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