Sabor Divino is the latest restaurant to join the downtown fray, with a prime location on the Boardwalk along 103 Street – close enough for mall shoppers, theatre goers and festival revellers on the Square to access on foot, but far enough from main traffic thoroughfares to allow for a patio experience shielded somewhat from noise.
Although many (myself included) have labelled Sabor Divno a Portuguese restaurant, co-owner Christian Mena refuses to pigeonhole his eatery, and instead prefers to say their cuisine is inspired by a multitude of flavours, including those from Portugal, Spain, and the Mediterranean.
My first meal at Sabor Divino was a part of Fork Fest, an eight day celebration of Original Fare independent restaurants in Edmonton, offering pre-fixe meal deals for $20 or $35 (Mack had dined there once before, with his colleagues for lunch). The Fork Fest menu that Mack and I enjoyed at Sabor definitely seemed to sample a bit from each of the above regions, with the overall consensus being the kitchen was heavy on both balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
We opted to take advantage of a warm Edmonton day (which seems to be rare this summer), and chose a seat on Sabor’s small patio made up of three two-person tables complete with parasols. I loved that the ground level of the restaurant opened up onto the street, inviting a feeling of al fresco dining even for the tables technically tucked inside. And though the seats on the main level looked sumptuous, befitting the presence of a grand piano in the centre amongst a dark wood and dimly lit setting, I didn’t regret our choice of table.
I spy Mack’s BlackBerry…
The tapas menu was tempting, and one I’d likely consider more closely on a non-Fork Fest occasion. As it were, Mack and I built our individual meals from a $35 fixed menu comprised of two appetizers, two entrees, and four dessert options. I chose the pasta fagioli soup, black cod Mediterraneo, and Leite Crème “Dona Irene”. Mack, in an effort to supply me with more blog fodder (even at my explicit objection), ordered the mista salad, chicken in red wine, and cheesecake with black cherries.
While enjoying our bread, the pair seated behind us were accosted by a passerby looking for a smoke. They began talking, and we couldn’t help but listen (yes, we’re eavesdropping diners – but in our defense, their raised voices made it difficult not to do so). It turned out the wayward pedestrian was a bartender at the nearby L’Azia, and invited the pair to the restaurant. She described it with the following gem: “It’s an infusion restaurant. Like Taste of Edmonton, only year round.”
Bread with olive oil, butter and balsamic vinegar
I thought our appetizers came much too soon after our bread basket had been delivered (I barely made it through two slices), but Mack didn’t mind getting right to the meal. The pasta and bean soup was a hearty way to start off, though the beans were on the too-soft side, permeating the broth with a chalky texture. Mack’s salad was beautiful as it was a towering achievement, with the even larger achievement being that he managed to finish all of the greens. His only comment was that it was overdressed.
Pasta Fagioli Soup
I expected the entrees to interrupt our first course, but I was pleasantly surprised – the rest of the meal was timed quite nicely. My black cod was a visually stunning dish that screamed freshness – a bed of bright green kale accentuated with bursts of rouge tomato and ink-black olives. The fish had perfectly crossed char marks, and, though I’d been warned that the kitchen often undercooked their seafood, found no unwelcome rawness inside. The pops of sprinkled salt pockets were a welcome touch, and my only flavouring complaint was the heavy balsamic pour.
Black Cod Mediterraneo
Like mine, Mack’s chicken in red wine was also generously portioned, with a theme of red throughout – red onions, red grapes and red pesto sauce. Though enjoyable, it was the less unique of our two entrees.
Chicken in Red Wine
Dessert was presented as a “taster”, which, after the preceding plate, was just the right size. My Portuguese version of a crème brulee was fired fresh to order, with a richer, more flavourful custard than usually encountered. Mack enjoyed the cheesecake portion of his dessert, but could have done without the cherries, which tasted to him like the canned variety.
Leite Crème “Dona Irene”
Cheesecake with Black Cherries
At the end of our meal, I asked our waiter if the restaurant was considering any sustainable seafood choices (guided by, for example, Blue Ocean or Monterey Bay). He said that he himself used to cook, and that sustainability was very important to him personally. As a result, he would be bringing in samples from Ocean Odyssey Inland for the chef to try very soon.
With solid service and a seafood focus that differentiates it from other mid-range establishments, Sabor Divino is a welcome addition to the family of Original Fare restaurants as well as Edmonton’s food scene.
10220 103 Street
Main dining room: Monday-Friday 11:30am-10pm, Saturday-Sunday 5-10pm; Cafe lounge: Monday-Friday 2:30-10pm, Saturday-Sunday 5-10pm