#101: Sabores Mexican Cuisine

NOTE: Sabores has moved to a new location down the street, where Giraffe Restaurant had a short run, so some of these photos are no longer accurate. I have updated the map below.

Today for lunch I went to Sabores to use up a groupon that was due to expire soonish.  Sabores is located in the Kohl’s shopping center at Fairway & Pleasant Grove near 65.  For a long time, whenever I saw Sabores on my list I would mistake it for Sbarro and wonder why I didn’t remove it for being a chain.  Clearly I never gave this place much thought, I even had a hard time finding it today and made a couple U-turns near it because I thought it was on the other side of Pleasant Grove.  No help to me was Google Maps which doesn’t even list it.

Obviously I found it and I headed in a little after 11AM.  There were just a handful of customers already there and seated in the outer seats by the wall and windows.  The dining room is a decent size.  I chose a spot near the door.  Behind me was a bar with a couple TVs and a small selection of beer and wine.  Right away I had a basket of chips and a bowl of salsa delivered and I ordered a Tecate and the bean dip.  I had heard really good things about the chips from someone about a week ago and one of the first things I saw on Yelp’s page was a snippet raving about them.  I figured the bean dip would be a good compliment to them if they were as good as it seemed they would be.

Boy were they!  I think these might be my 2nd favorite chips so far behind the ones at Carmelita’s.  They weren’t as heavy as those, but they just had the most perfect crunch to them that I haven’t experienced anywhere else.  The salsa had a good kick to it, to the point that I stopped eating it until my Tecate came out.  I slid the salsa out of the way when the bean dip arrived because it was in a completely different league of appetizers.  Refried beans, cheese, avocado and tomatoes made up the large dish with a few chips stuck in it to top off the presentation.  The beans were hot and melted the load of cheese on top into a thick, gooey layer where many chips met their doom.  I had to help them out by scooping it all up with a fork first and then dropping it onto a chip.  This is a big order, but at $5 it felt about right.  It was certainly too much for one person and I took the rest of it home with a little bag of chips.

Along with my entree (I’m guessing, the menu seems to indicate it’s additional but I asked if it was included and the server said yes) came a choice of soup or salad.  She told me what the soup was and described it as a kind of meatball soup.  After looking around online when I got home I think it was Albóndigas soup.  That’s what I chose, and it was a little cup of bright orange/red broth.  I adjusted the spoon a bit to reveal a large meatball hiding under the surface along with some chopped veggies, most notably carrots.  The meatball was easy to break apart into several pieces with the spoon and was simple but pretty decent overall.  The tomato-y broth itself was a lot more interesting though and had a really tasty heat.  I knew I didn’t want to fill up on bean dip and soup so I ended up sipping the broth more than eating the contents.

Soon my entree arrived.  It should be no surprise to many of you that I went with the carnitas plate.  I actually did consider some other options on the menu but when I got to the description of their carnitas plate I just gave up and closed the menu.  “A traditional Mexican dish of pork seasoned with citrus flavors and prepared crispy in the style of the state of Chihuahua, Mexico.”  It was the last part that got me, I love crispy carnitas.  The plate came with beans, rice and a little dollop of guacamole.  I chose corn tortillas as usual, but this time I actually decided to use them properly.  Normally I would just rip them up into a pile on my plate and eat the whole thing with a fork.  Anyway, a little rice, beans, guacamole and carnitas scooped into a tortilla and I chowed down.  This was absolutely amazing.  The rice and beans were about average, but the carnitas was just over the top fantastic.  Every bite was filled with tons of delicious flavor and the meat was super tender, juicy and crispy around the edges just the way I like it.  I think this carnitas plate edges out my previous favorites at Plaza Jalisco and El Sombraro by just a hair.  It’s the crisp that did it I think.

Quite an excellent lunch I think.  The only thing I might nitpick was that the service slightly declined towards the end.  My server changed twice during my visit.  The first two were great, but the last one (that perhaps arrived late?) was, I wouldn’t say bad or rude, just not as polite as the others and didn’t really seem like she wanted to be there.  Other than that little thing though I would put Sabores up there with the best Mexican restaurants/taquerias in Roseville.

Website: http://saboresmexicancuisine.info/

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#100: Sammy’s Island Bar and Grill

Note: This was posted before the restaurant closed.  It has now reopened under Hagar’s son’s ownership and has dropped “Rockin'” from the name.  Here’s an article about it.

#100!

