3811 sawtelle blvd. (at venice blvd.)
culver city, ca
Every culture has its version of a dumpling. Chinese eat wontons, Japanese have gyoza, and Koreans call it mahn doo. In Europe, Italians have the calzone, and the Polish have their pierogi, which the Russians translate to pirozhki. in Latin America, specifically Argentina, it’s the empanada.
We had empanadas for lunch from a tiny little argentinean restaurant, Empanada’s Place – my first time there. although the menu has a few south american inspired sandwiches (grilled skirt steak, beef milanese, chicken chimichurri) as well as argentinean tamales, it would be a crime not to order one of the 16 different empandas. like a box of chocolates, each different empanda is shaped and decorated differently to indicate what is inside. some are authentic argentina like the criolla, filled with beef, raisins, green onions, and eggs. others are more creative, inspired by other cuisines. the italian fugazzeta is made with ham and mozzarella cheese, and the arabe is filled with ground beef, tomatoes, onions, lemon juice, and middle east spices.
I would have been ready to order one of each off the menu, because i had only ever tried empanadas as an appetizer or an hors d’ouvres – small enough to eat in about two bites. these, however are huge. one empanada with a side salad could be a meal by itself. i decided to try three, even if i wouldn’t be able to finish them all: cordobesa (ground beef), pollo (chicken), and pascualina(spinach and cheese).
empanada’s place, in no way, could ever be good for a diet. not only are the empandas huge (the size wouldn’t matter if they were steamed and stuffed with vegetables) but the fillings here are very rich and very hearty, with combinations of meats, cheeses, thick gravies, potatoes, and even hard boiled eggs. the pastry is thick (as compared to a thinner eggroll or won ton wrapper) and the entire thing is deep-fried.
The pollo was good, but nothing special. it basically tasted like a deep fried chicken pot pie. the cordobesa was more interesting, with ground beef, potatoes, hard boiled eggs and green olives. after half of each of those, i could only take a taste of the pascualina – spinach, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, and a cream sauce. hopefully, there was lemon juice in the sauce, because it tasted tangier than a cheese filling should be.
Overall, the pastry seemed a little bit too thick and dough-y for my taste and the fillings were blander than i would expect from latin american food. and what doesn’t taste good deep-fried? well, i think the empanadas might have been better baked, as the taste and smell of the frying oil was pretty strong. i suspect, though, that that’s just the way all empanadas are made and that empanada’s place must do them well because they’ve been around since 1985. perhaps, i’m just not an empanadas person.
rating out of 5: food = 3, experience = 3, overall = 3
would i go back? for only $2.75 a piece, sure i’d go back, but not on my own suggestion.