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Sabor a Mexico

f
fooddude37 Apr 28, 2007 04:38 PM

Just went here for the first time today. I got the plato de Chicken Tinga and the SO got...well...a "plated" vegetarian burrito. Don't ask, she's and odd bird. (And always wonders why what I got was so much better than hers) Anyway...

It's probably the best tinga, hell, one of the best Mexican chicken dishes I've ever had. The meat was very moist, perfectly seasoned, packed with flavor, with some good rice and beans (not transcendent). But that tinga...reason alone to come here. I could make a lunch out of 3 tacos de tinga. The "plated" burrito came strangely with asada on top, but the wait was so long we both said screw it and chowed down. The asada was dry and somewhat bland.

Here's the thing: The wait was way too long for what we got...okay okay i know it's not a taco stand but I was watching their entire operation. Didn't seem very organized and also didn't seem right to only have one cook working the line while there were so many people waiting. By the time we finished our food, the guy behind me hadn't even gotten his yet, and there were probably 4 other orders after him. I'm not a pushy customer and I'll gladly wait for quality food, but this was one instance where I just think the operation was a little disorganized. I never got my corn tortillas that come with my plate. When I went up to tell them, the counter guy said, "I'll bring them out to you". I saw a great heap of masa and a press right next to him, I almost wanted to offer to make them myself because as I suspected, they were never brought out. They were out of forks at their plasticware stand. In fact before I placed my order I saw a few people walking up and saying their order either wasn't right or was missing something.

All in all I'll be back (it's right up the street from Surfas, so a perfect lunch spot after spending my paycheck on useless kitchen crap that I'll never use) , but only during total off-peak hours, as in, hopefully I'm the only customer. It wasn't even what I would call busy today and they were having problems.

  1. k
    kek is khmer Aug 13, 2007 09:58 AM

    Is it me or has the food quality slipped at SaM?

    I've been on a taco binge for the past couple of days and have been trying a bunch of al pastor taco stands/carts so I went to SaM on Saturday night looking for some tacos. It was 8PM and NO taco stand but they were still selling $1 tacos inside. The al pastor tacos were bad (bland and flavorless) and the same with the asada. The only thing that made them edible was the salsa bar. They seems to not have guacamole salsa anymore too.

    Plus, it was Saturday night and the place was empty. Come to think of it, it has always been empty every time I've gone (Sunday afternoon, weekday afternoon).

    I just cant forgive a place for having bad tacos. Sigh, bye SaM...

    3 Replies
    1. re: kek is khmer
      f
      FED Aug 13, 2007 10:05 AM

      I'm late on this, but I went several weeks ago at the urging of Mr. Dommy and had a terrific lunch: a couple of the DF-style quesadillas (one with cheese, one with cheese and zucchini blossoms) and a taco filled with chicharrones stewed in a piquant green sauce. really a terrific place.

      1. re: FED
        k
        kek is khmer Aug 13, 2007 10:11 AM

        ok, maybe they just have bad al pastor and carne asada tacos.

        1. re: FED
          w
          Wolfgang Aug 13, 2007 10:16 AM

          I had great al pastor tacos from the taco table two weeks ago. The only thing I noticed was that there was maybe 65% as much meat in each taco compared to the first table visit. The al pastor was delicious but there was barely enough meat for one tortilla, let alone the second one. They are only a dollar, though.
          In comparison, I had two tacos at Tacomiendo the other night and at $2 each, they have probably 3 times as much meat per taco. Very tasty but one notch below the al pastor from SaM.

      2. v
        vinosnob Jul 6, 2007 05:15 PM

        First time at SaM today for lunch. Pretty good, but I think all of the hype built it up too much for me.

        My order:

        Carne Asada taco - small portion of meat, meat was very bland

        Carnitas taco - small portion of meat, very flavorful and I would go back to eat more

        Al pastor taco - very small portino of meat and muy tasty; my favorite and I'm sure it's even better when they fire up the spit on the weekends

        Huarache (original) - large thick tortilla drenched in delicious mild tomatillo sauce; good and next time I'll order with meat.

        As a comparison, I recently tried El Super Taco and would go there first over SaM based on better flavor and variety of meats and larger portions.

        4 Replies
        1. re: vinosnob
          Foodandwine Jul 7, 2007 05:39 AM

          does anyone have the exact address. thanks.. wanna do their taco bar tonight..

