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Asador 44 Restaurant Review Cardiff

We’ve been busting to try Owen from Bar 44’s new venture Asador 44 since following their instagram account since November 2016 although they only opened it’s doors about a month ago. It’s been a busy month of late so we set the date of sampling some old cow for my birthday last Friday.

Asador the name comes from the method of cooking the meat BBQ style over charcoal. This can been over a mound of charcoal on the floor with half a carcas speared and scortched over the white embers as they do in Argentina or with modern methods of a metal Parilla Asador BBQ grill championed first in Wales by the girls down at Hangfire Southern Kitchen in Barry.

Parilla grill at Asador 44 Cardiff

With my inner caveman constantly wanting to break out inside eating mammoth slabs of meat cooked on open fires this was right up my street as Asador promised to lead the way in ethical meat production by using retired dairy cows that had time to enjoy life to the max, grazing on pastures and doig lots of chills to a grand old age of 9 years instead of the average age of 3 years that British beef is usually slaughtered after the BSE scare.

They also promised to bring us the Holy Grail of Beef, 10 year old “Galician Blond” or Rubia Gallega Chuleton from Northern Spain. This beef can be reared up to 17 years and some restaurants age it for up to 300 days making it much like an aged cheese but here at Asador they age theirs 45 days for a more mellow flavour.

Cheese cave at Asador 44 Cardiff

The place not only dry ages the steak in house they even have their own cheese cave.

 

The Food

I’d studied the menu for some time having seen other diners upload images of gigantic ribs of beef on Instagram over the past few weeks and was torn between the the Lomo Bajo, the 9 year old ex dairy cow or the Prized Rubia Gallega. The reason for not just going for the best steak on the menu was ultimately the price difference with the ex dairy costing £49 and the Rubia Gallega £8.50 per 100g of weight and seeing that the minumum weights were around 900g that was £76 for a single steak! Ok they were sharing plates but still that was pretty steep for a steak.

Bread and jamon butter at Asador 44 Cardiff

We or I decided we were just going to opt for some bread with jamon butter at £3 to nibble on whilst we decided the rest. The plate had two thick cut doorstop bread slices that had been lightly scortched giving a slight char to the dough and swirls of jamon butter to dollop in. I loved the smokey chared addition and the jamon butter was silky smooth unlike your standard continental breakfast where the butter has usually been put in the freezer just so the waitresses can laugh at your sorry attempt to butter your bread for breakfast and leaving decimated clumps of bread in your hands.

Cured belly pork and crispy pigs head starter at Asador 44 Cardiff

As I was hoping to go big on the steak for main it was just the one starter to share and that was the cured duroc belly pork, crispy pigs head and apple at £8. I was a bit dissapointed with this as I love a bit of belly pork and was hoping for something a bit more meaty. The cured belly pork was cut wafer thin and for me didn’t actually bring much to the table as it was a bit bland for me. The breadcrumbed crispy pigs head however did add a punch of much needed flavour to the dish and accompanying apple sauce gave a nice sweetness to the dish.

Seeing as prawns on offer are revered as the finest red prawn in the world according to the menu and it was my birthday I thought I’d splash out and see what the fuss was about. At £16 a pop for a single prawn I was expecting a whopper on my plate. After being bullied into downing a shot of Wray & Nephew at Mythos Greek restaurant in Chepstow by the guy behind the bar as a birthday “Gift” and the lions share of a bottle of pinot I was in high spirits and bit the bullet on the mains, opting for the Rubia Gallega and 940g of the stuff at £80.

Rubia Gallega and Carabinero prawn at Asador 44 Cardiff

The mains arrived and I was pretty impressed with the plate of severed ruby red, meaty portions cut from the bone and presented on a platter and the waitress kindly advised on the optimal method of eating the prawn. For £16 I wasn’t all that blown away by the size of the prawn and after removing the head, carefully decanting the juices into a bowl and unfolding the shell away from the body there really wasn’t that much meat left. The wholesale price for these prawns though are eyewatering, which reflects in the the higher price here.

I dipped the flesh into the rescued juices, had one bite and it was half gone. I couldn’t go it alone and I certainly wasn’t going to stump up that much for a prawn again so gave the other half to Mwsh so two bites and that was it. It tasted good and never used the juices to baste the flesh before eating before so that was a new one on me but considering you can get half a lobster for the same price in some restaurants I wasn’t overfly impressed and would pick lobster over it drenched in thermidor sauce any day.

The centre piece was next to delve into, the creme de la creme of steak lay before me ready to be gorged with my bare hands. It was unlike any steak I’d laid eyes on in terms of sheer size and colour. The living age and the post slaughter aging process had built a deep ruby like colour. Ready cut into manageble pieces of meat I was expecting to have to gnaw at it to chew and swallow but it just disolved on contact with my tongue. The same for the fat too I’d never experienced beef fat that just melted away in the warmth of my mouth it was quite sureal as the fat on steak is usually tough and chewy.

