Mercado Buenos Aires
I loved this place and am surprised it hasn't been covered more on the board. Part market, part deli counter but mostly restaurant, Mercado Buenos Aires is the place to go for a lovingly crafted meat-intensive meal with exquisite desserts. Taking up the bulk of a small Van Nuys strip mall on Sepulveda, the Mercado's lack of ambiance or even passable service in some cases is made up for by the food. There are empanadas, milanesa, Spanish style egg tortillas and many other choices, but the things to get here are the parrillada.
A combination between Braziailan churrascaria and Korean BBQ, the parilladas are grilled meats piled onto a small grill that is served at the table. As a lover of innards of all stripe, my favorite was the parrillada Buenos Aires which came with sausage, blood sausage, skirt steak, short ribs, pork, sweetbreads and intestine. The skirt steak was cooked to a perfect medium rare, well spiced on the outside and tender (particularly for skirt steak) within. The short ribs were sliced kalbi-style, juicy with melted fat. The sweetbreads had good flavor but verged on tough. I'm not usually a big intestine eater (pun intended) but the intestines were nicely charred to crispy with a liver like consistency.
My favorite part of the parrillada, though, was the morcilla, South American blood sausage. Now, I'm something of a blood sausage junkie, but this morcilla was all I ask for in a blood sausage, with a firm, deep black casing giving way to smooth as edible velvet meat mixed with bits of fat. The flavor was deep and intense but quite mild. This quickly becomes one of my favorite, if not my favorite morcilla in LA.
For those who are not as interested in offal, there are other parrilladas with the steak and short rib but with chicken instead of the innards.
Keep in mind while you are attacking the grilled meat that you need to save room for the Mercado's wonderful desserts. Their flan is the perfect texture, creamy but not gelatinous or overly eggy with a nice scoop of dule de leche; it's definitely one of the best flans in town. But the dessert to die for at the Mercado is the panqueques with dulce de leche. It's really a crepe as opposed to what we would think of a pancake, bursting with dulce de leche and bruleed on top to create a textural triptych of crunchy burnt sugar, yielding to soft crepe encasing gooey dule de leche. I may go back just for those panqueques.
While judging from the weekend crowds, this place is definitely popular, I don't hear much about it from the LA food crowd, but I should. If you like meats and sweets, you need to go.
Mercado Buenos Aires
7540 Sepulveda Blvd
Van Nuys, CA 91497
I found out about Mercado Buenos Aires from this thread and decided to see what it is like now - arrived on Thursday at about 7 PM, with the place about half full. The crowd seemed to be mostly expats, and the server was brusque at first. When I asked if the beef empanada had olives and egg criolla style he seemed surprised that a non-Argentine knew anything about the cuisine and he became much more friendly.
Good bread with chimichurri sauce and chopped tomato spread arrived shortly. The beef empanada was indeed criolla style and very good, and though the entrana (skirt steak) wasn't as tender as I've had elsewhere the flavor was authentic. I got a pastry from the case (flaky pastry with cream, forgot the name) and had a tab of almost exactly $25.00. This doesn't include a beverage because I only had water. They don't serve wine or allow it to be brought in, a pity because it would add so much to the experience.
Bottom line - friendly service and good but not outstanding food, definitely worth visiting if you are in the area.