Sabor Saveur - a new Frexican spot in Wicker Park

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bonjour and bienvenidos to Sabor Savuer, a new French-Mexican fusion restaurant that brings cross-cultural cuisine to Wicker Park. Located on a prime stretch of Division, the gallery-like space provides a neutral setting for globally inspired flavors. Chic and minimalist, the long dining room is bookended by brick walls, lit by dim candles and filled with only black and white furniture. The stark décor is a savvy way to showcase the food and make the colorful dishes shine.

Chef Yanitzin Sanchez might favor Latin dishes, but her French training - including a stint at the Ritz Carlton in Paris - clearly influenced the menu. You can gauge a diverse culinary career from apple foie gras, lobster enchiladas and chocolate braised salmon filet. While fish and dessert sound like an odd couple, they have surprising chemistry. The ground beef, pork and fruit tamal is one of the highlights, a savory appetizer big enough for a table of four to share, but tasty enough to eat as an entrée. The flavorful meat is wrapped in phyllo dough and covered in a leafy salad with strips of cucumber, avocado and watermelon. I think fruit and avocado make everything taste better and this dish just solidifies my theory.

Aside from my infatuation with the chocolate salmon, I also fell for the filet mignon. It could have been the grainy topping of pumpkin seeds and ground huazontle, the irresistible fried sweet potato and coconut croquettes (which deserve their own permanent spot as a side dish) or even the amaranth green beans. I loved all of it, but might order it medium-rare next time for even juicier meat.

When it comes to dessert, eye candy is the best description. Chocolate mousse is coated with ricotta and goat cheese, then garnished with a mint sprig and a sliver of orange. The unusual fig & coconut ante is a lemony circular sweet layered with blueberry cream, a glace sauce and a topping of figs and blackberries. It’s edible art that’s both pretty and palate-pleasing. They are small servings, so order more than one to really indulge.

One of Sabor Saveur’s best offerings isn’t even on the menu. It’s a BYOB restaurant which means you can savor an upscale meal without paying a premium for wine. On both of my visits, guests were drinking everything from pinot noir to white Russians, craft beer to scotch. Regardless of how strange the pairing, the staff was helpful and welcoming, providing ice buckets, glasses and bottle openers without batting an eye. My second dinner fell on a Friday night and a nearby table donated their remaining Grey Goose and a few stray beers as a parting gift. It’s a fitting gesture for a restaurant that thrives on the unexpected, whether its white linen tables with BYOB or French technique meets Mexican fare. And whether you bring tequila or champagne, you can raise a glass to a meal that transcends borders and a restaurant that trumps expectations.