An Empanada to Beat

2010.Feb.17 Wednesday · 4 comments

in Restaurants

“Ambivalence dominates the Argentines’ self-identity. Depending on the political climate of the times and the dominant ideological orientations, residents of this country oscillate between an identity stressing commonalities with other Latin-American nations; a shared history of four centuries of Spanish rule; and an identity highlighting the uniqueness of this nation, an alleged Europeanized cosmopolitan national culture. Some regional cultural traditions are quite distinct. In the northwest the influence of Pre-Columbian Andean indigenous traditions is very strong while in the northeast (mainly in Corrientes and south of Misiones province) the Guaraní indigenous influence is apparent in speech styles, music, food, local customs, and beliefs.”

– from Culture of Argentina, by Carmen Alicia Ferradás

Following my walk along Pueyrredón, detailed in my last post, I was, not suprisingly, hungry. Nothing along my walk had grabbed my attention, and while I was close to one of my favorite little casual Argentine places, La Perlita, I wanted to try something new. A few blocks of wandering about at random and I encountered Ñande Lája, Tucumán 2202, a place advertising “our customs” cuisine, which turns out to be the restaurant’s name in the Guaranín language. (The internet is a wonderful thing for searching out such information, no?)

Nande Laja

It’s a typical, casual, corner café looking sort of place, with reasonably friendly and relatively inattentive waitstaff. I decided on a couple of local classics, some empanadas, which, of course, I ordered the carne picante, expecting little more than a few red pepper flakes or green onion bits; and, a milanesa a caballo, a weiner schnitzel with a fried egg on top.

Nande Laja - empanadas

I was more than pleasantly surprised to find that the empanada was more than just that – in particular the spice, it had actual chopped fresh chilies in it! In fact, though I wasn’t overly enamored of the crust, which was a little saltine-ish, the filling may be the best carne picante I’ve had to date in BA.

Nande Laja - milanesa a caballo

The main course fared less well. A slice of steak pounded hair-thin and therefore way overcooked and at least slightly tough. The fried eggs atop, two of them, also overcooked, and the guarnición of mashed potato that ought to normally be a simple dollop on the side, a bowl that must have contained two full potatoes, and nearly refrigerator cold, except around the edges, like someone had just take a bowl out of the fridge and tossed it in the oven for a few minutes.

It’s a cute place, cheap (2 empanadas, the milanesa with potatoes, and two waters just over 30 pesos) I’d go back for a couple of those empanadas again, but something different for the main course.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Paz February 17, 2010 at 10:07

I’d love a bite or two or more of the empanada. 😉

BTW, I made the chocolate cupcakes from the link you’d provided (I used a different frosting, though.) . Following you, I doubled the cayenne pepper. heh heh heh! Loved it! 😉

Thanks for the link.

Paz

Scott February 28, 2010 at 16:28

I live right down the street, this was a favorite spot for beers but not much else. Everything is over cooked and over priced and the management could afford to smile every now and then. Not a pleasant experience.

dan February 28, 2010 at 18:25

The only staff person I dealt with was my waitress who, while in typical fashion wasn’t around much, was friendly when present. There was another woman behind the counter who seemed to be happy, she wasn’t frowning or anything. Given that I’ve only tried the empanada and the milanesa, I can’t judge the rest of the food, but the empanada filling was great. So, perhaps a couple of those and a beer and you’re all set!

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