The strip mall parking lot in Studio City is jam packed six nights a week and Lala’s Grill is one large part of the reason why. The other is the Asanebo, my favorite sushi restaurant. The two restaurants share the parking lot. (Asanebo is also recommended at atLarrys.com).
Lala’s avoids the trap into which so many other Argentinian restaurants fall – the trap of thinking Americans will want nothing but beef in an Argentinian restaurant.
The first time Jennifer and I visited Lala’s we looked over the impressive and interesting menu of appetizers. Rather than trying to pick from the list we decided to share several starters and see if we were still hungry enough to order an entree.
We ordered an empanada combo – four cocktail size assorted empanadas; we ordered grilled sweetbreads, an Argentine potato and onion quiche, and a two blood sausages. That last item caused the waitress to ask where we were from because Americans seldom order blood sausages. But Brits do and Jennifer is British and I’ve eaten blood sausages when we’ve visited the U.K.
The plate of sweetbreads was mountainous, tasty and tender. The empanadas were perfect – flakey pastry, one filled with beef and onion, one with chick and onion, one with spinach and onion, and one with cheese and onion.
On later visits we held ourselves to two shared appetizers and ventured into the entrée section of the menu. For me that meant my favorite cut of beef – grilled Angus beef skirt steak. It comes three different ways, just grilled, topped with sautéed garlic and parsley, or topped with grilled onions, garlic and parsley.
There are seven steak dishes on the regular menu and another is likely to show up on the specials board. Then there’s the Tabla de Carnes for two or three people. It’s a platter with grilled Angus skirt steak a flat iron steak and a center cut filet mignon, all with a choice of two sides.
Also on the menu are 10 salads, most of which can be ordered full or half; six pasta dishes, nine chicken offerings, seven seafood and fish dishes and an array of sandwiches. Then there’s the Plato Mixto for two people – two grilled Italian sausages, sweetbreads, New York steak, skirt steak and half a chicken.
The web site tells a story of how future Lala’s owners Horacio Weschler Ferrari and Mario Balul moved to the U.S. and both ended up in California. Ferrari brought an extensive restaurant background. Balul was a trained architect. They met in 1990 and began to conceptualize a future restaurant at which they would serve food from their native country. They opened their first restaurant, also called Lala’s, on Melrose Avenue in 1996. The success led them to seek a second location and that led them to the strip mall with the shared parking lot in Studio City.
The atmosphere at Lala’s is relaxed and convivial. Go with a group, order a variety of starters and entrees, pick some beer or wine from an extensive list, share the food with your dinner mates, laugh and have fun.