El Sabor Mexican Grill & Bar a popular local with North Melburnians
North Melbourne isn’t a part of town that I visit often, but I’m always reminded by how many little-known gems sit on the main strips of Errol Street and Victoria Street whenever I decide to venture past Victoria Market. The unobtrusive and cutesy eatery El Sabor Mexican Grill & Bar is one such place.
It was just our luck that we visited on a Tuesday night – El Sabor has a $10 special where you get two tacos of your choice and a bottle of Tecate. Hard to say no to, which is precisely why we didn’t.
Between the three of us, we sampled the pescado taco with Baja-style battered fish, chipotle mayo, red cabbage and lime; the vegan taco with refried beans, potatoes in a chipotle sauce, lettuce and avocado; and the tinga de res taco with slow-cooked beef marinated in chipotle served with lettuce, fresh cheese and cream. The novel vegan taco with its addition of potatoes proved the most popular, although I thought it could have done with a bit more of a spicy kick. My personal favourite was the perfectly crisp fish taco.
Potatoes proved to be the theme of the night. We got them atop our serve of large nachos and with our tostadas.
El Sabor’s nachos were a distinct departure from the dirty yet much appreciated Tex Mex version that I’m used to – there wasn’t a glut of coagulated cheese, for one, and instead of generic tomato salsa, we were presented with the choice of either salsa verde or salsa roja guacamole. On the waiter’s recommendation, we went with the former and it proved to be a winning combination. With regular guacamole and well-spiced bite-sized pieces of potato rounding off the dish, the nachos were moreish, addictive and got as sloppy as you’d expect every good bowl of nachos to get.
Though exceptionally difficult to eat without smearing your nose or your chin with cream, the tostadas were worth the trouble. Crunchy cabbage offset the potatoes (again!) nicely although here’s a handy tip: don’t pour multiple dollops of hot sauce on to the limited surface area of a tostada because it stings.
The highlight of the night, however, was undoubtedly the chicken quesadillas, which you absolutely must order with mole poblano if you are a fan of the rich and fragrant brown sauce which is popularly equated to the national dish of Mexico. Doused in mole poblano and drizzled with an adequate amount of cream, the quesadilla is best eaten paired with a spoonful of rice and refried beans. It made me sorry that I hadn’t instead opted for El Sabor’s mole degustation where you are served three different moles – Mexican rice with red mole, said enchilada with black mole, and chicken and rice with green mole – for $30 per person.
El Sabor’s dishes are best ordered to share so you get to sample a bit of everything. Although we didn’t have the space, churros, burnt flan and corn cakes are the dessert options.
El Sabor occupies an unusual place in Melbourne’s inner city Mexican dining scene. Not an upmarket franchise like Fonda, a fast food option such as Guzman y Gomez and Salsas, or a much-vaunted institution like Mamasita, El Sabor is instead a more personal approach to Mexican food – where you don’t have to plan in advance or contend with noisy crowds to sate your hankering for Mexican.
El Cielo by El Sabor
500 Victoria Street, North Melbourne
Mon-Sat 6pm onwards