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El Nandu and the empanada

El Nandu and the empanada
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  • El Nandu and the empanada

    Post #1 - February 26th, 2005, 9:55 am
    Post #1 - February 26th, 2005, 9:55 am Post #1 - February 26th, 2005, 9:55 am
    El Nandu is an storefront Argentinian restaurant on West Fullerton. Which is still Logan Square I believe. :?:

    It's a nice space with exposed brick and art on display and for sale. The kitchen is tiny, but it has a limited menu. There is a bar, which might be a nice option if you want an empanada snack and a drink, or two.

    Many folks were stopping in to pick up empanadas to go, and I can see why.

    These are the four we tried:
    Criolla: ground beef, peppers, onions, raisins, eggs
    Jamon Y Queso
    Camarones: shrimp and cheese
    Maiz: fresh corn(stated on menu, but appeared canned), green onions, peppers, eggs, cheese

    I didn't try the ham and cheese. Of the three others, I enjoyed the Criolla and Maiz the best. The textures in the Maiz was nice and the small amount of cheese amongst the other ingredients was perfect.

    I liked the chimichurri, and I'm not sure what the yellow vinegary with green flecks condiment was, but I preferred the chimichurri anyway.

    We split an entree and I'm glad we did because it was quite a large serving of rice and Melanesa El Nandu: breaded steak with tomato sauce, garlic and white cheese.

    I was hungry so I would have liked anything, but the steak was chewy in parts(not edible), and it tasted like an Italian parmesan. I liked the flavor of the rice with the tomato and cheese, but was just okay. The Mr. agreed.

    Empanadas, eight varieties: $2.25 each
    Dinners: $11-17
    Several salads and desserts available, plus espresso drinks.

    I don't recommend the Sangria. It was a sad attempt at it.
    The bussers were great, the server, inattentive.

    http://metromix.chicagotribune.com/dini ... 1.location

    I'm off to start the braciole...
    Reading is a right. Censorship is not.
  • Post #2 - February 26th, 2005, 3:07 pm
    Post #2 - February 26th, 2005, 3:07 pm Post #2 - February 26th, 2005, 3:07 pm
    we absolutely LOVE the empanadas from el nandu!!

    honestly, these days, we almost always just call ahead & order some for pick up, as i live right near the square & can get them home quickly. also, even during busy friday nights, they're ready in 10 minutes!

    the Maiz is a huge favorite of ours; my veggie friend also loves the espinaca. i really like the jamon y queso, and the queso is just as good, but with no ham. it's a creamy white cheese that's inside those two.

    and, i can't say how much the two different "sauces" add to the enjoyment. we always have to specifically request extra, cuz we use so much. both the light green (spicier, i believe) opaque & the darker green, cilantro-flavoured sauce are incredible, either on their own, or mixed together, as they tend to do on a big plate :)

    now, i just need to find out what they are exactly.....

    enjoy,
    miss ellen

    ps, it's definitely located in logan square; per my big "chicago neighborhoods" map, armitage is the border b/t humboldt and logan, although i have seen some conflicting borders elsewhere.
  • Post #3 - February 26th, 2005, 3:30 pm
    Post #3 - February 26th, 2005, 3:30 pm Post #3 - February 26th, 2005, 3:30 pm
    smellen wrote:ps, it's definitely located in logan square; per my big "chicago neighborhoods" map, armitage is the border b/t humboldt and logan, although i have seen some conflicting borders elsewhere.


    The question is whether it's in bucktown or logan or some third neighborhood. I think it's on the border, but I'd also call it logan square.

    Thanks for reporting, food nut. I've driven by many times and kept thinking "I'll stop in next time".

