herald

Friday 31 October 2014

Please, guys, don't mess with my barbecue steaks

Fire is the basis of our civilisation -- without a fire to sit around humans would never have evolved language, culture or a sense of ourselves.

Cooking over fire is the most ancient form of cooking and I believe it is for this reason that everyone loves barbecue food as it speaks to something deep in our psyche.

Even vegetarians like Denis Cotter, in Cafe Paradiso in Cork, wax lyrical about their grills, but it is us meat lovers that have it best as the flavour given to meat cooked over fire and smoke is incomparable.

So when I first read about Asador I was genuinely excited -- could this be Dublin's first gourmet barbecue restaurant?

Asador is the Spanish word for grill and Asador's grill takes up half the kitchen.

Myself and Citizen Foodie visited on a Wednesday evening recently, himself sacrificing a crucial Champions League match purely for the sake of finding fine fire-cooked food.

Smoky

We began with Orpens cider, a new Irish craft cider which both of us found rather sweet and uninspiring but we fared better with our bottle of Duque de Viseu from Dao in Portugal. The meal started well with excellent chicken wings in a smoky-sweet barbecue sauce and some tender and juicy sauteed prawns pil pil.

Perhaps the prawns could have done with a little more chilli, but nevertheless this was a good beginning.

Sticky spare ribs were indeed sticky and nicely smoky with the meat falling off the bone and our chips and sides were all excellent with a particularly good smoked Bearnaise sauce.

So far so good, but next came the acid test -- how does Asador barbecue its steaks? -- and here they fell down. The steak was tender and tasty enough but it was significantly over-cooked and not even close to "rare" as we had requested. In retrospect we should have sent it back but we were hungry so continued.

Juicy

At the end of the meal the manager explained that his chefs insisted on cooking all meat, vacuum packed, in a low temperature sous-vide water bath before finishing on the grill. This idea is utterly nonsensical and needs to be stopped right away if Asador wants to be taken seriously.

Yes, the steak's connective tissues had melted thanks to the water bath, but if we wanted tenderness over flavour we would have ordered bland fillet steak. It is perfectly possible to cook rump steak rare on a grill and have it tender -- ask any home cook.

A solution might be to serve the sous-vide steaks to those people that want their meat over-cooked, and give the rest of us a proper grilled steak -- caramelised on the outside and juicy within (a true Maillard-reaction to use the technical term).

Despite the setback of the steak, we mostly enjoyed our meal, but I will not be back unless management stands up to the chefs and show them their website where it states that Asador is "Where Food Meets Fire" not "Where Food Meets Water".

I strongly recommend the Ancient Irish December Feasting @ Seven Social, Benburb St, on December 2, 9 & 16. Ten courses, 10 drinks for €115 (€95 if you book today). Pre-booking essential: Tel:01 672-9080

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