Mexico City native Cesar Duran feels a responsibility to advance his culture in Australia. After founding one of Melbourne’s first tortillerias, El Cielo, in 2012, he took over El Sabor. He and his partners have created a warm, inviting cantina and brought a little of Mexico City to Melbourne.
The food is faithful to the Mexican capital, from the taquiza (street food) selection which includes mushroom quesadillas and slow-cooked pork carnitas; to the larger enchilada and tamale dishes. If you’re feeling adventurous, opt for the mole degustation: three different Mexican moles prepared and presented in various ways. Blue- and white-corn tortillas feature throughout the menu as vessels for the different flavours on offer. As Mexican tradition dictates, they never steal the limelight.
Mexican and Australian beers make appearances on the drinks list, but mezcal (an agave-based spirit) is the focus. There are more than 20 on offer, many thoughtfully incorporated into cocktails. These range from the easy-drinking Paloma, which combines mezcal with grapefruit and soda; to the Chipotle El Sabor, an appealing mix of sugar and spice.
The casual front room is draped in patterned Mexican fabric, with cacti perched throughout. Upstairs, the second floor dining room is spacious and moodily lit with the colour palette of a colonial hacienda.