    -ed
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #4 - February 26th, 2005, 4:39 pm
    Post #4 - February 26th, 2005, 4:39 pm Post #4 - February 26th, 2005, 4:39 pm
    Thanks for the reminder about Nandu. The place has been there forever, 10+ years at least. Very pleasant place, It's been quite some time since I've been, but I'd surmised that the lighter, spicier sauce is aji and the darker mild is a proper chimichuri. For the best, cheapest Argentine style (baked, pizza dough as opposed to masa/cornmeal and/or deep frying) empanadas, the buck a piece picadillo (criollo) version at El Mercado still can't be beat.
  • Post #5 - February 26th, 2005, 5:04 pm
    Post #5 - February 26th, 2005, 5:04 pm Post #5 - February 26th, 2005, 5:04 pm
    Under Useful Stuff last November I posted a link to the Official Chicago Neighborhood maps to make settling questions easy. The eastern boundary of Logan Square is the Chicago River in the official city community map. It looks as though the railroad tracks along Bloomingdale are the southern boundary most of the time.

    In any case Fullerton near California is close to the center of Logan Square as defined by the city.
  • Post #6 - February 27th, 2005, 7:06 pm
    Post #6 - February 27th, 2005, 7:06 pm Post #6 - February 27th, 2005, 7:06 pm
    Ed,
    I just thought El Nandu might now be considered West Bucktown or something. I just can't wait until Avondale one day changes to North Logan Square.

    In regards to Avondale, there is a new restaurant/bar/cafe looking thing called Troy, I think, on Belmont between California and Sacramento. I've been watching the progress steadily for many months. The paper is now off the windows. Anyone know what it is or will be?
    Reading is a right. Censorship is not.
  • Post #7 - February 27th, 2005, 7:24 pm
    Post #7 - February 27th, 2005, 7:24 pm Post #7 - February 27th, 2005, 7:24 pm
    The link is to the Chicago Community Areas, a unique set of geographies developed by the Chicago School of sociologists at U of C in the 1920s, I believe. It is unique to Chicago, and while it has provided generations of sociologists, urban planners, and city officials to analyze data, apply for and carve up federal grants, etc. it is not without controversy for several reasons.

    First, the Chicago School had specific ideas about urban growth patterns (generally conforming to the ecological model of invasion-succession) that are not universally accepted.

    Second, their boundaries were not, and continue not to be accepted locally by residents. Some specific examples would be the inclusion in the South Shore community area of the area west of Stony Island to the railroad viaduct, and likewise the inclusion in Chatham of the area east of Cottage Grove (also to a railroad viaduct, the Chicago School was big on what they saw as natural boundaries). Likewise the inclusion of the area east of Western Ave. to the river/Kennedy Expy. in the Logan Square community area. In Bucktown, people more naturally associate with West Town institutions than Logan Square. Other examples include "East Humboldt Park" being part of Westtown CA, and East Ravenswood being part of Uptown CA.

    When I lived in Bucktown for many years and came to know a great many community elders, mostly first generation Poles who were living in the houses they had grown up in, they were adamant about the boundaries of Bucktown being Damen, Armitage, Western, and Fullerton. This included people who lived just outside these boundaries, who would recount how their address made them somehow suspect in local schools, churches, etc. when they were children.

    The City also maintains a map of neighborhoods, of which there are many more than Community Areas. There are about 70 community areas (Edgewater having seceded from Uptown in time, I believe, for the 1980 census). There is also a poster widely available in frame shops and the like of Chicago's neighborhoods. It is in no way official, it is a product of the Chicago Association of Realtors, who have their own agenda.

    There was a great article a number of years back in the Reader about the "shrinking" of Uptown which highlights the importance of symbolic representation to the real estate crowd.

    Hope this comes off as informative rather than overly didactic, I crunch numbers about this stuff for a living.
  • Post #8 - February 28th, 2005, 5:48 pm
    Post #8 - February 28th, 2005, 5:48 pm Post #8 - February 28th, 2005, 5:48 pm
    They are very good to go, too.

    Cheers,
    Wade

    Image
  • Post #9 - February 28th, 2005, 6:18 pm
    Post #9 - February 28th, 2005, 6:18 pm Post #9 - February 28th, 2005, 6:18 pm
    When I lived in Logan Square, El Nandu was very much considered part of Logan Square. For what it's worth, the eastern axis of the neighborhood is pretty clear as I would say it conforms to Logan Blvd. It is the Western axis that I think is a bit more unclear. Was it Kimball? Central Park? Pulaski? Also, is Parlmer Square a sub-neighborhood within Logan Square or a neighborhood on its own?

