Amidst an increasingly challenging trading environment, Asador on Haddington Road, Dublin 4, has maintained a focus that keeps it distinct in Dublin’s saturated dining scene. Opened in 2012, the name refers to the 1.2 tonne asador, or grill, which forms the beating heart of the open kitchen.
VAT and insurance are, of course, on the mind of proprietor Shane Mitchell. “It [the recent VAT increase] has definitely affected consumer spend and frequency of dining out in our view. The VAT hike had to be passed on to consumers so ultimately it is the customer that can get hurt in the pocket. We tried our best to absorb as much of it as possible, however, it is very difficult when margins are already extremely tight on quality produce,” he said.
He describes his insurance bill as ‘extremely high’, although this is partly down to some big claims in the past. The recent Christmas period wasn’t overly kind to Asador – while closed for the Christmas break, a water pipe burst. “The entire restaurant filled like a swimming pool and all floors were destroyed,” said Shane. “So, I guess our insurers may say the policy cost is value for money!”
Asador works with specialist, high end suppliers, even going as far as to import some of its Galician Beef and Iberico hams directly from Spain. Other suppliers include “Niall Sabongi of Sustainable Seafood Ireland, McLoughlins Butchers, La Rousse foods, [and] Dorans on the pier,” said Shane.
In the kitchen, head chef Florin Vasilache recently developed a Sunday roast dinner complete with all the trimmings. “The Sunday roast is everything that a Sunday roast should be,” said Florin. “We are not reinventing the wheel we just put more energy, love, and passion into each element that goes on the plate.”
The Sunday roast includes duck fat potatoes with rosemary and garlic, smoked roasted bone marrow, dry aged beef dripping Yorkshire puddings, and a 30 day dry aged rump heart. A lot of time and attention went into developing the individual components of the dish, as Florin explained: “It is a dish driven by flavour and that is why rump heart was our choice of beef, because it gives you the intense flavour that rump has, but with the true aging and slow roasting technique it becomes as tender as a fillet.”
The kitchen team prepares the rump over a two day period. Initially, the meat is marinated overnight with garlic, thyme, rosemary and olive oil. On Sunday morning, the rump is slow roasted for six hours at 55 degrees. “The last half an hour we add smoke using mesquite wood chips,” said Florin. “Before serving we sear each rump heart on the asador over oak fire.” The meat is then thinly sliced to order.
That level of care and attention to detail is evidenced throughout Asador’s menu. The whiskey flamed Chateaubriand is another standout dish, influenced by classic tableside flaming techniques. “Ours is an homage to those times in a new contemporary casual style,” said Florin, “And it makes sense to pair these two elements of beef and whiskey in Ireland, doesn’t it?”
Every Chateaubriand is grilled to order over the oak fired asador before being finished in front of the diner. “The fires of oak impart a really delicious, yet subtle, smoky flavour to the roast beef,” said Florin. “Flaming the Chateaubriand at the table with Irish whiskey adds a bit off theatre along with subtle sweet and floral notes.”
After barbecued meats, Asador is arguably best known for its cocktails, the menu for which is curated by Head Mixologist Daniel Wieliczko. “Working with cocktails and people, is something that I really enjoy and love to do on a daily basis,” said Daniel.
In February, Daniel picked up the Best Restaurant Bartender award at the National Cocktail Championships at Catex 2019 in the RDS, for his Creamy Poem cocktail.
“The inspiration came from the Italian dessert panna cotta,” said Daniel. “It’s a delicious after dinner cocktail made with grapefruit vodka, lychee liqueur, raspberry & strawberry puree, hibiscus syrup and fresh cream on top.” The cocktail is available to diners upon request.
Elsewhere on the cocktail menu, Daniel likes to work with classic cocktails and then “Add a little bit of spice.
“The Asador Sour and Haddington Old Fashioned are the most popular cocktails at Asador and my personal favourites,” he said.