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A Tropical View in the Heart of Bay View

Last week my beautiful lady, Margie, surprised with a date in Bay View. Knowing that I can be the poster child for Seasonal Affective Disorder, she decided to take me somewhere with a tropical theme to help take away my winter blues. Her choice was the aptly named Sabor Tropical. Described as a Latin American restaurant, it is located at 2258 south Kinnickinnic ave. I found it hard to believe you could find a tropical view deep in the heart of Bay View. From the street you notice Sabor Tropical’s colorful sign and large windows, creating a fun open atmosphere.

Once inside you are surrounded by bright colors and decorations that certainly give the required Latin American feel. Within seconds of entering we were greeted by a young lady who introduced herself as Nereida. Full of energy with a rather large smile across her face, she showed us to our table as she conveyed the many wonderful aspects of the restaurant we now found ourselves at. Being that it was a cold evening in Milwaukee, and I had consumed an entire cup of coffee on the way there to warm up, my first stop was the restroom. The walls were a deep blue with a model ship above the sink and a palm tree next to it. The bathroom may have been one of the cleanest I have been in recently. We were off to a good start.

As I made my way back to the table to join Margie, I appreciated all the colorful paintings placed throughout the dinning area. The area in which we sat had a wall that consisted of sparkling crystals and white curtains. It certainly did give a classy upscale feel. We shortly learned that our new friend Nereida would also be our server this evening. Considering my fondness for people who smile and have a generally pleasant disposition, this was greeted as rather good news. We made great use of the cocktail menu where I ordered a pineapple mojito and Margie a mango flavored one. I watched as Nereida went to make the cocktails as well. They came back to the table in short order served in a pint glass with fresh mint and a lime. We both found them to be full of flavor and quite refreshing.

It was finally time to make some decisions regarding the menu. Sabor Tropical is one of the places where the hardest decision is picking one thing and sticking with it, as everything sounded amazing. As an appetizer we chose tostones rellenos. Described as Caribbean signature mini baskets stuffed with your choice of grilled steak, braised pork or spicy chicken and topped with aji Amarillo chimichurri and avocado cream. After ordering I was wondering if I was going to see Nereida disappear into the kitchen to cook them as well, but apparently, they had someone else designated for that task. When they arrived, the presentation could not have been any more mouth-watering. I found the mini baskets provided a little too much resistance. The steak melted in your mouth with every bite. The sauce was great but could have included a little more spice.

Next, we received our entrees. I can safely tell you this was a very difficult decision. With a good deal of advice from our friendly hostess/bartender/server we made two great decisions. Margie ordered the Aguagate Relleno Which was a stuffed avocado with chimichurri skirt steak served with manposteado rice topped with Caribbean tangy aioli. There was nothing about this dish that was not amazing. Again, the presentation was a work of art. The avocado was fresh and a great color. The steak inside was again cooked perfectly. The manposteado rice featured bacon and beans. Perfect for those who like a very rich flavor.

I ordered the Churrassco Argentino a 10 oz certified angus skirt steak cooked any way you would like and served with your choice of chimichurri sauce, or shiitake mushroom sauce or rosemary thyme garlic infusion oil. I chose the first option which was amazing. The skirt was done to perfection. The flavor was one of complex seasonings that made your mouth have the same joy your ears received from the Latin American music playing throughout the restaurant. I ordered two sides. Puerto Rican rice and Mofongo. The rice had an amazing flavor, but I felt was missing green olives. A personal preference that should not dissuade you from ordering it.

The mofongo is a side of fried green plantains smashed with salt, garlic and oil. The look and texture of this dish were not inspiring. Once a forkful hit my mouth my opinion, as well as my taste buds did a complete 180-degree turn. If we had not been going directly to the movies after this, I would have ordered a side of this to go. It struck me as something you would wake up in the middle of the night craving. A few hours later my suspicions were proven correct.

Lastly, came dessert. Sabor Tropical does not make this decision easy either. I would have liked to have one of each of the four options. We settled on a dish called Pastel Borracho. It won for no other reason than the word ‘rum’ was featured in the description. It was a mini bundt butter cake, anejo dark rum sauce, vanilla (or chocolate) ice cream all topped with carmel and hot fudge. Once again, their ability to serve you a dish that looked as amazing as it tasted was unbelievable. My only suggestion would be to add a little something to make the cake a little moister. The flavors could not have blended any better. The rum was not over powering, but still very present. It was light with the perfect amount of sweetness.

I would recommend Sabor Tropical to anyone would like a culinary escape to Latin America without leaving the city. The atmosphere is fun, colorful and includes some great Latin music. The service is friendly and attentive without being over-bearing. The food is presented in such a creative manner your mouth will be watering before your first bite. The taste, however, will make sure it stays watering until the very last bite. I am going to return to Sabor Tropical with more people for no other reason than being able to try even more items off their amazing menu.

 

By: Neil Panosian

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