    Anyways, I agree that the best thing about El Nandu are the two sauces. I believe both a considered or called chimichurri. The thicker, spicier one, which in my memory is kinda brick red, is better but only because it is just so good. The green standard sauce being just good. It is not really like the salsa de aji one gets at the Colombian places, nor is it anything like the green Peruvian style aji sauce. In fact, I have never seen anything else like it at another Argentinian restaurant, and it also totally belies the assumption that Argentian food is non-spicy (as in hot spicy).

    Rob
  • Post #10 - February 28th, 2005, 7:04 pm
    Post #10 - February 28th, 2005, 7:04 pm Post #10 - February 28th, 2005, 7:04 pm
    "it also totally belies the assumption that Argentian food is non-spicy (as in hot spicy)."

    But that assumption is, by and large, correct.

    While you won't likely see Mexican in Argentina, you will see Peruvian. There is a relatively large, recent ex-pat Peruano and Bolivian population in Argentina. El Mercado, the Argentine store, tends toward Peruvian around the edges itself, offering tamales Peruanos. All of that said, the pictured hot salsa doesn't look like like aji, you're right.
  • Post #11 - March 1st, 2005, 11:48 am
    Post #11 - March 1st, 2005, 11:48 am Post #11 - March 1st, 2005, 11:48 am
    Vital Information wrote:Anyways, I agree that the best thing about El Nandu are the two sauces. I believe both a considered or called chimichurri. The thicker, spicier one, which in my memory is kinda brick red, is better but only because it is just so good. The green standard sauce being just good. It is not really like the salsa de aji one gets at the Colombian places, nor is it anything like the green Peruvian style aji sauce. In fact, I have never seen anything else like it at another Argentinian restaurant, and it also totally belies the assumption that Argentian food is non-spicy (as in hot spicy).

    Rob


    Does anyone happen to know the recipe for the Peruvian aji sauce? I've had it at two different restaurants, and loved it both times! It sets your mouth on fire, but you just can't stop eating it....I've come across a few recipes, and it seems to be a mix of onions, jalapenos, and olive oil, but the sauce has a consistency like creamy guacamole, so I wonder if it's just the olive oil that makes it like that, or if they add something else?
  • Post #12 - March 1st, 2005, 4:51 pm
    Post #12 - March 1st, 2005, 4:51 pm Post #12 - March 1st, 2005, 4:51 pm
    Janet C. wrote: but the sauce has a consistency like creamy guacamole, so I wonder if it's just the olive oil that makes it like that, or if they add something else?

    Janet,

    3-4 years ago I spent quite a bit of time backwards engineering the table sauce at Rinconcitio Sudamericano, which looks exactly like guacamole. Took a bit of experimentation, and lots of cajoling of the waitstaff, but the following recipe comes pretty damn close.

    I haven't been back for a while, but now that I'm thinking about Peruvian I have a hankering for Rinconcitio's grilled marinated beef heart.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    --

    Peruvian Spicy Dip

    This dip has a nice mellow garlic flavor and heat, serve as an appetizer with bread, veggies or crackers.

    10* jalapeno, steamed,
    1/2-lb feta cheese
    10 soda crackers
    2 Tablespoons olive oil
    1 whole head** garlic roasted or steamed.
    to taste kosher salt
    to taste fresh cracked black pepper

    Steam the jalapeno then blend*** with all other ingredients to a smooth paste that will coat the back of a spoon.

    If made in advance float olive oil on top of the dip, cover, then refrigerate.

    Serve as a dip with bread, veggies or crackers.

    Note:

    * I steam a habanero along with the jalapeno, adds a nice kick, if you add a raw habanero or two the dish goes from spicy appetizer to religious experience.

    ** This is one whole head of garlic, not just one clove. I also add a few cloves of raw garlic to increase the garlic flavor.