          1. re: Foodandwine
            b
            bulavinaka Jul 7, 2007 07:01 AM

            Sabor a Mexico
            8940 National Blvd.
            LA, CA 90034
            310-280-0380

            National is one of the funkiest streets in the area, but if you know where the intersection of Venice and National is, you'll head north on National. SaM is located on the left side of the street, just south of where the 10 freeway overpasses National. Parking immediately around SaM can be a little tough during the day, but the parking lot of the auto shop next to the restaurant is open at night.

            1. re: bulavinaka
              Foodandwine Jul 7, 2007 08:36 AM

              thanks for the directions.. it was kind of you..

              1. re: Foodandwine
                b
                bulavinaka Jul 7, 2007 08:47 AM

                My pleasure - hope you enjoy it... Once you cross Venice on National, start looking for anything that resembles a parking spot on the street, or just turn left into the parking lot just north of SaM.

                I believe a fellow Chowhound recently mentioned that the indoor dining area caught fire recently. I don't know how much damage occured and if it's been repaired but it might be something to consider. There is outdoor seating but it's sparse. They get pretty crowded on weekends so you may want to consider doing take out as a backup...

        2. w
          wylei Jun 7, 2007 06:17 PM

          how was the vegetarian burrito?

          2 Replies
          1. re: wylei
            d
            Diana Jun 8, 2007 09:18 AM

            When I had it, itwas great! I askd them to leave off the lettuce and give me more beans, though.

            1. re: wylei
              f
              fooddude37 Jun 18, 2007 12:28 PM

              It's very good, though I still prefer the vegetarian tacos. Those are the best vegetarian tacos I think I've ever had

            2. m
              mdpilam May 24, 2007 11:53 AM

              I went to Sabor last week due to the praises of CH, and was pleasantly surprised. I ordered the Huarache (w/ steak), a Taco de Tinga, and quesadilla estillo DF. The Huarache was delicious, esp b/c I love tomatillo sauce. I wasn't very impressed with the taco de tinga though... it was solid and all, but the chicken didn't taste like it had been marinated or was special in any way (shouldn't it have atleast been reddish or orange?). Also the tortilla was average. I did really like the salsa bar though. The quesadilla was good - me and my friend got a potato and cheese and squash (?) and split them, the potato and cheese was very good (I love cheese) and the squash was good.

              My complaints with the place are:
              1) long wait times - we were the only ones in there at the time and it took probably 15min per order
              2) overpriced. $2 for a taco that has less meat than a $1 street taco? and almost $3 for those little fried quesadilla things? My meal cost ~$12+ and I wasn't even full, barely satsified. If they lowered their prices by ~30%, I would be a regular.

              1 Reply
              1. re: mdpilam
                tatertots Jun 7, 2007 05:02 PM

                Went last night had: Chiliquiles with beef and SO had the Chicken Enchilada with mole and we also ordered the queso hongo with mushrooms (I love cheeeeeese too!). We were the only patrons around 7pm on a weeknight. Ate in the dining room. Red sauce with the chiliquiles was a bit spicey and chicken enchilada was drenched in too much mole. The food was lukewarm but definitely felt like I was eating at a friend's house. The black beans that came with the meal were tasty, but we left still hungry. It was worth the try and I always respect "Dommy's" opinion. She's a foodie godess!

              2. f
                fooddude37 May 11, 2007 02:18 PM

                Okay, just one more update/review before the CH team thinks I'm a shill...

                On a fluke, I dropped by here for breakfast today (they open at 7) and got Huevos Rancheros. The setup was nearly identical to the one I got at Loteria! a couple weeks ago, that is, 2 over easy eggs smothered in chipotle sauce, some black beans, some breakfast potatoes, and tortillas. Here's where I can start making some glaring comparisons.

                Price. My breakfast/lunch with my girlfriend came out to over 30 dollars at Loteria; granted we got a side of guac and some drinks. Upon looking at my bill, the huevos rancheros were 10 and some change, I believe. If I recall, it's like 6 at SAM.

                Food: Chipotle sauce was 10 times better. Everything I get at Loteria has been too salty the last few times I've gone. Their chipotle sauce tastes like a can of pureed chipotles and a pound of salt to me. The SAM version is more nuanced, better consistency, better flavor. The potatoes are browned at SAM and have a nice texture, the potatoes at Loteria are basically steam table mashed potatoes. While the tortillas are handmade at both places, I prefer SAM, they're more tender. The kicker? The OJ. So after I ordered my "freshly squeezed OJ" about a minute later I see the dishwasher run out to their other room and carry back a case of oranges. Yeah, that's right, they cut them and squeezed them to order for me. When I got it, it must have been a 16 or 20 oz cup of O.J. The Huevos Rancheros and O.J. all came out to 9 and some change.

