Asador Tierra Aranda, Madrid
I recently had the pleasure of dining with the intrepid poster Butterfly in Madrid. Since our opportunity to meet up would take place on a Sunday afternoon, she suggested going to an asador for a leisurely Sunday afternoon lunch, which I gladly accepted. The asador she suggested is called Tierra Aranda in the Salamanca area near the Metro stop Lista. Apparently this asador is highly rated among some of the food cognoscenti in Madrid and she had wanted to try it out as well. Five of us showed up shortly after Tierra Aranda opened its doors at 2pm.
The interior has all the trimmings of a meat parlor, with the dark wood beams and an old-school charm like many old steakhouses in the US. And in the rear of the restaurant is the asador, a clay oven that looks like a small igloo, manned by the master with his workman goggles. The reason to go to an asador is to get the roast suckling lamb. And while Butterfly did all the ordering, I believe we got two quarters (leg and thigh pieces) of suckling lamb for the main dish. We also had a few starters, like the morcilla (blood sausage), the kidneys (riñones), pimientos with tuna belly.
I didn't expect too much from these starters, but for the moment, they really stole the show. First arrived the morcilla. I've had morcilla at Argentine steakhouses in NYC, or the Korean version of soondae, so I thought I knew what I would be expecting, but these morcilla were quite different. Instead of being kind of heavy and "offal-ly", these were light, crunchy, and quite mild and sweet. Everyone at the table were enjoying it, even the slightly squirmish ones. I'm not certain, but I believe it is made with lambs blood, which seems to make a difference. Next were the pimientos with the tuna belly and the kidneys. The tuna and pimientos were a classic combination and were of noticeable good quality. But again, the kidneys were the showstopper. I've had kidney in Indian cuisine, or French (in a mustard sauce), and while I expected traces of funkiness of the organ, I was surprised by how mild and sweet it was and how it was texturally more similar to sweetbreads than to the types of kidney I've had in the past. Again, everyone at the table was loving it. The flavors were mild and sweet, and frankly, I could have had a few platefuls of just the morcilla and the kidneys.
Then came the suckling lamb in a large oval cazuela, with the juices bubbling underneath the two quarter pieces of lamb. The tender meat was coming apart from the bone and it really looked a lot more like Mexican carnitas than any kind of lamb. And when I took my first bite, I really was reminded of carnitas, until the slightly gamey flavor of the lamb meat came through. But even that was mild. It was apparent that these were really top notch ingredients. Tierra Aranda is known to source its meat from a from a purveyor near Burgos that takes special care with its lamb.
This was quite a memorable first experience at a Spanish asador, and I'm indebted to Butterfly for introducing me to such good eating.
Asador Tierra Aranda
c/ Padilla 56
91 401 38 26
Metro: Lista, Nuñez de Balboa
Bump - not sure if I should start a separate thread for this, but a friend of mine is celebrating her birthday this weekend and craves a big, juicy steak for dinner...the only catch is that we're all on student budgets, and all the places I've looked at range from about 35-50e.
Is it hopeless? Or am I missing a hidden gem somewhere?
Hmmm...I know quite a few places to have a good steak but,as you said,most of them go beyond 40-50 €.
I personally think that "Alfredo's Barbacoa" could be a fantastic option;it's true that it's "very American" but they have good meat (New York steak;top sirloin steak;BBQ spareribs etc)at reasonable prices.
You can take a look at their Menu at http://www.alfredos-barbacoa.es
**It's a very popular place so you should make a reservation as soon as possible.( Tel # 91 345 16 39) Location: Juan Hurtado De Mendoza,11 ( Metro Cuzco- Línea 10 ---very close to Bernabeu Soccer Stadium).
The morcilla was Burgos style. And definitely from pig (blood, rice, sweet onion, and spices). Spanish soul food. The best I ever had was sold out of the back of someone's house in Covarrubias...
It's always worth asking at an asador if there are kidneys available--they are usually an off-menu sort of thing (though as you saw, there really wasn't a menu at all...). I got chastized just for asking if they had a bean dish (which really is a specialty in parts of the Burgos province)!
In my experience, these sort of Castilian asadores are all pretty similar--with good raw materials and simple preparation--though some do both pig and lamb. As much as I love everything pig, I think the roast suckling lamb is even better. It's probably best to stick to places that specialize in one or the other or have separate ovens for each, since they are roasted differently.
About steak... you could probably share a chuletón (it's a huge steak--meant to be shared) at a Basque asador or Argentine steakhouse and spend less than 35 euros per person.
Funny, I just had chinese pigs blood tonight. Morcilla is very, very different. You don't have to go to an asador to try it. You can get it in lots of places as a tapa or ración or montadito (a piece of bread with a little something on top). There are different styles. You'll get the smoked kind at an asturiano place. The sweeter, ricier Burgos style kind is available all over the place. You won't have any trouble finding it. If you wanted to try some at a castillian asador, you could order it at the bar as a tapa. There are other asadores and castillian restaurants closer to the center--like El Asador de Aranda (no relation) at Calle de Preciados, 44 next to Santo Domingo.