    *** A Cuisinart works well for this.

    Source:
    Adaptation of table sauce at Rinconcitio Sudamericano
    (Peruvian restaurant in Chicago)

    El Nandu Restaurant
    2731 W. Fullerton Ave
    Chicago, IL
    773-278-0900
    Last edited by G Wiv on June 22nd, 2006, 9:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #13 - March 1st, 2005, 5:06 pm
    Post #13 - March 1st, 2005, 5:06 pm Post #13 - March 1st, 2005, 5:06 pm
    Gary,

    Feta cheese and soda cracker? I never would've guessed!

    Actually, Rinconcito is one of the two restaurants where I had aji. When I asked the server what was in it, all he said was "garlic and jalapeno." The other place where I first had it was a small Peruvian restaurant on Clark (name escapes me right now).

    Is the feta essential to flavoring the recipe? What would happen if I left it out? I've seen a few recipes that called for some kind of cheese, but I think it was something along the lines of monterey.

    I've also seen recipes that call for pieces of bread, which I suspected as a possible ingredient. But you thought soda crackers worked better, huh?

    Thanks so much for the recipe. I'm eager to go home and give it a try (though I'll have to pick up feta and crackers at the store). I was originally just going to throw raw jalapeno, an onion, garlic, and some olive oil into the Cuisinart, but I'll trust your experimentation. Will let you know how it turns out!
  • Post #14 - March 1st, 2005, 5:16 pm
    Post #14 - March 1st, 2005, 5:16 pm Post #14 - March 1st, 2005, 5:16 pm
    My former downstairs neighbor, a Peruano, always brought Papas a la Huacaina to building potlucks. I'm a sucker for that dish, being based as it is on potatoes.

    The surprising ingredients: feta cheese and soda crackers. He was also specific about it being the feta with holes in it rather than the creamy variety (in our neighborhood that means Bulgarian over Hungarian).

    A pinch of Bijol, russet potatoes, garnish with hard boiled eggs and Alfonso or kalamata olives. Peruvian and Irish heaven.
  • Post #15 - March 1st, 2005, 7:38 pm
    Post #15 - March 1st, 2005, 7:38 pm Post #15 - March 1st, 2005, 7:38 pm
    Janet C. wrote:Is the feta essential to flavoring the recipe? What would happen if I left it out? I've seen a few recipes that called for some kind of cheese, but I think it was something along the lines of monterey.

    I've also seen recipes that call for pieces of bread, which I suspected as a possible ingredient. But you thought soda crackers worked better, huh?

    Janet,

    Yep, feta cheese and soda crackers. I've tried this recipe a number of different ways, both are essential.

    If you follow my recipe I think you'll be pleasantly surprised, especially if your are using Rinconcitio as a benchmark.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #16 - March 2nd, 2005, 9:20 pm
    Post #16 - March 2nd, 2005, 9:20 pm Post #16 - March 2nd, 2005, 9:20 pm
    Gary,

    I just whipped up a batch of your aji recipe, and I must say it comes pretty close. However, there seems to be something missing...something to give it that extra oomph...but I can't put my finger on it. The feta I bought wasn't as tangy as I thought it'd be, so maybe that's it? Or maybe I should add an onion or something....

    Then again, my tongue has gone a bit numb with the taste testing, so maybe my taste buds are too dulled....I used 9 jalapenos and one habanero, which I think is just a little too much heat for me! But I don't know if I increased the cheese to peppers ratio, if that's going to mellow the flavor too much.
  • Post #17 - March 3rd, 2005, 12:08 am
    Post #17 - March 3rd, 2005, 12:08 am Post #17 - March 3rd, 2005, 12:08 am
    I saw there was no acid in the recipe, no lime, no vinegar. Might that be what you think is missing?

