Monday, 18 March 2013

Sabor Divino – tasty European fine dining and amazing lobster risotto

Rating Service 7.75/10, Food 8.5/10
I had wanted an excuse to try out Sabor Divino for a while, but with the crazy-business of life, it got put on the backburner for a while, so for my boyfriend’s birthday, we headed out to give its updated twists on classic European fare a whirl… and we weren’t disappointed. Dark woods, white tablecloths, warm earthy fabrics, a large dining room encircling a baby grand piano and large gleaming bar greets you as you enter.
The service was a shade below what we would have expected from a restaurant stepping out as one of Edmonton’s best fine dining experiences. Perhaps it was due to inexperience of our waiter or the fact we were a large group – but most overlooked things were quickly remedied once we pointed things out or asked for missing cutlery. On to the food!!

Its menu is a mix of Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese items and influences, with a good portion of it devoted to fresh seafood (no complaints there!!) While we waited for everyone to find parking – luckily, there is a convenient covered parkade just across the street (construction woes always seem to be a problem in any downtown core), we nibbled on complimentary green and black olives, and crusty slices of bread with balsamic vinegar and olive oil to dunk in, or whipped butter to slather them up with. A touch of finishing salt would have been nice on the whipped butter, but there was lots of salt from the bowl of olives.

It was a nice change to have olives as part of the pre-ordering nibbles… and gave us time to catch up a bit, order drinks and peruse the menu. (Forgot to take pics of bevvies, ah wells.) Sabor Divino usually has a wine and dinner pairing special – with a wine pairing with each menu item, and usually a port or sherry to go with a dessert… a couple at our table decided to go that route, which they found quite tasty, and a generous amount of wine poured with each pairing and a delicious port at the end with dessert... but I'm getting ahead of myself. The rest of us picked random stuff that appealed to us off the menu. As soon as me and my boyfriend saw the seafood platter for two, we were hooked... and some of our friends ordered it too… after all, its go big, or go home!

the APPETIZERS
Our waiter was a bit surprised we ordered appetizers on top of our enormous seafood platter (it was to share!) but he quickly regained his composure, and food came out a bit after we polished off the bread, olives and a round of drinks. First out was our Mista salads that came with the seafood platters. Simple young spring greens, with a few colored tomatoes, cucumber, red onion are drizzled in a tangy-sweet balsamic vinegar based vinaigrette.

Some of our friends ordered the Lobster Risotto as an appetizer, and though looks can be deceiving, this dish was hands down the best of the night. Rich, creamy rice just swimming in reduced lobster liquor, butter, a few little bites of chopped up cooked lobster meat, a pinch of diced tomatos… and slap yourself you won’t believe it amazing flavor. It could have used a few more minutes to ensure all grains of rice were plumped up with the incredible lobster broth, but the flavor more than made up for it – our eyes just lit up when we tasted it… and my boyfriend literally made it disappear like magic. If I was just given a pot of this risotto, I would have happily ignored the rest of the food that night. My boyfriend declared it the best thing he’s eaten out in Edmonton in the last 10 years. NOM!

The Smoked Duck Carpaccio was plated with an arugula salad tossed in a faintly mustardy vinaigrette, and drizzled with lime and truffle oil. This appetizer was a hit and miss depending on who you asked. I would have preferred the duck to be smoked with a lighter smoke (use different wood like applewood , shorter smoking time or just air cure and finish with a brief stint in smoker to infuse a touch of smoke in).  We found the duck took on briefly the characteristic flavor of air cured duck sausage, before the smokiness completely overwhelmed the palate. Once rolled up with the arugula salad, the smokiness was cut down, but the smoke flavor unfortunately masked the more subtle flavors of the creamy sweet duck, and completely obscured the lime and truffle oil.

the ENTREES
A few of our fellow foodies went with the Seafood Cataplana. A generous pile of perfectly cooked Sable fish, prawns, calamari, mussels, clams, and spinach swam in a rich, aromatic tomato based seafood broth topped with melt in your mouth scallops. A few slices of toasted bread is useful for sopping up the seemingly simple, but complex savory broth. Yum!

A few of our foodies had the entrée simply called Pork and Clams. A tender well seared pork tenderloin is paired with fresh clams, white wine, garlic, cilantro and pimento which added in a gentle sweetness and barely detectable heat to this well thought out savory dish.

And we can’t forget the Seafood Platter for Two. The remainder of the couples at our table ordered this gargantuan set meal. It came with the mista salad, and our lobster risotto was served at the same time as the seafood platter (since we had the smoked duck appetizer earlier)... and a huge platter of seafood. A medium sized lobster is deshelled and coated in a garlicy buttery bread crumb? mixture and sits atop a large pile of clams, mussels, with a generous portion of seared prawns and scallops, as well as tender calamari to the side.

The lobster is thoughtfully deshelled, cut up into bit sized pieces and reassembled for easy eating and presentation.  The lobster is splayed open belly up to expose the lobster tail meat - and I was surprised it wasn't served with the belly side down and the lobster meat scooped out and presented fanned out from the top of the tail.  Guess it made it look bigger this way. The seared prawn and scallops are executed flawlessly with a good caramelized sear on the seafood surfaces. The calamari while cooked to a perfect-tender mouth feel without sliding into the rubbery category, though I would have preferred them to be seasoned differently as they were a bit bland in comparison to the other seafoods on the platter and didn't pick up much flavor from the pool of sauce on the platter all the seafood was piled upon.

The mussels were nicely cooked in a wine and tomato sauce, and the only blip in this dish was the clams. Unfortunately, over half the clams were inedible (closed after cooking), and some tasted like they were open and dead when they were tossed in to cook. Bleh. Simply having the sous chef or chef de partie check and discard dead shellfish prior to cooking and a quick look for closed shellfish post cooking would easily remedy the issue.

the DESSERTS
Most of us shared dessert or went with their temptation/ taster size of their in house made desserts as we were pretty stuffed from dinner. Their temptation size turned out to be about half the size of their full sized portions -Enough of us ordered the same thing in both sizes we were able to compare. A few of us went with their Tiramisu. Sabor Divino's version was a bit more "cakey" – with a higher ratio of biscuits soaked in espresso coffee, baileys, coffee liqueur and frangelico to marscapone cream goo than most traditional versions. Pictured is the temptation size - the full sized ones had forkfuls dug out of them by the time I dug out the camera lol!

We also tried their lightest dessert: Leite Crème "Dona Irene". Its a light and airy Portuguese cream custard topped with caramelized sugar and a dusting of cinnamon. Pictured is the full sized version.

It reminded me of a light, airy crème brûlée with notes of egg and vanilla. Mmmm!

the VERDICT
Overall, a delightful place for a special evening out, delicious food with a seafood focus… and amazing amazing lobster risotto. With a few service and execution issues that can be easily remedied, I’m already looking forward to the next time we drop in for an impromptu dinner… and that incredible lobster risotto. Did I mention Chef Lino’s lobster risotto is freaking fabulous? Makes me wish I worked closer downtown to be able to try the “Rebel Chef’s” daily lunch specials. Ah well, lobster risotto... you and me have a date!

Sabor Divino
Address #109, 10220-103 Street, Edmonton, AB T5J 4A1
Phone 780-757-1114
Hours Lunch Monday-Friday 11:30-2pm, Dinner Mon-Sat 5pm onwards, Closed SundaysSabor Divino on Urbanspoon
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