                Q.E.D.

                9 Replies
                1. re: fooddude37
                  Dommy May 11, 2007 02:21 PM

                  You see... that is why I never compared SAM to Loteria... the two don't EVEN compare... in terms of cost and most imporantly the food... Finally I have something on the westside to point to those Loteria lovers... YOU SEE!! This is what I've been talking about for YEARS!! No compare... NONE..

                  --Dommy!

                  1. re: fooddude37
                    mollyomormon May 11, 2007 02:22 PM

                    Your post just convinced me to head there for breakfast this weekend!

                    1. re: fooddude37
                      r
                      rds246 May 15, 2007 11:26 AM

                      does anyone know their hours? I know you said they open at 7, but how late do they close?
                      thanks,

                      1. re: rds246
                        Dommy May 15, 2007 11:39 AM

                        They have dinner hours, I believe their closing time is 9pm with some later hours on the weekends...

                        --Dommy!

                        1. re: Dommy
                          s
                          shab May 15, 2007 06:43 PM

                          Their takeaway menu lists these as their hours:
                          Mon-Thurs, 7AM-9PM
                          Fri, 7AM-10PM
                          Sat, 9AM-10PM
                          Sun, 9AM-6PM

                          1. re: shab
                            hrhboo May 15, 2007 06:45 PM

                            They're open till midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Nothing like post-drinking taco table action!

                            1. re: hrhboo
                              e
                              esculent May 15, 2007 06:57 PM

                              had a lovely 10:30pm dinner there last Saturday. I ordered two tacos (one al pastor & one carne asada) from the taco table and the squash blossom quesadilla. the tacos were great...so great that i went back for a third asada taco. Took about 15-20 minutes for my quesadilla, but it was incredibly fresh (you could tell that it had *just* been fried) and flavorful.

                              The only caveat was that i forgot to be clear when giving my friend (the driver) directions. I only remembered that it was at the 10 and National. FYI, National crosses the 10 three times! This is at the one close to Robertson.

                              1. re: esculent
                                h
                                hambriento May 15, 2007 10:02 PM

                                SAM is obviously receiving glaring reviews, deservedly so, the food is amazing. I've only been there twice (I live in the SFV), but I've been thoroughly impressed. I think the reviews on the quality of the food are right on.
                                The reason I am posting however, is that on the two occasions I've been there, it has been empty. So I'm a little concerned about how they're doing business wise. I hope I'm over reacting and just happened to stop by at an unusual slow time. If not I would really encourage you all who are thinking about going, to give it a try.

                                1. re: hambriento
                                  b
                                  bulavinaka May 15, 2007 10:22 PM

                                  Please see Shab's posting above dated May 9. Sounds like they're doing fine... Chalk up another one for the little guys... :)

                    2. s
                      shab May 9, 2007 08:06 PM

                      The couple of times I went, the guy who appeared to be the owner looked familiar but I couldn't remember from where. Today, I figured it out at work at UCLA. He's a long-time painter with UCLA Facilities Management. I ran into him this afternoon when his shift was ending. He said he had saved up enough from his job to open up the business and his wife runs the kitchen and the books. He appreciates all the support, especially validating his intent at being authentic, not cutting corners and making everything to order. Finally, he mentioned that if things continue to go reasonably well, he plans to open another place in a few months--didn't get to ask where since he was rushing off.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: shab
                        b
                        bulavinaka May 9, 2007 08:29 PM

                        He plans to open another place? As long as the new location is 180 from the original, I'm there... Thanks for the great news...

                        1. re: bulavinaka
                          s
                          shab May 10, 2007 07:02 PM

                          Yeah, maybe it'll be next to an off-ramp this time...

                          1. re: shab
                            b
                            bulavinaka May 10, 2007 11:07 PM

                            ROFL! Let's hope you are joking... anyone who makes food that good is deserved of a much more respectable location...

