Words by Geoff Ferres, pictured by The Modern Connoisseur
El Sabor (‘The Taste’) is the latest business venture of El Cielo (‘The Heaven’), owned by 3 food-obsessed Mexico City locals intent on bringing authentic Mexican tastes to Australia.
From the moment you walk in the door at El Sabor, you can tell this place is something special; part restaurant, part grocery shop passion oozes out of every corner. This is both a really interesting restaurant, and a fascinating business.
Vertically integrated from partner farms (for key corn and black bean crops in NSW), El Cielo has, for several years, provided gourmet Mexican supplies to many of Austalia’s best Mexican restaurants. Having now expanded to the El Sabor eatery in Victoria St, North Melbourne, this operation is truly ‘plant to plate’ with a dedication to fresh, organic and authentic ingredients.
The El Sabor team, led by Executive Head Chef Israel Meza (a son of Mexico City and previous Head Chef of the Mexican Embassy in Canberra) and supported by Head Chef Luz Meza, have designed a menu spanning Mexico city street food, traditional home style dishes and ‘amigos’ share dishes.
You can kick off your experience here with two brilliant and unique cocktails: A ‘Mariachi’ with pineapple and moscato and a ‘salad’ inspired drink with cucumber, mascale, coconut and lime!
For entree think ‘alitas BBQ wings’ – these smoked tender chicken wings are presented on a bed of cabbage with a hickory sauce that is smokey and creamy with a subtle chilli tone leaving a gentle tingle. ‘Man food’ indeed!
Your next course could consider the very authentic dish of ‘sopes with chicken’. Served on hand made, thick corn tortillas with chicken, lettuce, cheese and cream this dish has a slight crunch and a flavour profile that was quite pronounced.
The ‘enchilades with black mole sauce’ are another very authentic Mexican dish, with lightly fried tortillas filled with shredded poached chicken. The enchilada is soaked in rich and dark mole sauce and served with fresh cheese, cream and onion. Mole is a really unique sauce with a flavour profile that is very new to western tastes, although also strangely homely and familiar. It is made up of several ingredients that are so heavily blended together you cannot tell where one ingredient ends and another begins.
The sauce is soaked into the outer surface of these enchiladas and is the key to this taste-bomb. The shredded chicken brings substance to this dish and plays a supporting role to the mole sauce.
What would a Mexican meal be without some tacos? In which case, the ‘carnitas of pork, beef and fish’ (soft tacos) will sort you out, and includes Michoacan style slow-cooked pork belly, beef and some delightful fish. All three were great with the fish taco bringing a particularly satisfying melt-in-mouth tenderness.
To complete your Mexican feast in an authentic manner, El Sabor offers a ‘corn cake’ and ice cream option. Don’t be put off by the idea of a corn dessert – it works! The corn cake tastes more like some sort of moist semolina cake and works beautifully with the ice cream.
Having only recently opened doors, and also offering a Mexican brunch service and pattiserie, El Sabor is a great choice next time you find yourself in North Melbourne and ready for a fiesta!
500 Victoria St, North Melbourne
Mon – Fri 10am – 2:30pm // 5:30pm – 10:30
Saturday 8:30am – 11pm
Sunday 8:30am – 9pm
<iframe src=”https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m18!1m12!1m3!1d12609.45025965996!2d144.9496116!3d-37.804975799999994!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x0%3A0xe40ed6ff24b90123!2sEl+Sabor+by+El+Cielo+-+Authentic+Mexican!5e0!3m2!1sen!2sau!4v1491129802813″ width=”600″ height=”450″ frameborder=”0″ style=”border:0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>