Preview: 5th Annual Sabor Seafood Festival

Sabor is known as one of Edmonton’s best seafood restaurants, and every August, they choose to highlight the freshest products and flavours with their annual Sabor Seafood Festival. In its fifth year, 2018’s iteration welcomes the collaborative touch from Hawaii. Chef Lyndon Honda (of Sheraton Maui) and Chef Tom Muromoto (of Ka’anapali Beach Hotel) worked with Sabor Chef Lino Oliveira to design a menu inspired by a wide range of tastes, reflective of the Korean, Japanese, Filipino, Puerto Rican, and Portuguese roots of Hawaiian cuisine.

Earlier this week, I attended a media preview of the festival, which runs from August 7-31, 2018.

Among my favourite dishes that night was the ahi tartare, served on a taro chip. Prepared poke style, this appetizer couldn’t be trendier in the city, and the taro chip itself was crunchy and addictive.

Sabor Seafood Festival 2018

Ahi tartare

I loved the grilled prawns, dressed in a coconut taro leaf curry. The smoke was apparent in the plump prawn, and I enjoyed the subtle sweetness in the curry. Of all of the plates I tried, I’m pulling for this one to appear on the final festival menu!

Sabor Seafood Festival 2018

Grilled prawns

I’d say Spam is under appreciated in mainstream North American culture, and Chef Lino deftly incorporated it as a chorizo substitute in his Portuguese sausage Spam ‘n clams dish. I doubt any other restaurant in Edmonton would be daring enough to serve this.

Sabor Seafood Festival 2018

Spam ‘n clams

The Ko’ala lamb chops was another highlight. Prepared to a perfect medium rare, I adored the mango mint chutney underneath. The chefs weren’t wrong when they said this dish could sway anyone uncertain about lamb.

Sabor Seafood Festival 2018

Ko’ala lamb chops

Doughnuts seem to be all the rage in the city at the moment, so it wasn’t a surprise that one made its way to us as dessert. But it wasn’t your typical doughnut – here, the malasada (Portuguese fried dough) was stuffed with Pinocchio’s coconut ice cream, and topped with a decadent mango cream. I may have been full, but I found room to polish off the plate.

Sabor Seafood Festival 2018

Coconut ice cream stuffed Malasada

The full Seafood Festival menu is still being finalized, so check the Sabor website for details! Thanks again to Bonafide Media for the invitation, and for organizing a wonderful evening.

Iberian Flavours: Sabor Seafood Festival

While Edmonton is still firmly regarded as beef country, there’s been a rise in the profile of seafood in our land-locked city. With better access to airlifted catch, seafood-focused restaurants such as The Black Pearl offer a rotating menu of fresh options, and home cooks can have their pick of Icelandic fish caught two days earlier from Ocean Odyssey. Closer to home, Effing Seafoods made a splash this year with a number of collaborations and pop-ups with local restaurants showcasing their Canadian sourced seafood.  

As such, Sabor has been ahead of the curve, as they are onto their third annual Seafood Festival this year. The festival highlights Sabor’s ongoing partnership with Ocean Wise, a conservation program operated by the Vancouver Aquarium that promotes sustainable seafood through education. You may have already encountered their fish head symbol on local menus, which denotes that the seafood used in that dish is considered ocean-friendly (for those who want to learn more about the subject, I’d recommend Taras Grescoe’s Bottomfeeder). Some quick facts:

  • 85% of the world’s assessed fish stocks are currently over-exploited or at full capacity
  • 4 or every 10 fish caught are bycatch
  • 91% of Canadians want their seafood to be sustainable but only 11% buy sustainable seafood every time they shop

This year’s festival runs August 5 – September 3, 2016, and features a wide range of seafood. A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be invited to preview the festival menu as a guest.

Unlike previous years, Sabor Chef Lino Oliveira collaborated with Calgary-based Chef Jan Hansen of Hotel Arts for the dinner, and we learned that Chef Jan is originally from Edmonton! The collaboration also took Chef Lino down to Calgary to host a dinner at the Kensington Riverside Inn in early August. It’s always great to see chefs working together, particularly across cities.

The supper was served family style, and over the course of the evening, we sampled a variety of tapas and mains. Through his choice of flavours and cooking techniques, Chef Lino transported us to the Iberian coast.

Though not featuring seafood, I loved the heirloom tomato & queijo fresco montadito, a bruschetta-like serving of fresh market tomatoes and Portuguese cottage cheese atop Chef Jan’s bread.

Sabor

Tomato and fresh cheese crostini

Another standout was the meaningfully messy gambas al ajillo, featuring BC spot prawns almost comically large in size. Chef Lino delighted in his recommendation to imbibe in the juices inside the head as well.

Sabor
Shrimp

Even the surf & turf had a Portuguese twist: a charred octopus served alongside a chorizo-stuffed lamb that had been rolled in caul fat and cooked sous vide for three and a half hours.

Sabor

Portuguese surf & turf

My favourite dish of the elaborate menu was the Caldeirada de peixe, a sablefish (black cod) served in a saffron-lobster broth. The skin had been perfectly crisped, and all I wanted to do was make sure the rest of the broth didn’t go to waste (even if it meant throwing decorum out the window).

Sabor

Sablefish in saffron-lobster broth

Although the final dishes that ended up on the Seafood Festival menu are slightly different, the ingredients, flavours and combinations are very similar to what we tried that evening. 

Thanks again to Sabor for a wonderful evening of food and hospitality! The Seafood Festival runs August 5 – September 3, 2016.

Check out Andrea, Cindy and Linda’s snapshots of the evening.