    My favorite aji is the Ecuadoran one, w/o cheese. I've never bothered to ask or reverse engineer, but I'm thinking lots of jalapeno, lots of olive oil and garlic, some vinegar, onion, cilantro, maybe some carrots, though I'm having a hard time remembering what the colors there were other than green. Mexicans have so many and such good salsas. The one thing that most others seem to have that mkes them different (South and Central American almost across the board) is oil.
  • Post #18 - March 3rd, 2005, 7:12 am
    Post #18 - March 3rd, 2005, 7:12 am Post #18 - March 3rd, 2005, 7:12 am
    Janet C. wrote:Gary,

    I just whipped up a batch of your aji recipe, and I must say it comes pretty close. However, there seems to be something missing...something to give it that extra oomph...but I can't put my finger on it. The feta I bought wasn't as tangy as I thought it'd be, so maybe that's it? Or maybe I should add an onion or something....

    Janet,

    Pretty close......

    Try stronger feta first and it that doesn't do it for you try, as Jeff suggested, a little acid. I'd use red wine vinegar.

    Thanks for posting your results, I'd be very interested in your follow-up.

    Speaking of hot sauce, I bought a new, at least to me, version of El Yucateco Chili Habanero, Salasa Jutbil-ik-de. Still quite hot, though not as hot as the odd green color El Yucateco habanero, but with a more rounded, smoky pepper flavor. Not suggesting this for the aji, just mentioning the new El Yucateco.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #19 - March 3rd, 2005, 7:55 am
    Post #19 - March 3rd, 2005, 7:55 am Post #19 - March 3rd, 2005, 7:55 am
    I'm not sure if you are trying to replicate the yellowish sauce with green flecks pictured above, but I will say that that sauce certainly had a vinegar component.
    Reading is a right. Censorship is not.
  • Post #20 - March 3rd, 2005, 8:09 am
    Post #20 - March 3rd, 2005, 8:09 am Post #20 - March 3rd, 2005, 8:09 am
    Food Nut wrote:I'm not sure if you are trying to replicate the yellowish sauce with green flecks pictured above, but I will say that that sauce certainly had a vinegar component.

    Food Nut,

    No, not that particular sauce. The sauce we are discussing is green from jalapeno and has a smooth consistency, not unlike over processed guacamole. (in a good way. :) )

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #21 - March 3rd, 2005, 8:57 pm
    Post #21 - March 3rd, 2005, 8:57 pm Post #21 - March 3rd, 2005, 8:57 pm
    Hi Gary,

    Desperate to get this recipe right, I trekked up to Rinconcito after work today to bring back a sample of their sauce to do a side by side comparison.

    Their sauce is actually a lot more mellow than I thought. Side by side, I definitely noticed the flavor of the feta in my sauce, but there isn't actually any distinct tang in their version. Theirs is also a lot greener than mine (closer to the color of guacamole), but it's not as spicy, which kind of confuses me. In fact, theirs has a slight sweetness to it as well. It has also a much creamier/smoother consistency. Mine hardened up after sitting in the fridge overnight, probably b/c of the olive oil and feta. They gave me two little sauce cups, so I'll put one in the fridge tonight and see if it's still creamy in the morn.

    If not for the fact that of the few recipes I did manage to find online not one called for avocado, I would swear that this sauce was just avocado blended with jalapenos! (and maybe some saltines or queso blanco)

    I wish I had a digital camera...that would probably help.

    As with you, they were kind of evasive about telling me what was in the sauce beyond jalapenos.

    This is baffling!! I'm going out of town this weekend, but would be up for arranging a dinner gathering there next week, if anyone's interested in joining me for a round of "What's in this sauce??"
  • Post #22 - March 3rd, 2005, 9:50 pm
    Post #22 - March 3rd, 2005, 9:50 pm Post #22 - March 3rd, 2005, 9:50 pm
    I'm not familiar with the specific sauce being discussed - is this similar to the thickish green sauce served at Mr. Pollo? Hot and very garlicky, I love that sauce. If it's similar great, if not does anyone have what the proper name for Mr. Pollo's sauce should be and an approximated recipe?
    Objects in mirror appear to be losing.
  • Post #23 - March 4th, 2005, 7:13 am
    Post #23 - March 4th, 2005, 7:13 am Post #23 - March 4th, 2005, 7:13 am
    Janet C. wrote:This is baffling!! I'm going out of town this weekend, but would be up for arranging a dinner gathering there next week, if anyone's interested in joining me for a round of "What's in this sauce??"

