Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The World Needs More...Meat?!

Empanadas are pie too.
Note the caipirinha cocktail to the upper left.
And note the "Yes Please" card lower right. That means
you want more meat.
What do you do when you’ve been dating a vegetarian who has conditioned you to live without meat in your diet and a dear friend you haven’t seen in over a year invites you out for a Brazilian steak dinner? At a newly renovated, upscale restaurant in Los Angeles? A place with exotic caipirinha cocktails and grilled filet mignon sliced off of skewers right onto your plate?

You say YES, that’s what.

I left Iowa and came to LA several weeks ago (driving my RV and bringing along Team Terrier) to visit my parents and reconnect with old friends. Kim is one of those friends, a former boss actually, who runs her ownpublic relations agency. I had been trying to arrange a time to see her and between her busy travel schedule and the fact we were on opposite geographical ends of the vast metropolis, it was nearly impossible to make a date. Until she suggested I join her at a press dinner she was hosting at the M Grill in Koreatown—strategically located at the halfway point for us.

Now admittedly, as long as I’m in LA and not rural Iowa I jump at any chance to go out for a nice dinner—meat or no meat—because after spending the past three years wearing nothing but bib overalls and gingham aprons, I love, love, love putting on a designer dress and high heels. And after three years of Crockpot cooking and take-out pizza from either one of Eldon’s two gas stations, I appreciate to no end candlelit ambiance, crystal and china table settings, and black tie service.

But saying yes to this dinner was not some opportunistic leap at a freebie. It was special. First, it was with Kim, a smart and savvy Energizer bunny who I’ve always looked up to like a big sister and mentor. Second, it represented one of the things I value most about LA: cultural diversity. Though in this case it almost seemed more like a cultural clash. I mean, what is a Brazilian churrascaria (Portuguese for steakhouse) doing in Koreatown?

The answer, Kim told me, is that the owner of the swanky, cavernous steakhouse is Manny Kim, who was born in Korea but raised in Brazil. And yet from the look of the restaurant’s wine collection—entire walls lined floor to ceiling with bottles—he may as well have come straight from Napa Valley.

Which brings me to a downside of LA: driving. As much as I longed for a glass or three of some fine South American malbec or some rich cabernet, I had to drive home after dinner. One drink was my limit and I had already used that up on a passion fruit caipirinha. That one drink was so tangy, so icy, and so #*%$@ delicious I didn’t miss the wine. I sipped it slowly while waiting for Kim to arrive. It felt so decadent, so “Sex in the City,” to sit at the bar with my big girl drink, listening to lounge music and basking in the warm glow of romantic lighting. If Frank Lloyd Wright had designed night clubs, M Grill would have his signature all over it.
If the ex-boyfriend could see me now! Ha!
But let’s get back to the controversy—I mean, the meat. It’s served rodizio style, which means waiters (well dressed and good looking ones who are probably models in their day jobs) come around with skewers, shaving off slices of various types of sizzling meat, still hot from the grill. Lamb chops. Leg of lamb. Top sirloin. Bottom sirloin. Pork spare ribs. Smoked sausage. Parmesan beef. Rib eye. Chicken hearts. Garlic chicken. Bacon wrapped chicken. They keep bringing you meat—juicy, tender morsels of warm sustenance (and this is after you’ve already pigged out at the meat-filled salad bar) until you flip a card over that signals the waiters that you’re done, i.e.: your belly is about to explode. The green side of the card means “more please” and the red side means “STOP OR ELSE.”
This is my dear friend Kim hogging the berries and ice cream.
All that was missing was pie crust. But this dessert was
so good I didn't miss it.
Luckily I had worn a dress with a loose waistline and was able to squeeze in a few bites of the cinnamon-sprinkled grilled pineapple (sliced off the skewer tableside) and some of the coconut flan and the mixed berries over ice cream for dessert.
Grilled pineapple sprinkled with cinnamon.
Mmmm. Green side of the card up for "Yes please."
Also—and god knows I could not possibly publish a blog post without at least some mention of pie—I had made room for a few empanadas. Yes, an empanada is considered pie—anytime you have crust encasing a filling it is defined as pie. This little Portuguese fried meat-filled finger food was served as an appetizer. I had two but given my affinity for pie, I could have eaten a whole meal of just these.

After the evening’s big feast, I can say this: it was so fun to dress up and have an elegant night out. It was so great to see Kim. And really, it was good to give my body a much-needed overdue dose of iron. As for the vegetarian boyfriend, he’s out of the picture and I have already met someone new, someone perfect for me, someone who accepts me for who I am. Even if I am a carnivore.
The new meat-eating man in my life also came for dinner at the M Grill.
Talk about delicious.
M Grill is located at 3832 Wilshire Blvd #202, Los Angeles, CA 90010. PHONE:  (213) 389-2770