For my 100th post I visited what was arguably one of the most publicly anticipated restaurants in recent memory, Sammy’s Rockin’ Island Bar & Grill. For a while leading up to the grand opening about two months ago it seemed I couldn’t go more than a week without seeing some article or news story about it. The city even gave Sammy Hagar a “key to the city” and declared September 15th, 2012 Sammy Hagar Day. I found the last bit a little silly, but it’s something to keep the city officials busy I suppose 😉

I skipped out on the big opening party and didn’t really think much of it until it came up when I asked for suggestions on Facebook of where to go next. Along with Four Sisters Cafe I wanted to give them some time to settle in. Anyway, last Sunday evening I met my parents here for dinner. We arrived at about 5:30pm and were seated immediately. Given it was a Sunday they weren’t very busy, I’d estimate they were maybe around 20% occupied at the most.

As you turn into the dining room from the entryway you immediately see the large stage where they have live music a couple times a week (I feel like I heard one of the staff say Thursday and Saturday nights, but check their events page). This is surrounded by the main dining area. Directly across from the stage on the opposite wall is a long, fully stocked bar. To the back and upstairs above the kitchen is more seating and what looked like a second, smaller bar. Finally at the front there is another upstairs dining area with views of Vernon St and the stage. 80’s rock was playing over the speakers, though not very loudly. Overall I’d say the noise level was less than a TGI Fridays type of restaurant, though it was a little slow and of course there was no band this night.

Our server came by and took our drink orders pretty quickly. They have a decent beer and wine selection, though I went with a Pibb. With our drinks we received a little bowl of chips. It took me a moment to realize they weren’t the typical tortilla chips you might expect, instead they were potato chips. Really crunchy potato chips. Kind of odd, but they were good. Our server asked if we were ready or needed some time. We did need a little more time but put in for a couple appetizers, Guacamole & Chips (cilantro, lime, green chile, pico de gallo, just-made tortilla chips) and Spam Musubi (Nori wrapped sushi rice and grilled spam). The Guacamole came out right after we placed our main orders and continued the trend I’ve been noticing lately of good potions and excellent quality. This one is up there with Zocalo and Yard House. We actually had so much that we didn’t even finish it, even though I did try to give it a final go before we left. The chips weren’t great, but they weren’t bad either, they were just…chips.

The Spam Masubi was delayed to the point that it ended up arriving at the same time as our entrees, which was slightly annoying but not a big deal. The plate contained three pieces of fried spam strapped atop beds of sushi rice by strips of nori, all over a thin drizzle of a familiar tasting sweet syrup that I don’t know the name of. I’ve been on a bit of a Spam kick lately for some reason. It’s something I never really had growing up and only tried it a couple times over the last decade or so, so I’ve been picking some up now and then lately. This scratched that itch for a while because that’s basically all it is. The presentation is nice but it’s pretty much just that uniquely salty Spam flavor with a little sweetness from the syrup. That said I’d probably still order it again, I enjoyed it.

My dad got the Katsu Chicken (Panko crusted chicken, shoyu, honey, house pickled carrots & cucumber, Island slaw, white rice) which looked good. He seemed to enjoy it. My choice was the Kalua Pork (Spice rubbed slow cooked pork, roasted pineapple-ginger bbq sauce, white rice and Island slaw). What arrived might as well have been a full sized pig. It was one of the largest single slabs of meat I think I’ve ever ordered. I had to switch to my wide angle lens to fit the whole thing in the frame. It was a little over an inch thick and had a good amount of rich, almost viscous BBQ sauce ladled on top. For a moment I wondered how I was going to tackle this thing with just my butter knife and fork, but as soon as I started to cut into it I realized just how amazingly tender it was. I really only needed my fork because it fell apart with very little effort. It was absolutely incredible and pretty much melted in your moth. The BBQ sauce was deliciously sweet and I used the rice to soak up excess amounts. The cole slaw was a second thought in my mind and I didn’t have more than a couple bites. I ended up taking it to go (along with half the pork and rice and the last piece of Spam Musubi) and enjoyed it quite a bit for lunch on Monday. It had a nice sweetness with some coconut flavor mixed in there. The sheer amount of food I received for something like $12 was staggering, especially considering how good it all was. I was stuffed again after finishing it all the next day.

My mom’s order was, unfortunately, not as amazing. She went with the Lobster Mac & Cheese (four cheeses, lobster meat, toasted panko, red flame grapes). Right away she commented that the lobster tasted really fishy and started picking it out. I took a bite of one of the big chunks of lobster and had to agree. The mac & cheese itself was pretty good once the lobster had been removed. On top of that the grapes didn’t have much flavor to them. Pretty disappointing, especially considering how good mine was. She did mention it to our server when she was clearing our plates and asking how everything was, and to the restaurant’s credit, they did the right thing and took it off the bill. In fact they went above and beyond and comped the dessert we ordered as well, which I thought was very nice of them.

