A few posts ago (post number 4 to be exact https://coffeetalkshop.wordpress.com) we reviewed a local coffee shop using Bill Walsh’s guidelines (coffee expert). His evaluation system graded the shops on 4 points (design, employee friendliness, price, quality). His ranking ranged from 1 to 6 (1 being the lowest score).
Today however we will use my set of guidelines for the review. To ensure clarity, I will define my guidelines and explain why they are important. I have selected Sambalatte Torrefazione for our visit which is located in south Las Vegas. Please note that they have multiple locations, but I will be reviewing the one in Boca Park. Also, I will avoid their peak hours (9:00-12:00) and drop in around 1:00 PM.
1. Clean and Bright
If I walk into a place where I intend to have a beverage, snack or meal, it must be clean. My definition of clean includes cleared off tables and trash free floors. As for the air in the establishment – definitely smoke-free, with no unpleasant or hard to identify odors. An A rating from the Clark County Health Department is also nice to see. Also, one of my quirks – I like good visibility (of my food, my table and those surrounding me). Fortunately, Sambalatte has those boxes checked off.
(Pictures of interior show 2 out of 3 areas for seating – downstairs and the second floor / mezzanine.)
As you can see in the pictures above, there is sufficient lighting which showcases the ample seating available to patrons. Something unique that I don’t see in many shops is that this one has two levels, which is convenient. You never have to worry about not finding seat here. You are sure to find something on the terrace, or on the first or second floor. If you are seeking privacy – Sambalatte has a small bar seating area next to a wall, underneath the stairs. The wall is exposed brick so you have something nice to look at if you prefer to keep your back to the general public.
2. Quality of Coffee
The quality of coffee is important because that carries the most importance in the evaluation. A “nice place” but “bad coffee” will not earn a passing grade with me. Also, variety of coffee is essential. Where does Sambalatte stand on this criterion? Well, the name of the shop gives you a clue. Torrefazione also means coffee roasters (or roasting). So it is not surprising that you can find a wide variety of beans in this store. You will not be disappointed. Unlike some shops that stop brewing decaf once the morning crowd has left, Sambalatte always has decaf available anytime of the day or night.
3. Not Just One Method
Having different methods available to prepare different types of coffee ranks high on the list. The example that I like to use is pizza (preparation or re-heating). Yes. You could re-heat pizza in a microwave but at what cost? Isn’t it better to re-heat pizza in an oven? So I will pose one more question – why would anyone risk ruining the quality/taste of pizza by re-heating it in the microwave? The same care and preparation needs to be considered when making coffee. One method is not like “one size fits all.” Some coffee shops only provide two coffee making methods – espresso or dripped coffee. Sambalatte raises the bar by providing 6 different methods to prepare your coffee, as shown by the picture below. This board not only gives the patron a price but the taste expectation provided by each method:
4. Review of Beverage & Food (Coffee & Quiche)
My definition of good coffee? I can honestly say that a good coffee is like a fine wine. They should never make you wince (from either a bitter bean or “cork” taste). Also, no matter what type of bean (light, medium or bold) – the palate should never be shocked. With that being said, you will know if a bean has been charred when you taste it, just like you know when toast has been burnt (even if someone tries to scrape off the burnt part). Your palate will tell you.
So onward with the big taste test…
As for the coffee, I sampled a dark roast Italian coffee bean which was ground to a fine powder for a latte. I requested soy instead of milk. Normally, I don’t like my beverage very hot so the barista made sure to steam the soy slightly (just enough to achieve the airy foam appearance). After the coffee was prepared he quickly drew a leaf design in the coffee (as seen in the photo below).
Next I ordered a Quiche Lorraine. Having lived overseas for 10 years, I can confirm that Sambalatte’s Quiche is very close to the ones that I sampled in France. Crust is extremely important as it can make or break the entire Quiche experience. Here, Sambalatte revealed that they rely on an authentic local French bakery for most of their pastries. Returning to the Quiche – it passed the flaky crust test and absolutely complimented the fluffy custard filling.
As another example of exemplary customer service – the waitress delivered the Quiche with a side of fruit. When I told her that I had not ordered the fruit, she explained that it was standard because the owner did not feel a Quiche (on its own) was sufficient for the price. I was pleasantly surprised by her frank response. Personally, I found the side of seasonal fruit a little “extra” that I don’t find (for example) at Starbucks.
5. Superior Customer Service
Even though I mention this last, it is definitely a deal breaker for me. The coffee can be great but I will not go back for a second visit if the employees are rude or not knowledgeable about their craft / product. Fortunately, Sambalatte’s employees are well trained and friendly.
A few examples of the stellar customer service come to mind. On occasion, they might run out of a pastry and I rely on their knowledge to recommend something in its place. Also, they can tell you down to the details – including ingredients for the soup of the day (which is prepared daily using fresh produce).
Finally, if your beverage is not satisfactory, they will make it right. Never fear – if the line is long and the wait seems endless, the owner will make sure that you have a sample of a certain cake or cookie to make time fly.
In my opinion, Sambalatte is worth the visit for exceeding my expectations on the 5 criteria mentioned above. I give it a 5 out of 5 (my highest ranking).
One important bonus – they do have a nice selection of sandwiches, soups or salads. While it is on the pricey side, they never skimp on quality or presentation.
Other miscellaneous amenities with this shop: WiFi, free music concerts and coffee products for sale.
750 S. Rampart Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89145
Next Blog Post
For my final post, I will review another coffee shop with a very special theme.
Until then, have a great week!