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Sabor Latino is latin flavor in Renton
Most people in the U.S. can tell you what cheese enchiladas are or chile verde, but some might have a hard time identifying clado de bagre or feijoada.
The two are an Ecuadorian and Brazilian dish respectively and not found on most local latin restaurant menus.
Luis Argudo, saw an opportunity and jumped at the chance to introduce such fare to local residents with his restaurant Sabor Latino.
Arguodo is a self-taught chef, who came to the United States some 40 years ago from Ecuador.
Sabor Latino, which opened six months ago, is his second career act, as he is a retired welder from Seattle City Light.
Sabor Latino means Latin Flavor in English and represents not an extensive menu but a culturally rich menu of flavors.
“We have food from Central Mexico, Central America and South America,” Argudo said. “That’s the reason we’re called Sabor Latino. We have all those different flavors from different countries.”
This idea is Argudo’s key selling point.
“(I) want everybody to come and try different kinds of food; it’s not all Mexican,” he said. “It’s combined from all South American dishes.”
The recipes are his and his business partner Samuel Athayde’s, who provides the Brazilian menu.
They are both helped with the cooking by Yara Garcia, who also provides input on the Mexican fare.
Argudo has been cooking and experimenting since he was 12, he said.
Athayde learned from other chefs in London and Brazil, as a waiter and cook.
Argudo’s style is to cook by taste for a lot of his dishes.
“I was hungry and had to go in the kitchen and prepare for (myself) my own recipes,” Argudo said of his upbringing.
He can recreate recipes he sees on TV, adding his own bit of flare.
Cooking is his passion.
Everybody he knows, he said, has a God-given opportunity to explore and practice their talent, but most people don’t practice to become successful.
Argudo’s talent may be blooming late professionally, but he continues to invent new dishes.
He rattles off at least a couple he is sure will please during the interview.
Amongst guests to Sabor Latino the Mexican Mole Poblano Rojo and the Ecuadorian Caldo de Bagre are popular choices.
Mole is a well-known type of sauce from Central and Southern Mexico. At Sabor Latino the mole is made with chicken and served with rice.
It’s rich, yet mild at the same time, but ultimately enhances the flavor of the chicken.
The Ecuadorian Caldo de Bagre that Argudo serves is a catfish soup.
Not on the menu, but made for guests that know and appreciate it is Argudo’s version of Rabo Encendido or spicy ox tail stew.
The stew is again, rich but not as spicy as one might expect. It is nicely flavored and marinated in Argudo’s special sauce.
He is secretive about what spices he uses to flavor and marinate the dish, but typically Rabo Encendido is Cuban with carrots, potatoes, and onions for starters.
From the Brazilian menu, the most traditional dish is the feijoada.
According to the menu, feijoada was created almost 500 years ago on the farms of Brazil.
It is a tasty stew of black beans, Portuguese sausage, pork and beef. At Sabor Latino it’s served with a rice, kale sautéed in garlic and butter and a dash of manioc, or ground yucca.
The feijoada, along with the churrasco or Brazilian barbecue, another bean dish called Feijao Tropeiro and a Brazilian seafood stew called Muqueca are served at Sabor Latino 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.
The rest of the menu is offered 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.
Business has been up and down since they opened, said Argudo.
He has received requests for private parties lately and will soon apply for a liquor license.
Right now, Sabor Latino serves beer and wine from local wineries and those in Chile and Argentina.
Argudo believes word is getting out about his restaurant.
“Customers started coming in, they tried it, they liked it, they come back,” he said.
He chose Renton as a place for his restaurant and convenience store, Tienda Mi Familia at 216 Wells Ave. S, because he has lived in Renton for 20 years.
The store is just around the corner from the restaurant and gets a lot of retired customers, who prefer it to the long walk to Safeway, Argudo said.
He likes the downtown area and has moved closer downtown to be near his businesses.
When he came to California from Ecuador in 1970 he stayed there for about five years before deciding to move up to Seattle.
There was a lot of Spanish-speaking people in California and Argudo said he wanted to go somewhere he could learn English better.