Rubia Gallega Steak, bean and saffron puree, fries with rioja and bone marrow sauce at Asador 44 Cardiff
With the giant steak option you got 2 sides of your choice, which we opted for the Asador fries because you simply can’t have steak without chips and we also went for the white bean, safron and roast garlic puree.

Portion wise I was a little dissapointed with the fries. When you’re paying £80 for a steak and it’s to share with someone else I’m expecting a generous bowl of fries to go with it. After grabing half a handfull and scattering on my plate there wasn’t even half a bowl left for Mwsh. I’d also bought a wheelbarrow full of real chip shop chips in Chepstow earlier in the day for £1.80 that could of fed a family of 4 in comparison. Having said that the small bowl of real fries were very good. None of that plastic fantastic pre cut and pre cooked rubbish here, I just could of done with a double portion size to what we got.

On to the white bean, safron and roast garlic puree. It didn’t really know how to take this i’ll be honest. The first dip of my chip was quite pleasant but with the dissapointing portion of fries I was quickly left with just a fork as a vessel to consume the puree, which became rather sickly and unpalatable. The bean puree I think would be great as a snack with some of the bread or flatbread to dip but as a side dish it just felt out of place and awkward to eat without some form of carb to give it substance.

One other thing I was a bit annoyed at with the steak was you didn’t even get one sauce to go with it included in the price. Ok I know they are only £3 each and if you were paying £10 for a steak at Harvester you would probably expect to pay a little bit extra for a sauce as it isn’t exactly bank shattering to start with but when you are paying £80 I would expect one sauce at least.

I wanted the Rioja and bone marrow sauce but Mwsh wasn’t sure on the bone marrow so went for the safe option of Torres brandy peppercorn so on top of £80 for the steak we had to pay £6 for a sauce to go with it. Ok I know it was my option to go for that steak and there were a lot cheaper options but when I’m paying tripple what I would normally spend on a steak a sauce to go with it in the price isn’t asking a lot in my eyes.

Both sauces were good although I did prefer the Rioja and bone marrow as it had a richer flavour and probably because I’d peppercorn sauced my steaks to death over the years but it was a good peppercorn none the less if you are thinking of going for that.

rice pudding and fig dessert at Asador 44 Cardiff

For dessert I went for the Arroz con leche, which is Spanish rice pudding croquetas, poached fig and green apple. I misread the menu and was expecting a bowl of rich creamy rice pudding and with my favourite fruit at the moment figs but as the menu clearly states they were croquetas. Breadcrumbed and fried balls of rice pudding with the soft poached figs and similar apple sauce to the starter. They were enjoyable but not what I was expecting although that was my fault for not reading the menu properly.

chocolate with cherry sorbet at Asador 44 Cardiff

Mwsh opted for the chocolate, hazlenut, olive oil, vanilla salt and cherry sorbet. This was delicious and my favourite of the two desserts and brought a refreshing end to a meaty meal. Both Desserts cost £7 or you could of gone with a cheese board with 3 for £7, 5 for £12 or 7 cheeses for £17.

cheese menu Asador 44 Cardiff

Drinks prices are quite reasonable with Mwsh option for a carafe of house white for under £10 and mine was a carafe of Garnacha Tinorera red was £16.50. They have over 100 wines to choose from with a good selection by glass or carafe if you don’t fancy the whole bottle. There was a nice selection of Gin’s I’d not heard of but didn’t get the chance to sample but I’m guessing they were all sourced from Spain.

The Verdict

Bread was good, an ok starter and wasn’t blow away by the best prawn in the world. It’s a prawn and cooked in the shell so there’s not much you can do there and not knocking the quality I was just expecting something a bit bigger although the price does reflect wholesale price that go for at least £70 per kilo, which I wasn’t aware at the time.

This was a fine steak and was the crowning plate of the meal. It was an epic, the best I’ve had in Cardiff to be fair and perfect for a celebration as it really does wow on delivery to the table.

Having said that it is more for the purist steak lover as it’s all about the meat here and for me it’s a tick the box kind of dish. You have to try it to say you’ve tried it and it was unlike any steak I’ve eaten before with it melting in the mouth on contact with my tongue, fat and all but it wouldn’t be something i’d probably order again becuase I’m not much of a steak person when eating out. I’m more of a game person or something with big bold flavours but with Rubia Gallega you can’t throw anything too complex into the dish as it takes away from the centre stage, which is the meat.

I’ll without doubt be back to Asador but I’ll probably go for something a bit normal next time like the suckling pigs leg or the lamb sounded luscious. I wouldn’t recommend the £16 prawn as for me it didn’t warrant the hefty price and now i’ve tried it I won’t be going Rubia Gallera again but I would give it a go if you haven’t tried it before and was glad I’d given it a go.

