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Asador Fresh and Local

by Steven Doyle

The way I dine might be perhaps a bit different than your methods.  I am all about big flavors and small plates. I like variety, spice and sizzle. Recently I meandered into Asador at the Renaissance Dallas Hotel for a look-see and found a lot of what I enjoy about a restaurant.

Immediately when walking into Asador you think Texas. Cowhide backed chairs, large open crevasse of a dining room, greeted by an open kitchen where you can see the flames kiss your meal before being served.

Speaking with chef/ owner Dean Max you get the concept quickly. He speaks about local, and that is a phrase that can often be bandied about to the point of abuse. But when Max speaks about local he is speaking about his youth and heritage.

Chef Max was raised in that whole local and organic environment with the family gardens and eating what was grown. His father sold produce and Max was raised with that mentality so many years before it was hip to be a locavore. At age nine he had his own pepper garden.

This made things easy for the chef who runs Farm-to-Fire style restaurants across the country.

Chef Dean Max serves as concept chef for the restaurant and has received critical acclaim for the five restaurants he owns and manages across the U.S. including 3030 Ocean in Fort Lauderdale, AMP 150 in Cleveland, Latitude 41 in Columbus, 3800 Ocean in Palm Beach and The Brasserie in the Cayman Islands.

Later I spoke to a friend in Dallas that lived in the Caymans during a recent hurricane and she spoke highly of The Brasserie saying it was the first restaurant to be in commission after the devastation, she ate there often and enjoyed it tremendously.

With that said, how does a chef from Florida step into Dallas and find these great ingredients?

“We had to immediately develop these relationships and find good sources and everyone has been helpful. Nanci [Taylor] from Edible Magazine gave us a great list of farmers we checked out. So we are now getting grains from the Gristmill and cheeses from Homestead and so many other sources,” said chef Max.

“Working with these farmers you have to be able to use whatever it is they bring you,” continued Max, “you need to have the staff that can work with any ingredient that is fresh that day. We have to support the farms we are working with. If they do not have an ingredient you need that day, we have to change the menu.”

The day I was at Asador chef Max was out back smoking briskets and salt old school with a smoker you might find in any number of backyards in Dallas today. The briskets were not quite finished, but a plume of smoke shot out when he opened the doors to reveal a half dozen caramelized fatty briskets languishing in the warm heat. The smoke that shot out stayed with me for the rest of the day making me smile as I thought about slices of beef.

It just makes sense to serve things that are in season, fresh and available.

Heading back into the restaurant I was eager to sample some of the smaller plates and bar fare. I noticed many unusual items on the menu that would lend itself to a stop after work for small bites and big drinks from the list of over 100 premium tequila brands.

A signature cocktail they rustled up for me was a margarita that included Milagro Reposado, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur infused with chili peppers and chili powder sugar rimmed.

Here are some of the very well executed bites I sampled:

Guacamole made fresh with spicy habanero for a real kick

Clams BLT with bacon, spicy tomato broth, grilled romaine, French baguette and basil

Crispy Brussels sprouts with smoked bacon and agave nectar

Crsipy tacos with a truly incredible spiciness from chef’s special sauce made in house

Seasonal watermelon salad with a creamy feta-style cheese

All these items are under ten dollars with many selection at the 4 or 5 dollar range, making it a great choice for happy hour or later in the night nibbles. As I was leaving i saw many of the larger plates that caught my eye and you can be sure I will be back to try some of those items.

2222 Stemmons Freeway, Dallas

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