                      2. f
                        fooddude37 May 5, 2007 11:31 PM

                        Another update. I went here tonight at around 10:30 or so for their taco stand that they put out on Friday and Saturday nights starting at 7. The *best* al pastor I've ever had. They've got the marinated pork on a spit, with the onion and pineapple on the spit. I had awesome lengua, which was in a steamer with some cabeza. Had tripas for the first time in my life (from a Mexican restaurant), and it was just perfect, (only other time I had tripe was at Tre Venezie in Pasadena, oddly) the tripas were simmering away in a rondeaux-style pan, with little cripsy bits here and there. There was a grill too, the menu advertises pollo and carne asada. Upon placing my order (2 de al pastor y 2 de lengua) I watched the taquero lightly oil 8 small tortillas, layer them, and gingerly place them on top of the meat which was sizzling away on the plancha, to soak up some meat juices for a minute or so before he plated them for me. Condiment bar had onion, cilantro, salsa roja, salsa verde, limes, radishes, and cucumber. The tacos were so good I went back for 2 more. I can't believe this place is 10 minutes from my apartment. I talked with Jon, (the owner) his whole family was there last night, he said they're trying to find a location for a sit down place so they can do something a little more refined. I guess all the recipes are his moms. This place is definitely a once-a-week spot for me. I also picked up an apple soda and a pastel de 3 leches per Jon's recommendation. It was good, light white cake with a layer of dulce de leche I think and some whipped cream, it tasted like the only thing it was sweetened with was honey, and it wasn't too sweet at all.

                        Can you tell I like this place?

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: fooddude37
                          m
                          mary99 May 9, 2007 09:45 PM

                          OK for a newwbie to Mexican and LA...I will go here but what are the must eats, I know tacos but thats about it!

                          am I right in this is the one near Culver City?

                          1. re: mary99
                            lvgoodfood May 9, 2007 10:31 PM

                            Try their quesadillas, and huaraches, just like the ones you will eat in Mexico.

                            1. re: mary99
                              Dommy May 10, 2007 09:28 AM

                              Yes, near the corner of Venice and National, right by the freeway stop...

                              --Dommy!

                            2. re: fooddude37
                              v
                              vinosnob Jun 14, 2007 08:42 AM

                              Is the spit-roasted pastor only available on the weekend? Went last night and it wasn't available...

                              1. re: vinosnob
                                Dommy Jun 14, 2007 09:27 AM

                                Yes... the Spit is attached to the Taco Table... and the table is only available Fridays and Saturdays (I am not sure about Sundays)

                                --Dommy!

                            3. b
                              Bandini May 4, 2007 04:56 PM

                              I've been to this place twice and ordered tacos both times. The first time the al pastor was awesome, the asada so so and the chicken tinga quite good as well. All the tacos were packed with lots of meat. At $2 each you expect so.

                              I went again yesterday and the al pastor was nothing like the first trip. There were maybe 3 little bits of pork in the taco. The tacos were tiny!

                              i know their specialties are probably dishes and not tacos but I havn't been overwhelmed yet.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Bandini
                                n
                                Norm Man May 6, 2007 05:26 PM

                                Bandini, did you order tacos from the restaurant or from the Taco Tables (available Friday and Saturday nights)?

                                1. re: Norm Man
                                  b
                                  Bandini May 6, 2007 11:42 PM

                                  from the restaurant

                                  it was great the first time..the second time my al pastor taco literally had 3 little bits of pork in it and the tacos were tiny.

                              2. d
                                Diana May 3, 2007 07:14 AM

                                Is it close enough to Surfas that one can order, go do a little foodie shopping, and come back in time to get your food?

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: Diana
                                  s
                                  sel May 3, 2007 07:47 AM

                                  No. I have been to Sabor A Mexico a few times and did not experience the delays and screwups described above. Our food was cooked to order so it took a few minutes but by the time you order and head over to Surfas, the order could be ready!

                                  1. re: Diana
                                    Dommy May 3, 2007 10:34 AM

                                    Absolultey, it's right across the street... just tell them you are leaving so they aren't looking for you when your order is up (They bring the food to your table... a nice touch. :D)

                                    --Dommy

                                    1. re: Dommy
                                      WildSwede May 3, 2007 11:01 AM

                                      They called my number when I went and I went to the counter to pick it up. The evening I was there I noted that everyone went to the counter to pick up their order as well.

                                      1. re: WildSwede
                                        Dommy May 3, 2007 11:39 AM

                                        Gosh, maybe it's a dinner thing then... Or they realized they need as many people behind in the Kitchen as possible... LOL! :D

                                        --Dommy!

                                        1. re: Dommy
                                          s
                                          sherpa50 May 3, 2007 12:30 PM

                                          I am not in line with those who thing SAM is better than Loteria. I have been to Loteria dozens of times, & although it is always crazy busy, they rarely (if ever) have gotten my order wrong, & the food is always hot & always good. My one experience at SAM was just ok. A friend & I went for dinner. I had the cheese enchiladas which is what I always have the first time I try a new Mexican place. The cheese inside was not melted - not even close. Nice flavor, beans & rice were good - but I won't be hot-footing it back. Friend's tacos (I think she had three different ones) were "dry".

