By Rebecca Yang
Sabur is an eclectic restaurant featuring inventive dishes and exotic flavors from a variety of Mediterranean lands and the Balkans. The atmosphere is romantic and intimate and the décor is lovely, furnished with handmade decorations from Bosnia.
There are a few ‘misses’ with the food, but the rest of the creative menu makes up for it.
Standout appetizers include the grilled shrimp wrapped in vine leaves, served with a spicy saffron rouille. The slight smokiness of the grill enhances the flavor of the crisp vine leaves wrapped around succulent pieces of grilled shrimp. Dip the skewer in the slightly-spicy saffron rouille and you have a delicious appetizer with explosive flavor.
For something more mild, the hummus is an excellent choice. Uniquely blended with yogurt, the hummus has a tangier and lighter texture than most generic hummus. The cold eggplant appetizer, featuring firm and subtly-spiced eggplant and slight briny flavor from olives, is also very good. The grilled Balkan sausages with yogurt sauce are nicely spiced and feature a delightful smoky flavor. Extra time and care is involved in the preparation of the Burek hand-pulled dough that arrives as a circular flaky pastry fresh from the oven, filled with delicately spiced beef, potatoes and onions.
For entrees, the slow-cooked lamb stew with vegetables and natural jus is a must. It is authentically cooked in a sach, a black conical cooking vessel traditionally used in Bosnia, Yugoslavia, Serbia and Croatia. Sachs are best known for cooking lamb, but can also be used to cook fish, rice, vegetables and even baking bread. The sach works just like a tagine: moisture accumulates in the conical ceiling while cooking, and drips back down into the dish, so that flavor in the dish becomes increasingly concentrated as the dish is cooking. The proof is in the concentrated flavor of the succulent and tender lamb, potatoes and mushrooms.
The seared sea scallops with crab polenta cakes, asparagus, moscato and truffle butter sauce is an interesting dish, and with slight tweaking, it could be better. The scallops are nicely browned on the outside and tender on the inside. The crab polenta cakes are flavorful: crispy on the outside and with chunks of tender crab and polenta on the inside. Although the sweetness of the moscato did enhance the natural sweetness of the scallops, the truffle butter sauce was slightly overpowering.
Vegetarians will not be disappointed here: Sabur offers an entire separate vegetarian menu; the fare just as good as the non-vegetarian. Highlights include the roasted garlic polenta with wood-grilled artichokes, spinach, tomato and olives. The spinach is well-cooked, the tomatoes are fresh, and the polenta is a perfect texture – not too mushy and not too firm. The dish is topped with a drizzle of mild olive oil that balances with the acidity of the dish. The vegetable tagine is wonderful and very comforting, perfect for a chilly fall or winter day. Dusted with sweet cinnamon, this mouthwatering plate features slowly-simmered vegetables with couscous, sliced almonds, chopped dates and sultanas in a luscious sauce that brings the entire dish together. The dish is a great study in textural and flavor contrasts: a smooth and savory sauce plays off the crunch of the sliced almonds and the sweet chewiness of the dates and sultanas.
Dessert is not a highlight of the meal, but it will not derail the overall experience. The glazed apricots stuffed with mascarpone and sliced almonds are light and slightly sweet –a good way to end the meal. The fig baklava is a unique take on baklava, featuring lots of cinnamon and walnuts, but sadly, the dry pastry lends itself to a status of a lackluster dessert.
Sabur has been open for 11 years and has amassed a solid neighborhood fan base. The restaurant hopes to expand its eclectic offering by introducing Serbian cuisine to its menu early next year. Sabur’s intimate atmosphere and inventive food is perfect for a weekend dinner with family and friends or a date.
212 Holland St, Somerville, MA 02144 (Teele Square), (617) 776-7890, www.saburrestaurant.com
Cuisine: Mediterranean, Balkan
Prices: Appetizers, Soup, and Salad ($6.00-$10.00), Entrees ($16.00-$23.75), Dessert ($6.00-$8.00)
Hours: Monday-Thursday (9 a.m. – 12 a.m.), Friday-Saturday (9 a.m. – 2 a.m.), Sunday (Closed)
Features: Takeout, Outdoor Seating
Recommendations: Grilled shrimp wrapped in vine leaves served with a spicy saffron rouille, slow-cooked lamb stew with vegetables and natural jus, vegetable tagine over couscous with sultanas, almonds, cinnamon and dates
Payment Options: Cash, Credit Cards, Checks
Parking: Private Lot
WHY IT’S AN HKS FAVORITE: A 10-minute walk from Davis Square, Sabur allows you to sample delicious fare from a variety of Mediterranean lands in an intimate dining environment.