Portion size of the chips need to be increased if you ask me or one each of the current ones seeing as it’s a sharing plate. Maybe I would of been able to finish the bean puree if i’d had some chips to mop it up with but as it stands with a handful of chips I struggled eating my share of the dish with just my fork.

I think they should include one sauce into the price of the rare breed old cow fair enough charging for it with the smaller Picanha but for £80 I would expect at least one sauce thrown in out of principle. I think flavourwise though the sauces were spot on.

Desserts were good too and had no issues there on both options I tried.

Service was excellent as always and what I’ve come to expect from the team behind bar 44. They must have some of the best training in town in regards to product knowledge and you can’t beat someone actually having tasted everything on the menu and being able to pronounce it and background knowledge behind everything unlike someone on their first shift who has absolutely no idea about anything on the menu or what drink they have on draught.

I’m probably going to try the lunchtime deal some time soon for £10, which includes:

  • 40 day dry aged rump cap with fries and salad
  • Charcoal market fish of the day
  • Charcoal squash, chard, beetroot, goats curd, hazlenut
  • Mackerel, endive, charcoal mayonnaise, capers and asador fries.

The lunch deal is available Wednesday – Friday, 12 – 3pm

They also have a children’s menu available for lunch too, which includes:

Welsh beef picanha steak, asador fries
or
Market fish goujons and asador fries

Both priced at £6

Porro Restaurant Review Llandaff, Cardiff

Porro has been on my radar for a while now since I heard about the launch of the Wellfield Road addition and no more since my return from Italy last week. I’ve never been one for pasta to be honest but probably because I’ve only ever really had it at home and when your mum has been known to burn it on the hob, yes a good few inches of pasta scorched and crusted on the bottom isn’t something too unfamiliar in my household. Well it sort of scars you for life.

From having nightmares of charcoal like embers of pasta clinging to sauce pans in my nightmares growing up, opting to go for an Italian when I fancy dinning out has never been at the forefront of my picklist to be fair so fresh silky smooth, buttery pasta ribbons haven’t entertained my insatiable dustbin lips all that often.

My 3 day trip to Italy changes all my perceptions of pasta. I don’t know how they could marry 2 or 3 ingredients, sandwiched between parcels of egg and flour to create such a desire to wipe devour all contents of the plate then place said empty plate to my face and lick every last drizzle of butter oil.

The porcinni mushroom, ricotta, sage and butter Ravioli at the Cantina de Spade in Venice just blew my mind. So simple yet it left myself and Mwsh speachless (well her for a whole 3 seconds, which is unheard of).

Anyway, still suffering from the holiday blues and still in Italy mode I wanted to see how one of the most popular Italian’s in Cardiff faired up against the real thing. With the weather being like it has been this week, I’ve lost all motivation to cook so a quick browse on the Wriggle App and Porro in Llandaff were offering any 2 pizza or pasta dishes for £15 a cool 50% discount last night. That will do nicely I thought and got on the buzzer to Mwsh, just to make sure she hadn’t got anything booked on and luckily she hadn’t.

The Venue

Porro Italian Restaurant Llandaff, Cardiff

I won’t bore you too much with the details. We didn’t book and just turned up as it was a Wednesday and not as busy as I assume the weekend would be. We managed to park outside as there is space for disabled cars but as it was 7pm it was quite dead so was naughty and parked up. There’s some parking around the corner by the Cathedral though if you’re visitng on the weekend.

We arrived and were a bit suprised how quite it was, just two dinners in there at the time but that was a bit of a relief as we just fancied a bit of down time and a relaxed meal without shouting at each other to hear over a jam packed restaurant. This also meant we had pick of a table and not some crooked and wonky child table next to the coat hangers you sometimes get in places when they are pushed for tables.

I liked the decor, a more modern approach to that we had become accustomed to in Italy last week with the small traditional Taverna’s who probably hadn’t had a lick of paint since the war. Good lighting, spacious with nice brickwork and large front window view if you fancy having a nose out onto the high street if it’s busy.

The Food

As we had bought a deal on Wriggle our mains were a bit limited but to compare what we had consumed in Venice and Rome we had to do one of each so opted for one pizza, the speck, artchoke, mozzarella, rocket and chilli then one pasta dish with pappardelle with braised ox cheek, tomato and parmesan.

speck,-buffalo-and-chilli-pizza

It would be hard to beat the mixed platter of Pizza from Pizza Zizza opposite St Peter’s Basillica in the Vatican, Rome. Well we did have about 8 different flavours but they were such magnificent pieces of cheesy goodness. The pizza at Porro was good but it was nothing special in all honesty. I think the rocket overpowered everything else as there was so much, wasn’t too spicy but just didn’t fill me with much love as something laden in cheese should do. I can’t knock the ingredients as they were all no doubt of the highest quality I just wasn’t bowled over by the pizza.