                                          I really dislike the music & the TV on at the same time in the adjoining dining room. We asked them to turn the sound off the TV (we were the only ones in there) & they seemed surprised we didn't want it on (I can watch TV at home). Also, I paid with a $50 bill. While we were eating the cashier came over & asked me to check my change because she thought she had returned the bill to me - she hadn't. Then she asked my friend to check her change (of course, she didn't have it either). I understand she was concerned, but it was rather disconcerting.

                                          I think I'll stick with Loteria.

                                          1. re: Dommy
                                            WildSwede May 3, 2007 03:56 PM

                                            I was there at 7pm on a Saturday and there were two people ahead of me and a family eating in the "dining room". There were several take-out orders after me, but just me, the family and one other couple who came after me eating there. Must be the fact that you are special, Dommy!! ;-)

                                            1. re: WildSwede
                                              d
                                              Densible May 3, 2007 05:20 PM

                                              Oh dear I thought it was just my bad luck Scleprock syndrome.
                                              I have been there at lunch twice -once on a Tuesday, once on a Saturday. Saturday, we were the only people there for a least one half-hour and still did not have our food and when it eventually was ready, one dish at a time, our number was called for pick-up. No table service for us. It took 40 mins to get the first dish (a quesadilla). When the last dish-cheese enchiladas was "ready" after almost an hour-I sent it back twice because it was cold. We loved the food so hoping this is a temporary situation. The young woman cooking was a bit overwhelmed. I too wanted to step behind the counter and help out. Everyone is so nice, it is hard to get indignant, although some people who arrived after us on a busy Tuesday left before their food was ready as their lunch hour expired. I would make the trip from Hermosa again but doubt if I can persuade the SO. He'd rather have a chile relleno from Las Brisas on Artesia.

                                    2. f
                                      fooddude37 May 3, 2007 12:11 AM

                                      Alright, a little followup here...

                                      I went here yesterday at like 3 P.M. I was the only customer, so I ordered a taco de tinga, and a huarache de asada. It was all sublime, 10 out of 10. The huarache is this big fried tortilla with black beans, marinated skirt steak, smothered with salsa verde, onions, and cilantro. Goddamn they need that beer license quick!

                                      This place rocks...this is light years beyond Loteria, quite possibly the best Mexican I've had from a restaurant. There's a "Help Wanted" sign in front as well as a sign to the effect, "Homemade food takes longer, please be patient". They're getting their beer license soon. I talked to the counter guy for a long time and they're really doing something special here. P.S. the Jamaica was crazy good. I made it once at home with the dried hibsicus flowers. What you end up with is a concentrate that most places water down too much. The Jamaica here is really concentrated and intense, definitely the best I've had since I made it myself. So, that said, if you come here during peak hours, expect a wait and maybe a mishap or two. I still recommend coming during off-peak hours.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: fooddude37
                                        w
                                        Wolfgang May 3, 2007 10:46 AM

                                        I don't understand your desire for them to get a beer license. I order my food and stroll down the block to the liquor store and pick up a six pack for the price of what 2 beers will cost once they get their license. It's a win win situation. You get to kill some time and you save money.

                                      2. lvgoodfood Apr 28, 2007 05:10 PM

                                        The above reminds me of our last experience at SAM. We were there (for our second time) about two weeks ago, I completely share what you wrote about the disorganization, at least the day I was there, we waited for extremelly long time, we didn't mind because the food was great, but like you we never got the tortillas that were supposed to come with our meal, our drinks came after we had finished our meal, we kept asking for them, and like you we were told like 3 times by the young man at the counter, "I'll bring them out to you."........well he never did!
                                        Our food came in batches, my DH ordered a huarache and after the long wait, it was served first, maybe 15 minutes later my DD torta was ready, then 15 minutes later my caldo de res was ready, but the tortillas never showed up, and by this time we were still waiting for our horchatas. Also the day we went, a Saturday at around 2:00 pm, they were not that busy, we were the only people sitting inside, one more party of two sitting outside, and a couple of people waiting inside by the counter. There were two ladies preparing food at their kitchen.
                                        We still go back, and we will be back, I really like Sabor a Mexico, the food is great, but those details sometimes take away from enjoying their great food.

                                        Anyway that day we had great Caldo de Res, the huarache was as good as the first time, torta was very good, we also ordered a queso fundido con chorizo to start, it came last, but still was very good.

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