Besides having an adorable name, there are plenty of other reasons to visit Empanada Llama in Mandarin. Located in the Carrabba's strip mall off of San Jose, Empanada Llama occupies a small space with about 5-6 tables and bar seating against the wall. When you first walk in you are hit with how charming the interior is. There walls are adorned with needlepoint art and a funky, geometric paint job by the door. Once you enter, you walk up to the counter to place your order. The menu focuses mainly on empanadas but quite a few different side items are offered like fries, sweet potato fries, and fried yuca. All of the menu items are priced individually, but there are 3 different combo options available if you want to mix and match.
On my first visit, and friend and I split Combo #2, which is 6 empanadas and 3 sides for $34. We realized (after the fact) that this combo is probably for 3 people but we really wanted to try everything. Go ahead and judge us, we regret nothing. We ordered every empanada except the Bacon and Eggs, which was sold out. Once we received the food, we were very impressed by the presentation. The empanadas are served on a wooden board and wrapped in specialty paper meant to look like a newspaper. The sides are served in little metal baskets shaped like fryer baskets and come with metal ramekins of dipping sauces (if ordered).
While every empanada we tried was fabulous, we were partial to the Original Beef and the Aji de Gallina (shredded chicken breast). Another stand out was the Lomo Saltado, which is steak bites sauteed with red onions, tomatoes, and authentic Peruvian spices. We loved how the steak was finely chopped so there was no awkward "trying to pull the steak apart with your teeth" kind of thing going on.
We enjoyed the side items almost as much as the empanadas. Our favorites were the Sweet Potato Fries and the Fried Yuca. We enjoyed them so much that my friend went back up and ordered a few more sauces to dip them in. My personal favorite was the Fried Yuca. The fries were crispy but also soft on the inside with a very delightful taste. If you are a yuca fan, these are a "must try".
My friend and I recently went back for a second visit and were just as blown away as the first time. We each ordered appropriately and got the Combo #1, which has 2 empanadas, one side, and a drink. This seems to be the way to go because one we were finished, we didn't immediately regret not wearing our stretchy pants. This combo was just the right amount of food.
Verdict: Loved it!
For all the empanada lovers out there, this is definitely the place for you! With many different empanada options and side items, there is something for everyone on the menu. We tried quite a few different menu items and did not have one single complaint. Each empanada was unique and different from the others while still maintaining a high level of quality.