Monday, July 9, 2007

Lala's Argentine of 20 please.

7229 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Sun-Thu 11AM-11PM
Sat-Sun 11AM-12AM

It's odd... when summertime comes around, I find myself compelled to buy more clothes and spend more than I'm actually worth. Maybe it's seeing all the beautiful people we have in LA and going wow... I need to dress better. Not that I'm a slouch, but I just feel the need to step up my apparel. This will often bring me (and of course my lovely wife) over to Melrose which is where the "I'm not rich but I want to dress like I am" people go to. Melrose has great shopping and some great spots for food such as my pick today, Lala's Argentine Grill.

Located at the La Brea end of the trendy Melrose bazarre, this corner establishment has been blessing me and my friends for years now. Let me back up and say that is because off and on for the past couple of years I've gone there with sometimes 20+ people for lunch on Sunday and they have never had any qualms about it (they have a great size outside patio area that is perfect). This is a super rarity in LA...heck maybe even in the US.

Argentinean food is wonderful for people who are bashful about trying new foods, and yet want to get their feet wet. It has familiar enough plates, but the twist of the Argentinean spices makes it a refreshing change of pace from the standard Central American or Carribean flavors we've grown accustomed to here in the States(or at least in SoCal). What many people don't know is that Argentine cuisine is more heavily influenced by European countries than the surrounding flavors of South American countries, which really brings in a whole new concept of how food can be done. You taste and see a great deal of French and Italian in their dishes with an emphasis on meat.

If you haven't been introduced to chimichurri sauce here it is. The four big flavors consist of garlic, olive oil, parsley and red pepper(though it's generally not spicy). It is absolutely addicting. Now, I know I've said this before, but the tendency when you're really hungry is to put this stuff on the bread that they bring out and keep on doing that until your food has shown up. This unfortunately has the nasty side effect of ruining your meal by stuffing yourself on bread and chimichurri sauce. I kid you not, you have to consciously make an effort to not do it. But, it doesn't stop there, because it's perfect on almost any meat or chicken they serve. I feel like they should just leave me a vat of this stuff so I can put it on everything. For the adventurous, or for those wanting to see what it's typically made of, here's a link to peruse the typlical contents.

We grabbed one of their beef empanadas, as we always get at LEAST one. You may recall when I wrote about Empanadas Place a while back and the extreme love I have for the pastry meat pockets. This is no different. A fine example of ground beef, olives, egg whites and savory spices in a light dough pocket. Not too spice heavy, but it's good that way as it doesn't hinder the true flavor of the meat interacting with the olive .

While I could go on and on about the many meat plates that they have, I'll be brief. Their chorizo rocks, their chicken is tender and quite juicy, but their beef especially kicks butt. Shown below is their milanesa plate, my standard when I can't decide out of all their goodness what to get. Think of a spanish version of chicken fried steak in appearance, but make it a thinner steak and not as breaded. The meat even peers through the breading sometimes cause it's so light. The breading, with it's egg, parsley and flour, makes this a standout simple plate. Add to effect the fresh pico de gallo and it's a no brainer. Hence why I get it when my brain is fighting about what to get.

The also do a particularly good job on the few seafood based entrees they have. I believe the popular phase to describe their fish is "grilled to perfection". The salmon specifically is a favorite of Celeste's, never dry and always flavorful. And, though you can't fully see it in the picture, the fillet of salmon spans the entire length of the oblong plate they served this salad on. Again, a very simple.... grilled salmon covered with a creamy mustard sauce served over greens, tomato and red onion with their light as air house dressing... but balanced with each detail just right.

The beauty about this place is it's simplicity and attention to those simplicities. I congratulate them on their second location that opened in Studio City. While you shop and decide whether you really want to go to Pinkberry, just go here and fill up on a huge hunk of beef. There's nothing like it on a Sunday afternoon, especially if you want 15 to 20 of your closest friends to break bread with you.

Free Drink Refills: Yes
Entree Price Range: $8 to $17

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