    Janet,

    Sauce tasting dinner at Rinconcitio sounds like a good idea. Though, unless they have changed the recipe in the last 4 or so years, mine comes pretty darn close. I'll make a batch to bring to Rinconcitio.

    Now you've got me thinking about grilled skewered beef hearts with Rinconcitio's sauce. What day next week is good for you, and any other LTHer's care to join in, for a round of 'Dissect the sauce'

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #24 - March 4th, 2005, 4:40 pm
    Post #24 - March 4th, 2005, 4:40 pm Post #24 - March 4th, 2005, 4:40 pm
    Hi Gary,

    I'm free next Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday evenings. The weekend is also pretty open.

    I also tried calling Taste of Peru (the hole in the wall on Clark, where I had first tried the sauce) to ask about the sauce. The seemed friendlier when I went there before compared to the Rinconcito people.

    The woman over the phone told me that they made their aji by blending jalapeno, onions, and garlic, and apparently that's it. No avocado, no cheese. I have a hard time believing those could be the only ingredients, though. Perhaps your method of steaming the peppers is how they get the creamy consistency in their sauce w/o having to add cheese or something else....but I ran out of jalapenos so couldn't test that version.

    Incidentally, the sauce left over from Rinconcito is still as creamy and liquid as when I got it yesterday, so there must not be much oil in it, if they do add oil.
  • Post #25 - March 4th, 2005, 4:49 pm
    Post #25 - March 4th, 2005, 4:49 pm Post #25 - March 4th, 2005, 4:49 pm
    Kman wrote:I'm not familiar with the specific sauce being discussed - is this similar to the thickish green sauce served at Mr. Pollo? Hot and very garlicky, I love that sauce. If it's similar great, if not does anyone have what the proper name for Mr. Pollo's sauce should be and an approximated recipe?


    Yes, the sauce is thick and green. Pretty much exactly like Gary's description of overprocessed guacamole (but in a good way)!

    The isn't isn't overwhelmingly garlicky, though. It is spicy, but the heat is like one that kind of builds up as you keep dipping. And believe me, it's hard to stop!
  • Post #26 - March 4th, 2005, 5:44 pm
    Post #26 - March 4th, 2005, 5:44 pm Post #26 - March 4th, 2005, 5:44 pm
    Janet C. wrote:Hi Gary,

    I'm free next Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday evenings. .

    Janet,

    If Wednesday, 3/9, at 7:30 works for you, why don't you put something up on the events board.

    I will be bringing home-made sauce and my wife. (Not listed in order of importance. :) )

    This is going to be fun a fun evening, Peruvian hot sauce, grilled beef heart and LTHers.

    For those that have not been, yes, of course, there are things to eat aside from beef heart and hot sauce. But why would you want to? :twisted: :roll: :twisted:

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #27 - March 4th, 2005, 5:56 pm
    Post #27 - March 4th, 2005, 5:56 pm Post #27 - March 4th, 2005, 5:56 pm
    Sounds good, Gary. I'll make a post on the Events site!
  • Post #28 - March 4th, 2005, 6:17 pm
    Post #28 - March 4th, 2005, 6:17 pm Post #28 - March 4th, 2005, 6:17 pm
    The mention of Mr. Pollo reminds me of something, and it is, perhaps, one key difference as to what is happening to Janet.

    I've seen them make the sauce at Mr. Pollo. They make it in a blender. The blender is key not so much for the chopping of the jalepeno, but for making an emulsion. (Of course one can make an emulsion/mayo by hand but that's a lot of whipping). You may want to add all the ingredients to a blender EXCEPT the oil, and then as the blender is blending, add the oil in a drizzle. This may get you the texture you want, and it should not gel in the fridge either.

