The first time I read a fellow food blogger’s post on Fiesta del Asado, I knew I had to go. With steak and meat at the centre of the menu, it was obvious it was a restaurant practically made for the Mannings, I just can’t believe it took me so long to get there. The fact it’s in Birmingham, yet not quite in the middle of the city centre, makes it slightly more difficult for us out-of-towners, but hey, it’s worth it for good food!
Owned by Lasan Group (yes of well-known Indian restaurant Lasan fame), it bills itself as Birmingham’s first Argentine restaurant. Thanks to its website, I discovered that Asado is a Spanish term for a range of barbecue techniques, as well as a social event where the food is lowered on grills over applewood embers, giving it a distinct smoked taste. In the site’s words: “Asado dishes are typically no-nonsense, rustic and honest, yet colourful and fiery”. I think this a pretty good sum-up, not only of Fiesta Del Asado, but the food it serves.
After a friendly greeting we were whisked to our table where we could take in the rustic and charming decor. There’s a healthy hustle and bustle and the open kitchen means you can have a peek at your meat being grilled if you like, while the division of the restaurant into different areas and the addition of candles on the tables combines the busy, social feel with a nice intimate vibe.
Thanks to a careful perusal of the website, I was already salivating at the thought of what was to come.The impressive menu starts with appetisers like padron peppers and olives, moving on to starters that feature traditional spicy sausages and empanadas. For main course you can take your pick from dishes like slow-roasted fore-rib of pork and cubed brisket braised for 12 hours in a Malbec and salchichon sauce, and that’s before you’ve even started on the dishes “from the Parilla” (the grill). There’s beef, lamb, chicken and fish, then a whole section dubbed “Asador’s Taste of the Old Country”, with cuts of meat I’ve never seen and apparently aimed at helping you eat like the traditional Argentine “gauchos” (Cowboys ate). But more about this later….For all you non-meat lovers, fear not, there’s a fair bit of fish on the menu, including cod loin and tiger prawns, and I think I spotted one straight vegetarian dish too.
So, without further ado, which of these fabulous foodie temptations did we try? Despite pondering on the menu over a nice bottle of Argentinian Malbec and some marinated olives which packed a nice spicy punch, we struggled to decide. And this, my friends, is where the service comes in. Our waitress was the textbook example of great service, going through the menu with us, finding out what we like, what we fancied, and what would be the best choice for us.
Thanks to her advice, we settled on starters of a traditionally-smoked black sausage flavoured with paprika and sweet caramelised onion (think Argentine black pudding) and pan-fried chicken livers with green grapes and almonds on a sherry sauce. The liver was beautiful, light and perfectly cooked, which for me means still pink (and yes they did tell us it would come like this, always handy for those who don’t expect it), in a subtle but distinctly-flavoured creamy sauce. The smokey sausage was unlike anything I’ve ever had, and fitted in well with my plans to try as many traditional things as possible, but in my humble opinion something that rich could have done with being a bit smaller. I found myself struggling to deal with such a rich, smokey starter, and the taste slightly overshadowed everything else that was to come.
For main course, I was determined to hit the taste of the old country. Our choices were pretty much tailored to our own personal taste thanks to advice from our ever-helpful waitress. Admitting my love of “fat” and rare meat, I went for Aguja sin hueso, a 14oz chuck eye steak, cut from the forequarter apparently. The meat was tender and came beautifully medium-rare (apparently a better way to have it than rare), with a nice hint of smoky spice from the house dry rub. It came with a nicely-roasted carrot that had a hint of aniseed, as well as braised onions, and deliciously fresh chimichurri.
Mr M decided on Bife de Angosto, a 16oz single muscle cut from the loin. He took the waitress’s advice to have it slightly more cooked than he usually would, and it came wonderfully pink, full of flavour, and so tender it cut like butter. As ever, the quality of meat is vital when it’s cooked this simply, and Fiesta Del Asado didn’t let us down. I’m not sure whether the rub does anything to the texture, but it certainly does a lot for the taste, not just bringing its own flavour but accentuating that of the beef.
Obviously, we felt it would be rude not to try the Malbec pouring sauce, as well as a side of fries with parsley and garlic. To be honest we probably didn’t need either, but they were as fab as you’d imagine, the sauce piquant yet silky smooth and the fries crispy with chunks of fresh garlic.
As full as we were, we couldn’t help but tempted by the dessert menu, especially with an enthusiastic rundown from the waitress. Chocolate-fan Mr Manning went for a chocolate fondant with vanilla ice-cream and walnut brittle, while I opted for orange pancakes with dulce de leche and vanilla ice-cream.
The chocolate fondant was exactly how they should be – light chocolate sponge on the outside, leaking a lava-flow rof rich molten chocolate sauce when you cut into it. My pancakes were, quite frankly, super. Light and sweet, with marmalade-like orange sauce inside and segments of fresh orange outside. The dulce de leche ice cream was perfect perfect perfect, not a hint of ice crystals, just rich, smooth, creamy heaven.
We finished off with some espressos, before rolling out of Fiesta Del Asado at least half a stone heavier than when we’d arrived, but very, very happy. It lives up to everything it promises, a unique offering of food that is no-nonsense yet delicious. The flavours are great, with dishes you don’t find on most menus you see, and service and an atmosphere that makes for a great evening out. One member of staff apologised for the noise, but I’m of the opinion that a nice hubbub means a restaurant is doing exactly what it should be – giving people a good, relaxed setting where they can unwind and indulge in a great meal, and a great evening of socialising. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not so loud that it’s antisocial, it’s just the healthy sound of people having a great time.
When it comes to the staff, I can’t praise them enough, and it wasn’t just us who were treated well, this nosey parker observed every table near us enjoying interacting with their waiting staff, learning about the dishes on offer and getting help with what to choose.
It might be a bit of a wander out of Birmingham City centre, but with great bars a short distance away in Edgbaston, it’s easy to build an evening around a Fiesta Del Asado, and well worth it.
Great food. Powerful flavours. Impeccable service. And a fun-filled atmosphere. You know how I feel about eating out – this is what it’s all about. And Fiesta Del Asado has got it just right.
I, for one, can’t wait to go back.
(A proportion of our bill was contributed to by Fiesta Del Asado, with no obligation on me to write anything other than my usual honest views and opinions, which of course these are)