Four years ago, three employees of the now-defunct Bistango on La Cienega Boulevard plotted to change Angelenos' perception of Latin American food. Tired of patrons thinking that Latin food amounted to a plate of beans and rice with some meat, Kevin Cooke, Jose Chavez and Ismael Saenz's decided to present the foods of Mexico, Central and South America in a French style, with elegant presentations and an array of sauces.
The result, the delightful Sabor (Spanish for "flavor"), opened in Silver Lake in 1992.
Sabor's cuisine, developed by self-trained chef Freddy Saucedo, is a fusion of flavors of the American South and Latin America. Many customers begin their meal with the Yucatan chicken soup ($4.95), a lime-infused broth with pasilla chili, tomato and corn chips, on which floats a grilled breast of chicken and fresh avocado. Another tasty opener is coxinha ($5.95), buttermilk-flour puffs stuffed with goat cheese and chicken.
Although there are many tempting main courses, I find it hard to resist the Southern fried chicken ($10.95), a succulent, crispy-skinned bird. The four pieces came with smooth mashed potatoes with buttermilk gravy.
Thin tamales ($10.95), filled with chicken and sun-dried guajillo chili, are topped with spicy sausage and a chipotle chili sauce.
Sabor, 2538 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 660-0886. Open Sunday through Thursday 5:30 to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Sabor Too, at 3221 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, is also open for lunch.