decorated in muted beige, white and brown tones and projects a casual atmosphere. When I was there the noise level was on the low average side. On the walls hang photographs of the classic 50′s cars that Cuba is known for. There is a small bar in the center. My one complaint? You can probably guess if you are a regular reader: the TV above the bar which was on. A pet peeve of mine. In a sports bar? Sure. But in a restaurant, not appropriate.
The service was attentive and timely. As we were seated the waiter noticed a crumb or two on the table that we had not seen. He immediately apologized and corrected the mistake. We started off with a mojito. Sabor had an interesting twist; the mint was pulverized into small flecks in the cocktail. However, I am sorry to say that I was disappointed in the mojito. I found it to be way too sweet, which overpowered the lime and completely obscured any mint flavor. At $8 a pop I’d give it a pass. Hope springs eternal so I would be willing to give the Cuba Libre a try. Alas my sobriety was required so I limited myself to one cocktail. While we are on drinks I was disappointed by the wine selection which was listed on the menu as simply Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Grigio etc. That is usually a warning sign to me and a source of great frustration. Why more smaller restaurants don’t just list a few specific wines is beyond me.
On to the food. Honestly I believe we made a mistake. No one with me was extremely hungry and we did not order any appetizers. I have since heard from several people that the empanadas are one of their best items on the menu. We went straight to the entrees. The first thing that struck me when the food came was how monochromatic it was: everything on all three plates were shades of brown, with some white and black thrown in. But, as they say, the proof is in the eating. The Ropa Vieja (pulled flank steak) was good. The conji (cuban rice) and plantains were flavorful. The Pollo al la Plancha was excellent and by far the best out of everything I sampled. The dish consisted of a breast of chicken, pounded flat and marinated in citrus. The citrus flavors really came through. The pollo was accompanied with some white rice and black beans which were underwhelming. The plantains were also pounded flat and fried, but I found them to be rather tough and chewy. The final dish sampled was the picadillo (cuban chili), which was also good, but very mildly spiced.
VERDICT: The food was good and different. The prices were average. Not a bargain but not what I’d consider expensive either. I am intrigued by this cuisine and there is also plenty more I’d be happy to sample on a return visit.. How does it stack up to the other Cuban restaurant in town? Stay tuned.
UPDATE: Check out Jan’s comments. They are very helpful. As I mentioned I really have no baseline to determine the authenticity of their cuisine. All I can say is what I like.