Best of 2003: Best Argentine Empanadas

Tango Grille Argentine Steakhouse

635 Broadway (at J), Chula Vista

619-420-0384

Argentina's best-known contribution to world cuisine is probably its empanada, a savory turnover (like a "Hot Pocket") -- very handy for a gaucho to tuck into his pack when he's out on the lonesome pampas all day. At Tango, the empanadas are spectacular -- fried, rather than baked, they're made with light, fragile pastry wrappings, nearly as flaky as filo dough. These three-bite-sized fried treats arrive in pairs, with a choice of four alluring stuffings that you can mix and match. The beef filling is juicy and scented with cumin. The chicken is slightly tangy and bafflingly complex. An intriguing tuna filling benefits from the tartness of chopped pickled red bell pepper, and a spinach empanada holds only young, tender greens.

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