For years Mario's on Melrose in West Hollywood was THE place to go for outstanding Peruvian food. Recently though, it's been more of a hassle to find parking and stand outside in the cold for the long wait in this small joint at a strip mall that has seen adjacent businesses come and go. A Groupon deal changed all that. Lola's Peruvian Restaurant on Brand St. in Glendale is my new destination for lomo saltado, shrimp saltado and ceviche. In contrast to the no-frills charm of Mario's, Lola's is a quieter, more upscale version with the look and feel of a tapas bar. A basket of freshly baked bread and green aji amarillo dip started us off on a high note. This was followed by ceviche served in individual spoons, the better to savor its tangy, spicy mix of seafood, cilantro, lime and habanero chili. As we do when we try new restaurants, my friend and I ordered the signature dishes: shrimp saltado and lomo (steak) saltado. The first bite set the tone for the entire meal. Drenched in the traditional Peruvian marinade of soy sauce, cumin and chilis, the shrimp and steak - mixed with the requisite french fries, tomatoes and onions - were sublime. And unlike Mario's versions, whose meat-to-fries ratio has gotten disappointingly small, Lola's dishes had enough meat to last through another serving (actually lunch the next day). The rice was equally delectable. The service during our first visit was excellent, but on 2 subsequent trips, one being lunch, the service was just OK. Still, it was better than the cold, assembly-line type of service one sometimes gets at Mario's. While it might never boast of the down-home, hole-in-the-wall appeal of Mario's, Lola's is a good contender for best Peruvian food in LA County.
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