El Dorado’s Lomo Saltado is Almost As Good as Mario’s (And It’s Only $7!)
Oh Peruvian food I love you so much. You are one of my favorite things about Los Angeles, but finding a Midtown Lunch version of you has been very difficult. I got a number of good recommendations in the comments of this post, but sadly none of them really qualify. Lomo Arigato makes a decent lomo saltado, but the portion is small and sometimes you don’t want to chase after a food truck. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Mo Chica is easily the most interesting, and expertly made Peruvian food in L.A., and their food court location allows for it to be a huge bargain. But as cheap as it for what you get- you will not find a better ceviche in this city for the price- it’s not really a Midtown Lunch (everything is over $10). And their lomo saltado, as delicious as it is, is a bit fancified for me (I like the french fries sauteed in with the meat, tomatoes and onions.) For the Chinese influenced, soy sauce laced saltado, Mario’s Peruvian has always been my go-to choice. But their version of the dish is over $10 as well! And it seems as if most Peruvian places have followed suit. Inti Peruvian on Melrose, Natalie Peruvian in Thai Town, Los Balcones on Vine… all charge $10 or more for their lomo saltado.
So you can imagine how excited I was to discover a $7 (!?!) lomo saltado lunch special at El Dorado, a fast food Peruvian restaurant just north of Mario’s on Vine.
El Dorado actually specializes in wood fired bbq chicken (like Pollo ala Brasa on Western) but they also serve a menu of $10+ seafood and meat dishes just like Mario’s and Inti. What distinguishes them from the others is the daily lunch special. For $7 you can get a 1/4 chicken with rice, beans, fries or salad (choose 2), pollo or lomo saltado, or chicken chaufa (Peruvian fried rice.) But wait. There’s more! As if a $7 lomo saltado wasn’t enough, you also get soup and a drink!
The chicken soup isn’t remarkable, but completely satisfying. And the maracuya (passion fruit juice) is great. But obviously this deal was going to hinge on that plate of saltado…
Perfect! Ok, maybe not perfect. Some of the pieces of steak were pretty chewy (you get what you pay for, I guess) but other than that it was practically identical to Mario’s Peruvian in every way. The red onion, the chunks of tomato, the obviously fresh cut french fries, and that unmistakable soy sauce flavor were spot on. A squeeze of lemon and a bit of their super hot green sauce (which is also comparable to Mario’s) and you’re in business. What I’m saying is if you told me they went to Mario’s, ordered the lomo saltado, put it on a plate and served it to me, I’d probably believe you. I’m sure the chicken version is good, but be warned they use big hunks of dark meat. So if that’s not your thing you might be better off going with the steak. The portion is also way smaller than what you’d get across the street (obviously) but with the soup and rice it is plenty of food.
Seeing as how their specialty is actually wood BBQ’d chicken, we couldn’t leave without trying that. I actually haven’t managed to make it over to Pollo ala Brasa on Western yet (I know. It’s embarrassing.) but if it’s better than what you get at El Dorado I can see why people go crazy for it. Crispy and salty on the outside, surprisingly moist on the inside, the chicken had this great smokey flavor that you just don’t get from the all the Middle Eastern rotisserie chicken places. In other words, if you work in Hollywood but you’re a little tired of Zankou, Al Wazir, and RoRo’s Kitchen, Peruvian rotisserie chicken couldn’t definitely be your new jam. The rice and beans were fine, but next time I’ll probably go rice and fries. (The french fries are way better soaked in saltado juices, but were still pretty good plain.)
We decided to cover all the bases and try the chicken chaufa, or Peruvian fried rice. I’m not much of a chaufa expert- mainly because I would never choose it over saltado- but if you like Chinese food fried rice you’ll probably like this. It’s definitely a better version than your local strip mall Chinese food spot.
So… is El Dorado better than Mario’s or Pollo ala Brasa? It’s tough to say. Finding such a cheap gem out of nowhere always increases how much you enjoy it. And I have no doubt that die hard fans of Mario’s (or any of the other places above) would be able to pick this place apart in defense of their favorite Peruvian spot. But I will say this… if you love lomo saltado, and wish you could find a decent version for less than $10 you will love this place. AND YOU GET A SOUP AND A DRINK! It’s kind of insane. Now if only they did a saltado de mariscos lunch special, I’d probably never need to go to Mario’s for lunch again…
- I can’t believe I finally found an under $10 version of lomo saltado at an actual restaurant (not a food truck or farmer’s market)
- I love the way they make saltado at Mario’s, and this version is practically identical for almost half the price.
- Their green aji is almost as good as Mario’s
- I’m happy to pay less during lunch for a smaller portion
- Fresh cut french fries FTW!
- Oooh that smokey BBQ’d chicken is good
- I love passion fruit juice. I can’t believe that plus soup is included in the $7 lunch special
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- Screw saltado. When I go for Peruvian food, I like the seafood stuff… and with that you get what you pay for. I’d rather pay more $$$ and just eat at Mo Chica
- The steak at El Dorado is too chewy
- The chicken at Pollo ala Brasa is better
El Dorado, 730 Vine St (just north of Melrose), 323-962-5065