You might think an Argentine restaurant would be out of place in Birmingham. Tammy Facey has been to check it out and is rather smitten.
In the middle of the Hagley Road, Edgbaston, a new restaurant is paving the way for better eating, but, more importantly, a better dining experience. Forget the 8oz to 20oz and ‘hung’ steaks from restaurants that claim ‘the best fillet’ in town, Birmingham’s first Argentine restaurant Fiesta del Asado is the new kid on the block and, damn, do they serve good meat?
Carnivores sharpen your teeth because Fiesta del Asado is putting beef back on the menu. Whilst rib-eye steak fillets are as popular as ever, there are much tastier parts of a cow that are devoured in Argentina and cooked on a grill. Questionable method I hear you grumble, but the chef director Aktar Islam is a learned man.
As Chef Director of both Fiesta and Lasan (the Indian restaurant in the Jewellery quarter) – as well as winner of the Great British Menu 2011 and Fword 2010 – Aktar knows his stuff.
Lasan itself has won a number of prestigious awards including the British Curry Awards 2007, 2008, 2009 and Top Ten of Indian Restaurants UK. The Lasan Group are known on the Birmingham scene as purveyors of high quality cuisine, they deliver exceptional customer service, but mostly they embody all the required ingredients to produce an outstanding restaurant that is lucky to boast a list of loyal customers.
There was never any doubt that Fiesta del Asado would be any different in terms of service and quality of food, yet Argentine cuisine is a Birmingham first. Aktar has visited Argentina’s kitchens and sampled what ‘proper’ cuts of beef are like, so I was in safe hands.
You can imagine my excitement when I got the chance to dine at Fiesta del Asado – the bright and airy space with Latin accents; traditional decorative pieces on a pale wooden dresser and a large rack of meats next to the open kitchen were among my favourites. Wooden flooring and the cool air-conditioned space makes it feel like you’re in an authentic taverna in a Spanish town.
The chefs are well-versed in the art of cooking, but eating at Fiesta del Asado is not just a joy because the food is delicious, it’s an education. The staff know exactly where the meat has come from, how it’s been cooked and how it should be eaten. It’s also refreshing to speak with a member of staff who shares as much passion about good food as you do. With each course our waiter detailed where the meat had been reared, why it had been cooked in such a way and which accompanying side dishes work best. Impressive.
So what did we have? I like to think I’m quite adventurous when I dine, but in reality I like what I like and I’d rather eat what I know rather than waste money because I ventured off the beaten track. Aktar, however, knew I was coming. Throwing caution to the wind he whipped up an array of dishes that I never would have ordered and has truly educated my palette.
We started with three varieties of Empanadas (provolone cheese and spinach, chicken and sweetcorn, and beef and spinach), Morcilla curada (traditionally smoked black pudding sausage) and Chistorra Artysan (spiral sausage with accompanying salad). The spiral sausage was delicious, the empanadas are like lighter pasties with more exciting fillings than what you might be used to. The black pudding was a first for me but the way Aktar cooked the sausage blew me out the water. You can taste the quality in every bite. It melts in your mouth, makes your heart beat and your tastebuds sing. The sweet and ever so slightly salted tender meat was a beautiful contrast to the outer crispy skin. It was a mind opening experience. I am a convert.
For our mains, Aktar really excelled himself. We were served a selection of the finest Fiesta del Asado dishes: Estofado de ternera (12 hour braised beef), Lubina a la parrilla (grilled, meaty seabass), Papas cocidas ala trufa (new potatoes cooked in truffle cream), and the heavyweight Asado de tira (16oz 4 bone of beef ribs). Each main was delicious, the Asado de tira was cooked a little raw for me, but my date loved it. The Estofado de tenera was my favourite. The meat fell apart; tender is an understatement, it literally melted in the mouth. As for sides we both devoured the truffle cream new potatoes, which were moreish, and more like creamy balls of starchy heaven.
I’ve never tried any Argentine desserts, but I have heard of Churros. I have tried (and failed), to make these many times during my time as a student (I think my oil was either too hot or the churros too fat), but these onion-ring shaped, cinnamon sugared hot takes on a South American donut were divine. They’re served in a traditional way with a small bowl of rich, spiced chili hot chocolate, a small bowl of dulce de leche, and a perfect cone of swirled
cream. Dip the churros in all three ‘dips’ and it’s a marriage made in heaven (but in reality by the competent hands of the chefs). They give you a healthy portion too, so if you can’t finish them ask for a doggy bag like we did.
If you’re only in the mood for a snack I suggest the Empanadas, at £3.99 they’re a bargain, and if you opt for all three they’re yummy lunch time fillers. If money is no option then go all out and try a variety of dishes. The seabass at £16.99 is filling and healthy and, with the truffle potatoes at £2.99, I can guarantee you’ll leave a happy customer. For dessert I can’t recommend the churros enough. You have to try them.
The average spend for two is £40 with a bottle of good wine, but unless you haven’t eaten for three days I doubt you’ll be eating more than two courses because they’re incredibly filling dishes. That said you’ll want to try everything, so here’s a bit of advice, go hungry.
See their website here for contact details.