The name is Latin for "flavor," and the around-the-world food (the influences include Moroccan, Japanese, Mexican, Indian, Jamaican and American fare) lives up to its name.
Where to eat near Target Field? Sapor Cafe and Bar. No other nearby restaurant also features a talent like chef Tanya Siebenaler, or her inspired, continent-hopping cooking style. The current menu borrows flavors and traditions from India, China, Morocco, Russia, Italy, Mexico and the American Southwest, a culinary polyglot that could come off as a discordant jumble or an exercise in spreading one's self too thin, but Siebenaler almost always makes it work, beautifully. Siebenaler routinely fashions a lot out of a little, turning a plain-old Bibb lettuce into a birthday party, dressing it up in tons of herbs, lemon and hints of honey, and makes the combination of tart grapefruit and smoky salmon seem utterly natural -- inevitable, even. Her soups are gorgeous, whether she's turning potatoes and cream into something as supple as a piece of silk, or putting her reliably light touch on the often-ponderous combination of peas and ham. That sense of economy works its way through the too-brief menu. At dinner Siebenaler offers six entrees (half of them available in either full- or half-size portions, a thoughtful touch), a somewhat skimpy total, particularly when one or two are a little off. Her pastas, for example, can be a tad dull; but when they're right on, they're golden. Her fiery kung pao chicken is the last word on the subject, and her version of short ribs -- with their kicky Latin American accent -- is a dream. Sports fans in search of a snack should drop the Dinger Dogs and dive into Sapor's short bar menu, which features a half-dozen well executed nibbles at inexpensive prices, including spicy chickpea croquettes with a bright feta-cucumber salad dressed in a parsley-flecked yogurt, tasty tube-shaped tacos filled with mashed potatoes and paired with a kicky tomatillo salsa, a hearty plate of fish and chips and a decent beef slider topped with tangy house-made pickles. Spend even five minutes chez Sapor and you'll discover that the setting's most valuable asset is the seemingly eternal presence of co-owner Julie Steenerson. She's forever in her restaurant, an Energizer Bunny of sheer ebullience greeting guests at the door, hanging coats, seating customers, running plates from the kitchen or drinks from the bar, filling water glasses and chatting up her guests, usually by name. She watches over her serene dining room with an eagle-eyed brand of hospitable warmth that's oddly rare for a business that's all about hospitality. That makes her a role model for restaurant owners everywhere.
428 Washington Av. N.
Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Tue.; Thu.-Fri. Dinner: Mon.-Thu. 5-9 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 5-10 p.m.
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