By Joy Hui Lin
Carlitos Gardel Restaurant
7963 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
If there's one word that's sacrosanct in Argentina it's steak. Carlitos Gardel Restaurant at The Grove on Melrose will fulfill your every carnivorous longing at the family-run Argentine steakhouse. Although you won't find any gauchos per se among the chic set, the intimate dining room is as old world as they come. Named after the suave "voice of Tango," Carlitos Gardel, the long-established restaurant successfully creates echoes of old Buenos Aires even in the midst of Hollywood.
While you're there divvy up a huge rib-eye with friends accompanied by papas fritas Provenzal, crisp fries tossed in a fragrant mix of parsley and garlic. Prepare to pay quite a bit for some accompanying Malbecs off the wine menu and definitely save room for the house-made Postre Gardel, an over-the-top dessert layered with European-style genoise cake, peaches, dulce de leche and meringue. Just like its namesake, the Carlitos Gardel Restaurant is a classic that never goes out of style.
Nkechi African Cafe
2717 W Manchester Blvd.
Inglewood, CA 90305
It's a real hat tip to Los Angeles' diversity that not only one, but several Nigerian dining options exist in this fair city. Serving as a home away from home for Nigerian-Americans and other West Africans, Nkechi African Cafe's menu centers around favorite Nigerian comfort food dishes. As soon as you enter, you'll immediately feel like you're part of a large extended Nigerian family who happens to be cooking for you. Sit back and relax as the soft 80's African pop plays overhead and blend of spicy and homey scents of the West African kitchen waft throughout the restaurant. Highlights of the menu include isi-ewu, a spicy goat casserole -- this comes with offal, so don't be surprised to see a bit of stomach floating around in the stew.
Another local favorite is the traditionally made egusi, which is made out of ground melon seeds and eaten with the staple accompaniment fufu -- pounded cassava. For those with less adventurous stomachs, try the jollof rice, and the pepper soup. Be sure to top the meal off with some Nigerian Palm wine; its light citrusy notes will help you cool off from all of the spicy stews.
1422 Westwood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90024
While "Tehrangeles" means that there's a surfeit of Persian restaurants around Los Angeles, make sure you head to Shaherzad. Though almost indistinguishable on the outside from the other offerings in Westwood, Shaherzad delivers on consistent succulent grilled meats and traditional Persian stews. The atmosphere is standard fare; here the authentically prepared cuisine is the primary draw. Out back in the kitchen there's a traditional Tanour, a circular clay oven used to make fresh flat bread. To order up a traditional Persian feast start with kashk bademjan, a creamy tangy eggplant appetizer redolent with garlic, followed by some tahdig, chewy crispy rice cakes topped with khoresht fesenjan that have spawned battles in Persian family dining rooms for centuries. Khoresht fesenjan is a dish of chicken tenderly stewed in savory sour stew that combines the rich nuttiness of ground walnuts with the addictive tang of pomegranate paste. The marinated grill dishes are uniformly tasty. Try the flavorful rack of lamb and one of the house specialty rice dishes. The albaloo polo again offers a mixture of sweet, sour, and savory with tart cherries and onions mixed in with the fragrant rice. Finish the evening with some sumptuous saffron ice cream with faloodeh, Persian rose water ice -- sort of like a Persian granita.
2530 Overland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90064
You can't leave Aroma Cafe, a little known mom and pop Bosnian cafe off Overland, without trying the cevapi, the national dish of Bosnia-Herzegovina: minced beef kebabs wrapped in pita bred and with a smear of pepper paste. The flavors and Aroma's outdoor patio area wouldn't be out of place in any quaint European city. Wash it down with some kefir, yoghurt drink, or a cold beer. Order some perfectly salty and crispy feta burek, a feta-filled phyllo dough pastry, which is a great as accompaniment for lunch, or a snack to go. Finish the meal with a Turkish coffee so strong it will put hair on your chest and you'll be ready to get back out there into LA traffic. Customers can also find an assortment of European groceries and Bosnian chocolates.