    As to the difference in spice. Of course jalepeno's vary in hotness (a lot), but you also used a habenero :!:

    Rob

    PS
    Is not there something herbal in the sauce too, mint maybe?
  • Post #29 - March 4th, 2005, 8:05 pm
    Post #29 - March 4th, 2005, 8:05 pm Post #29 - March 4th, 2005, 8:05 pm
    G Wiv wrote:For those that have not been, yes, of course, there are things to eat aside from beef heart and hot sauce. But why would you want to? :twisted: :roll: :twisted:


    Gary - Is that a rhetorical question? No? Well, I'm game to try the yummy beef heart. Perhaps I'll earn my LTH organ-snarfing wings and you can call me ... Captain Beefheart? :twisted: :roll: :twisted:
  • Post #30 - April 30th, 2006, 9:23 am
    Post #30 - April 30th, 2006, 9:23 am Post #30 - April 30th, 2006, 9:23 am
    More in south american explorations and comparisons:
    We went to Las Tablas Steak House last night and there were interesting differences between it and our usual Argentinian Nandu meals which I am not sure whether they are cultural, or restaurant specific.

    First the Empanada at Las Tablas (only one kind, with ground meat, rice, and potato, egg, are rolled in cornmeal (yellow) and look shaped my hand (like the inside of a fist). They are tasty but a bit drier than Nandu (which comes in puff pastry/dough and are deep fried as shown above) -- Nandu also has a variety including corn, shrimp, spinach, and ham and cheese in addition to the beef.

    The chimchurri also seemed to be a bit waterier than Nandu, or perhaps with less garlic or vinegar? Maybe just due to this being a very busy saturday night and they needed to stretch it!

    The appetizers also included cheesy corn bread, cheesy corn bread with chorizo, and cheesy corn bread with cheese.

    We got one of each :)
    The cheesy corn bread looks a bit like a sope. A white cornmeal griddle fried disc. Inside there was a dry white cheese. This was sort of dry on its own, very delicate cheese flavor.

    The cheese corn bread with cheese, was covered with cheese and tomatoes and onions. This was (bland) white gooey cheese -- and the salsa and cheese made this almost like nachos. All the delicate taste of the arepas were lost in the toppings, but it did have more flavor that way and that plate was left clean.

    The chorizo con arepa was lovely, moist on the inside and charred on the outside and nicely spiced (not too hot) with some herbs that brought out the sweetness of the meat. This was chorizo in the portugeuse tradition (a meat sausage almost like a bratwurst) and not the mexican breakfast meat with paprika/red pepper. Very nicely paired with the corn cake. I thought this was a fine sausage, and the highlight of the meal!

    For entries, I ordered the Churrasco medium rare (NY strip with chimchurri and fried plantains). The fried plantains were key (I am not a big fan of potato or yuca). So the steak I ordered did come with the plantains and a yuca piece, but the rest of my sides never arrived, so I could not cross reference what they thought they served me. Looked a bit more like a ribeye to me than a strip. was cut thin (maybe half an inch) and grilled with the marinade (so no real sear on the steak, but a nice sauce left on the grill). Perfectly fine, and a large serving of the steak. I think everyone that got the steak was satisfied.

    We usually get the shortribs and sweetmeats at Nandu, so there's really not a direct comparison here. Depends what kinds of cheap meat you prefer to have marinated, salted and chargrilled :)

    The other main entree we got was char-grilled pulpitos, which came out too heavy on the char. They were burnt, rubbery and with no flavor other than the char. A dissappointment since I love the flavor of Iberico's octopus and was really hoping for a moist garlicy plate of baby octopi. Another friend had a better batch which he claimed were moister and less burnt (after he finished his own and reached over to see why there were some left on our plates. He took a taste and found out why).

    The vegetarian paella was a creative inclusion on a south american steak house menu that was well received by the non-meat eater in the crowd.

    Saturday was clearly a rough night for the staff -- very busy, and the quality was inconsistent. The BYOB at Las Tablas may contribute to its popularity. Almost every person brought their own bottle of wine (and in a nice gesture we saw a party on their way out donate an undrunk bottle to an empty-handed couple who were waiting in line for a table.) The closest liquor store is Jewel on Ashland, so plan ahead.

    Las Tablas
    2965 N. Lincoln Ave

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