The dessert was the Hawaiian Salted Caramel Bread Pudding (warm brioche bread pudding, salted caramel, Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum ice cream). I’ve only had bread pudding a handful of times but I always seem to really enjoy it. I think it’s something about the variety of textures you can experience in a single bite, from the soft, almost gooey inside to the firmer/crustier top and sides. Add to that a scoop of really tasty ice cream and you can’t really go wrong. By the end my mom and I were fighting over the last caramel-soaked bites at the bottom of the bowl.

Aside from the lobster mac & cheese, which was handled properly by Sammy’s staff, I thought this was a really great dinner overall. It wasn’t all that gimmicky – which was one of my fears, – the prices were all very reasonable and the service excellent. It’s a really neat place visually speaking, and I bet it would be pretty cool to actually go see a show there. One thing I would mention is that the menu is not very vegetarian friendly, which played a part in my brother not joining us that evening. For a carnivore such as myself however there are a lot of tasty sounding options 😉

Website: http://www.sammysbeachbarandgrill.com/locations/roseville/

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#99: Four Sisters Cafe

Four Sisters Cafe opened up just under a month ago at Fairway and Stanford Ranch.  When I skimmed through their grand opening photos on Facebook I realized that these were the same sisters that (previously) worked at my favorite breakfast place, Waffle Barn.  On one hand this made me hopeful that Four Sisters Cafe would be another good breakfast spot.  On the other, I wonder if Waffle Barn has been negatively affected by them leaving.  Just another reason to go eat a delicious waffle.

Anyway, I showed up right at about 8am this morning.  The cafe was about half full and I was waiting on two more so I took a seat on a bench in the lobby/entry area.  Just a few minutes later my parents had arrived and we were immediately seated with a choice of a table or booth.  From what I could see it was mostly booth seating with some tables along the outer edges with bench seating against the wall. In addition to this there is also a small counter area at the back with room for about half a dozen or so people.

We chose one of the high-backed booths.  Right away someone came by and took our drink orders.  The service style already felt a little like Waffle Barn.  Lots of helpers running around taking care of drinks and clearing plates as soon as people finish.  The coffee and water at our table never went too far past the half way point before being refilled.  It’s all pretty efficient.  Not long after the drinks showed up our server came by to see if we had any questions and then left us to continue looking over the menu.  I was torn between three things.  I wanted to see if their waffle had anything on Waffle Barn, the California Benedict sounded pretty good overall and then there were the “Mancakes,” which are pancakes loaded with bacon and sausage.  I wrestled with these three for several minutes before finally deciding on the Benedict.  This California version is the typical English muffin halves with medium poached eggs topped with hollandaise sauce, but in addition it comes with bacon, tomato and avocado in there as well.  Sounded too good to pass up.

While we waited for our food I noticed that it had become much busier than when I arrived.  They were pretty much filled up and a little later there were people waiting at the front for tables to open up.  The time our food took felt a little on the long end.  Looking back at my photo times it wasn’t more than 20 minutes though.

My parents ordered the Portuguese Sausage (8 slices of spicy Portuguese sausage and 2 large AA eggs) and Feta Omelet (3 egg omelet with bacon, feta cheese, spinach, tomatoes and onions).  Each looked pretty good and my parents seemed pretty happy with them.  Mine came with a choice of potatoes, fruit, cottage cheese, and possibly something else that is slipping my mind right now.  I’m usually not too crazy about country-style potatoes but when they’re good they’re usually really good, so I gave them a shot.  These were excellent.  They were soft and flavorful and had just a tiny bit of crunch on the edges.  My California Benedict looked amazing.  a ton of hollandaise sauce had been poured over the two big mounds that were stacked up with the eggs and a good amount of bacon, but mostly avocado.  They didn’t skimp out on that at all.  It seemed that every bite had a bunch in it.  The eggs were perfect, the bacon crispy, and the hollandaise sauce was creamy and delicious with just a hint of lemon to it.

This breakfast was a home run on just about all accounts.  I’ve been thinking, since I left Four Sisters this morning, that it might well have been one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had.  No kidding.  I am pretty excited to go back and check out that waffle and the mancakes.  These four women have taken a lot of great things that Waffle Barn was doing right and put their own twist on it, and I think they’ve done a fantastic job.  If their waffle is as good as Waffle Barn’s is, I can safely say I will have a new favorite breakfast spot, even if I don’t get out for breakfast more than a handful of times a year 😉

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Ended up returning for the mancakes on Christmas Eve.  They were a lot better than I expected.  Absolutely loaded with great tasting sausage and bacon, and the pancakes tasted a lot like the waffles I love so much at Waffle Barn.  I got to taste Four Sister’s waffle on this visit as well and it was excellent.  This one had a distinct cinnimon flavor to it on top of the already good batter.  It’s official, this is my new breakfast spot.

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