5.06.2006

Restaurant Review #132: Empanada's Place, Culver City



The first time I ever had empanadas was in a Spanish class I took in my freshman year of college. On the last day of class, my Argentinean professor was going to bring us empanadas. She gave us three choices: chicken, beef, or membrillo. Most people ordered one or two; I ordered all three. My classmates seemed to think this was quite funny--to this day, I have no idea why. Little did they (or I) know back then that my obsession with trying new foods would only get stronger with time. It's one of those moments that I look back on now and can see clearly that being a food critic is what I was meant to do.

Empanada's Place is bright and airy, with white walls, white lace tablecloths, large windows, high ceilings, fresh flowers on the tables, and large potted trees. Framed photographs and posters celebrate Argentinean tango, and a large display of yellow and red bags of yerba mate (a smoky flavored caffeinated tea native to and popular in much of South America) entertain the eyes while you wait for your food. At around 1:30 on a sunny Saturday afternoon, most of the ten or so tables are empty. The restaurant feels homey and serene, making me wish that I had brought a book with me and hadn't ordered my food to go.

Once your empanadas arrive, you won't need any other entertainment. The bubbly-skinned dough is crisp on the outside, soft and thick on the inside, melding with the ingredients of your choice: cheese and onion, ricotta and mushrooms, ground beef, egg and raisin. For once, the vegetarian side of the menu is as long as the meat-eater side.


Cheese and onion and criolla empanadas

I enjoyed all three of my choices. The onions in the cheese and onion empanada are soft enough to be unoffensive. The criolla filling reminded me of chili--ground beef in a greasy red sauce--but sweeter. The raisins were was a mystery, though: I only counted one in the entire empanada. The ricotta and mushroom was probably my favorite, but I'll probably try all new flavors next time. If you pay attention, you'll notice that the edges of each empanada look different--probably so the restaurant staff can tell them apart. It's a nice detail that lends a handmade touch to the food.


Ricotta and mushroom empanada, far right

Empanadas are only $2.75 each, so you can try as many as you want without breaking the bank. And they even have a parking lot! The lot is off of Sawtelle, and looks like apartment parking, but it really is for the nearby businesses.

If you've been to Empanada's Place, how was your experience? Leave a comment!

Empanada's Place
3811 Sawtelle Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90066
310-391-0888
Map
Empanada's Place Menu

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review. It was a good introduction of empanadas to a stranger like me. For a long time I’ve been curious about the place I often pass by. You provided enough reasons to visit this place.

moonchilde said...

I used to go to Empanada's Place a lot when I first moved to the area, and I should start again. Yummy and filling. They have the best flan! I've also taken orders of the mini empanadas to work for parties and they've gotten rave reviews.

joanh said...

I finally went there for the first time a few months ago after driving by it for years. I liked the potato and cheese and 2 of the beef ones (I forgot what they were called).. they are definitely bigger than I thought they would be, but a good size for the prices. They are very friendly and you're right, it almost does feel like you are in someone's living room. Mmmmmmmm... I want to eat some right now!

Anonymous said...

I left los Angeles years ago and am still dreaming about it. I'm in the middle of opening a restaurant and empanadas are on th menu, if that's eny indication of how Empanada Place has affected me. I love it, if only wine was on the menu.

Diane said...

These look absolutely amazing! It's so hard to find good empanadas, especially ones with ground beef and raisins--those are my fave!