Published November 19, 2003

Boston's Weekly Dig

After arriving ten minutes late for our reservation at Sabur, our host apologized for giving our table away and suggested we make ourselves comfortable at the bar. A half-hour later, we were seated, enjoying our drinks, and feeling mellow.

Our host swiftly presented us with a mezze plate for four ($20), on the house, repeating his sincere apologies for the delay. This not only appeased our voracious appetites but also made us feel genuinely welcome. This dish is piled high with soft, mouth-watering pita, perfect for scooping up the sweet red pepper puree and the cumin infused humus. Stuffed grape leaves, garlic cloves and mushrooms, all flavored with tangy preserved lemon, decorate the plate.

The menu is Bosnian but can also be described as Mediterranean with Moroccan and Turkish influences. We started with grilled shrimp wrapped in vine leaves with a spicy saffron rouille ($9). The four meaty shrimp, delicately balanced on the center of the plate on skewers, is one of the most exciting dishes on the menu. The juicy Balkan sausages ($7) are delicious when wrapped in the soft pita. The pureness of the raw red onion brings out the subtle spiciness of the juicy lamb sausages while yogurt both mellows the spice of the lamb and brings out its rich, grilled flavor. The slow roast lamb with vegetables ($19.75), the signature dish of Sabur, is pure heaven. The lamb stews in its own juices all day in a hearth that is the centerpiece of the dining room. It is so tender and flaky that a knife proves unnecessary. The lip-smacking flavors meld together rendering the dish both sweetly caramelized and rich.

We also ordered the salmon charmoula with orange cucumber salad and apricot cous cous ($17.75). The fish was ideally prepared, cooked thoroughly but extremely moist. Tangy, crisp cucumbers are a perfect partner to the mild fish. Although the toasted coriander chicken breast with cous cous, almonds and sultanas ($14.74) was flavored nicely, the chicken was slightly dry, as if cooked for just a minute too long. However, the cous cous was sweet and texturally complex when paired with the crunchy almonds and soft sultanas. The tuna, served with saffron risotto and eggplant relish (market), was lightly seared and perfectly tender. The tart eggplant relish contributed nicely to the subtly flavored risotto.

The server recommended we share a bottle of Cavalotto Dolcetto ($29). Although I wouldn't ordinarily pair chicken and fish with a red, it matched up perfectly, as the dishes were complex enough to stand up to the rich tannins of the wine. The dessert that warrants both a mention and a high honor is the Bosnian baklava ($5). The flaky, fresh filo dough is filled with nuts and figs, and drizzled with lemon rosewater syrup.

The food at Sabur is extremely creative and the atmosphere warm and inviting. All in all, a highly recommended experience.

212 Holland St., Somerville, 617.776.7890
Open 5pm- 12:30am daily, Sundays 5pm- 10pm