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Roasty toasty

Asado is the living, breathing - tequila sunrise

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Where: 2810 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.272.7770
Hours: Friday 4 p.m.-1 a.m., Saturday 4 p.m.-1 am, Sunday 4 p.m.-10 p.m., weekdays 4 p.m.-12 a.m.
Scene: Warm sun-kissed colors, open seating, ranch-like style.
Cuisine: South American flavors with heavy emphasis on beef, shrimp and spice. Finely crafted but hearty. The roasted fresh corn is a must.
Drinkies: Full bar

ANNOUNCER: There’s not a long line of tradition in the South Sound that requires diners to consider making reservations for a Thursday night dinner at 5 p.m. in Tacoma. But on a recent drop-in to Asado on Sixth Avenue Jason and his wife were turned away. The restaurant was booked until 8:30 p.m. Good things are happening in South Sound dining, and Asado is one more example. The South American restaurant serves tangy meals in a warm, inviting atmosphere. Olé!

JASON: I thought the hostess was joking. How could the place be booked on a Thursday night? Are Tacoma diners actually packing a place on a run-of-the-mill weekday night? Are we being forced to actually plan ahead now?

JOSH: I made reservations.

JASON: Oh, how nice for you. I suppose the run on Asado makes sense. Besides bringing a new culinary category to the region, the restaurant is baked in sunset colors creating a wonderful aura — especially for winter dining. The large open room with rectangular bar, open kitchen and toasty fireplace is visual reassurance that the outstanding food coming from the kitchen isn’t a figment of our imaginations.

JOSH: From my reserved table, I had a clear view of the bar, which by 5:30 p.m. on a Friday was standing room only. I haven’t been able to figure out how they did this, but even with the open seating arrangement I never felt as if my space was invaded. It was comfortable and casual, often sparking conversations between different tables. The service we received was great, polite and on the spot whenever we needed something.

JASON: The front wall of the restaurant is actually a garage door for summer outdoor dining. The bar is a great aspect of this place — one more conversation-friendly place to hang out on the Avenue. If things keep progressing, pretty soon people from Seattle will drive to Sixth Avenue for a hip night.

JOSH: Ah, but on to the food. Asado has a small but complete list of menu items for nearly every palate. Asado lists six skewers on its bar menu. The marinated skirt steak skewers are full of juicy flavor, lean, and the perfect size for a starter.

JASON: I started with the Serrano Prawns served over mixed greens, salsa and cumin honey sauce. Talk about good things coming in little packages — the two prawns were interlaced, firm, sweet and shining with good chi. Touched with a little Latin tang, the petite starter gets the digestive juices primed and ready. On the salad front, I sampled both the Endivas Y Paltas — a marriage of endive, avocado, hearts of palm, green onions and lobster with champagne vinaigrette — and the Ensalada Hierbras — a mix of arugula, cilantro, watercress, mint, walnuts, jicama, shaved manchego cheese and a passion fruit vinaigrette. The winner was the passion fruit dressing.

JOSH: Having already had the taste of steak running through my brain, I couldn’t resist ordering the Ojo De Bife special, an all-natural Angus rib eye steak. The steak was served with purple (yes, purple) garlic mashed potatoes that added festivity to the presentation. The steak was flavored with traditional Southwest flair, but not too much to draw away from the natural flavor of the steak itself.

JASON: I couldn’t resist the Lomillo, a hanger steak taken from the part of the diaphragm that hangs between the last rib and the loin. Butchers often ground this section into hamburger, but the grainy texture of the cut is well loved in France, especially if marinated first. The chef at Asado knows his hanger steak — the dish was rich and moist. It did have a rougher texture, but ordered medium-rare, I thought what you give up in smooth slicing you gain in intense meaty flavor. My favorite dish thus far, however, was Asado’s Puerco Relleno special — a pork chop stuffed with chorizo, Swiss chard, golden raisins, almonds and a Madeira reduction. The succulent pork chop is amazing meat on its own, but coupled with this spicy, rich stuffing it just about walks on water. It’s also the signature meal, in my mind, that exemplifies what Asado means in Spanish — roasted.

JOSH: Asado offers an interesting selection of desserts as well. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try caramel crepes. I was informed by the waitress that they would take a bit of time because they are made individually for each customer — I wouldn’t want it any other way. Served warm with vanilla bean ice cream, they really hit the spot after a filling meal.

JASON: Was that not the most amazing vanilla ice cream?

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