Sabor adds small plates
Mitch Ciohon, the executive chef at the Brazilian steakhouse Sabor, has a confession to make.
"I've always had a mild obsession with pork rinds," he says with a grin. "I would see them in gas stations and truck stops, with the little packet of hot sauce in the bag, and I'd buy them. And then I'd always be disappointed.
"They didn't taste like anything, and I didn't like the texture."
Most of us would simply write off a food that never lived up to our expectations and move on to something else. But Ciohon is in a position to do something about his disappointment, and he did when Sabor added a new dining concept to the restaurant two weeks ago.
He created pork rind puffs sprinkled with bacon dust, served in a classy brown paper bag and accompanied by a side of Tabasco spiked honey. The taste is pleasantly sweet, mildly hot and and gently porky. Pig rind has moved uptown.
Welcome to the world of Beta by Sabor, a small plates and craft cocktail division of the big appetite, all-you-can-eat meat restaurant. Sabor, owned by Shorewood resident Paul Berlin and Madisonian Greg Meyers, now has an option for customers not seeking to stuff themselves.
The restaurant was closed for a week in July while dining areas were rearranged and separated to reflect the two different concepts under a common ceiling. The Beta side seats about 70, and Sabor, which has not changed, accommodates 120 diners, according to general manager Michael Besson.
Sabor has a fixed-price menu that tops out at $28.50 at lunch and $48.50 at dinner, and it has relied heavily on special event – birthdays, anniversaries – and expense account dining, according to Besson. We all know what has happened to business spending during the five years Sabor has been open.
In a recent conversation, Besson said Sabor wants to take better advantage of its proximity to such entertainment venues as the Marcus Center, The Pabst Theater and Milwaukee Rep theater complex. Patrons at those facilities are more likely to become frequent customers of a small plates dining concept.
"We want to offer people the opportunity to come here more often," the general manager said. "We have one door and one phone, but we have two restaurants."
Open to 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends, Beta's bar can be an after-theater stop for a nightcap.
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I don't know that Sabor is the kind of place for birthday "hoopla." I'm very excited to try the added concept. So many restaurants focus on grossly huge portions. It's so refreshing to leave a restaurant feeling satisfied but not stuffed.
Nice idea, but if they can't follow through with service, it won't matter. In May, I was with a group of 12 friends on a weeknight for a birthday dinner. The gauchos were great, but the waitress was ridiculously inattentive. Near the end of the meal, I reminded the waitress that we had a birthday at the table (after already mentioning it when the reservation was made). In the past when Ive celebrated birthdays at Sabor, the birthday honoree has at least gotten a piece of cake and a little hoopla. This time? Absolutely nothing. I did share my concern with the restaurant, but did not get the courtesy of a reply.
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