I recently had a young friend return from an LDS mission to Argentina. I wanted to take him out for an Argentine meal and hear about his mission, something I've done with some other returned missionaries. They get a meal with food from where they have been living and I get to hear about the mission and ask questions, a mutually beneficial situation.
I did some research on Argentine restaurants in the Los Angeles area and chose Lala's Argentine Grill in Los Angeles (we went to the one at 7229 Melrose Ave). It gets four stars on Yelp with 1,427 reviews and is rated number 355 our of 8,017 in Los Angeles on Trip Advisor with 134 reviews.
I loved it. I give it five stars. Taylor (my friend) also enjoyed it and he said it was very authentic. The drive into and back from Los Angeles gave us some good time to talk and now I'm looking for an excuse to go back.
|We were seated outside under a patio.|
First, we started with some nice bread and a chimichurri dipping sauce. Wikipedia says it is used for grilled meat, but we found it also makes for a nice dipping sauce. It appears that chimichurri has many different variations, but one recipe I am looking at includes Italian parsley, thyme, scallions, peeled garlic cloves, crushed chili flake, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice olive oil and salt and pepper. Another recipe uses oregano leaves and sherry wine or red wine vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar. Wikipedia credits Argentina for originating it and says it includes white vinegar and oregano and sites Uruguay for the addition of red pepper flakes. I found that in dipping the bread, it made a big difference if you got mostly olive oil verses a big smattering of the added ingredients. The olive oil by itself was bland, but the mixture made it quite exceptional. We finished our bread and chimichurri and ordered another round of it.
For starters we got morcilla, two grilled traditional blood sausages. Taylor saw blood sausage in Argentina but never tasted any. I like to taste the boundaries and Taylor was a good sport and tried some with me. Morcilla is similar to what is called "black pudding" in England. It is pig's blood and ground up pieces of pork or pork offal. It may also include seasonings like salt, pepper, garlic, onion, paprika and other fillers like rice, breadcrumbs and nuts. I've eaten blood sausage before, at least once, but my experience is limited. This blood sausage had a higher ratio of blood to filler than what I've eaten previously which made it a little more difficult to deal with mentally. It tasted fine, nothing off-putting, but I do prefer more filler. Taylor courageously ate quite a bit of it.
Taylor was excited to eat some empanada. Lala's had a choice of beef, chicken, spinach, cheese and onion or ham and cheese. We chose ham and cheese. The empanada originated in Portugal. Wikipedia notes that in Argentina, the dough is made with wheat flour and beef drippings and that fillings differ from province to province. They can be baked (Salta-style) or fried (Tucuman-style). I'm guessing the one we shared was fried and it had a generous filling of white cheese and ham. It was good, but had a pretty high ratio of bread to filling.
We also shared a chorizo sausage which Taylor was excited to try. He really learned to love chorizo. Chorizo originated in Spain and Portugal and is usually a pork sausage with an intestine casing. Argentine chorizo is usually made of pork, but can be made of beef, but tends to be less spicy than Spanish, Portuguese or Mexican chorizo. It was good, but I do like spicier chorizos.
Argentina is known for its beef, so I had to try the "gaucho," a ribeye steak with grilled onions and an Anaheim pepper. The menu says the steak is aged at least 25 days. It came with a choice of french fries, mashed potatoes or salad and I chose the mashed potatoes. Taylor comes from a family where his father eats his steaks well done and we were going to be sharing. So I went for medium rare rather than rare. This item was worth the drive. The potatoes were some of the best I've had at a restaurant, I was wishing Judy could be there because she adores mashed potatoes. The Anaheim chili and onions were a very nice complement and the steak was fantastic. Nicely cooked, nice flavor. Taylor even voiced, when it was all over, that he usually ate his meat well done, but that he'd really enjoyed it medium rare.
|Here the steak is uncovered to reveal it is liberally peppered with garlic.|
Taylor ordered the suprema napolitana. It is boneless chicken breast, breaded and lightly fried, topped with basil tomato sauce and melted cheese, like a pizza. It was huge, nearly filled the plate. This dish was created in Buenos Aires and is not named after Naples, but after the restaurant Napoli in Buenos Aires where it was first sold in the late 1940s. Taylor was particularly excited about this dish, something he really loved there and he loved this. I'm not a major fan of pounded and breaded chicken so I had some and thought it was fine, but nothing I would order on my own. It did have a very large quantity of melted cheese on top of it. It also came with mashed potatoes.
Finally, we got panqueque de banana condulce de leche, a pancake with warm caramel and diced bananas and caramelized sugar. Dulce de leche is made from whole milk, sugar and sometimes vanilla bean. It gets its taste from the Maillard reaction, a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned food its caramelized flavor. It looked good and was very good, although it did have somewhat of a burnt flavor.
|The caramelized milk of the dulce de leche.|
Overall, I loved Lala's and would like to go back again.