ox cheek pappardelle pasta at Porro Llandaff

The braised ox cheek pappardelle on the other hand was simply divine. Silky ribbons of fresh pasta, clinging on for dear life were chunks of tender and rich ox cheek waiting to be slurped up into my eager mouth. I’ll be honest, I was gutted we said we’d do a sharsies and halve half each of both courses because I just wanted to demolish every last morsel myself.

white truffle fries at Porro Llandaff

The unlikely star of the show on the mains though was the bowl of chunky chips, lathered in elegantly perfumed white truffle oil. I’d had posh fries with truffle oil and parmesan a few times, tried it myself once too but these were something else. I’d probably had a cheap black truffle chemical shit storm in the past but this was so light with delicate truffly aroma. The best £3.75 i’ve ever spent.

Being against my religion to just order one course each when dinning out we opted to go for a starter each and pay the difference with them all ranging between £7 and £8 we chose the tortellini with garlic, sage and parmesan as it sounded similar to the raviolli dish in Venice and the braised leeks, talleggio on sourdough.

garlic, sage and parmesan tortellini at Porro Llandaff

Again we decided to do halfsies on both plates so we only really had a little bit of each one but no complaints on either course. The tortellini was quite small for the price, not sure I was still in European prices were we got a whole plate of quality pasta for 11 euros but £7 for 2 tortellini pieces cut in half was a bit mean but the flavour was on par with our Venice raviolli. Sage, pasta and oil/butter is such a good compbo although the porcini and ricotta pairing added extra creaminess and umami kick.

braised leek and taleggio on sourdough toast at Porro Llandaff

The braised leek and tolleggio was decent in portion size, you definetely got your leeks worth with this one although a bit less generous with the talleggio cheese. Luckily for me I had a little nugget of the stuff on my half but Mwsh had to try and stab a goey morsel from my plate before I’d consumed it as she didn’t get much on her bit of bread.

We both had a glass of the Sauv Blanc, which was a perfect match for the starters. we even enquired about the bottle and took a snap to try and find it for the house. At £7.50 for a large, it’s not the lightest on your wallet but then it was a corker. We didn’t go for the house wine though so there were more reasonably priced wines to choose from.

We would of both gone for a dessert had we not gorged on cake from Pettigrew straight after work so can’t comment on them unfortunately.

The Verdict

I’ve not heard a bad word said about Porro from anyone and did enjoy our meal there. It was an off the cuff thing and as we had a deal from Wriggle we were stuck with the pasta and pizza option althought the braised ox cheek papadelle would be on my hit list again.

Next time around I wouldn’t mind sampling the grill or meat menu, once I’ve fell off my pasta and carb fest I’m currently stuck in. I’d have no qualms in recommending the place although I’d opt for a pasta dish as they didnt’ dissapoint or try a meat dish. The pizza was ok but just that. Had I not sampled some of the best pizza in my 31 years of existance in Rome last week it might of been a different story but the bar has been set high from there.

The bill came to £31 for the two starters, two wines and truffle fries plus the £15 Wriggle deal for the mains so £46. The real price would of been £61 had we not used the wriggle deal.

Although they aren’t on every night I have seen Porro discount crop up a couple of times of the past few weeks on Wriggle so keep an eye out on the App / website and rememebr to use the code AUHPSS in refer a friend, redeem code on the app to get a further discount off your first order.

Wing Wednesday review at Small Bar Cardiff

I’ve wanted to try the wings at Wing Wednesday at Small Bar in Cardiff for the past few weeks after seeing a post on facebook but i’ve had things on and haven’t had chance.

As i was left to fend for myself for a few days and the thought of eating the fish i’d pulled out to defrost in the morning when i got home from work compared to the mound of greasy, golden crumbed morsels of spiced chicken and a beer flight of ipa, sour beer and stout left me weeping ever so slightly inside.

I’d done the Crossfit Open 17.3 on Monday then something that never happens these days a 2nd visit to Crossfit in two days so my arms felt like they were falling off and needing some energy. I don’t quite think I had the energy to turn the oven on, throw two fillets of cod on a tray and stuff it in the oven after squat snatches, chest to bar pull ups, toes to bar, burpees and double unders thrown at me the previous two nights so Wing Wendnesday it was for me!

The Food

So what is wing Wednesday? Basically you get 10 wings in a choice of 3 flavours from sticky caramel and chilli, buffalo hot wings or the “Holy Cluck” which were slathered in Gingerbeards Hot Habanero sauce. You then get to choose from a choice of blue cheese dressing, roast garlic mayo or fresh tzatziki on the side.

I was hoping I could do half of one and half of another flavour as I fancied trying the hottest ones on the menu but unfortunately you had to have all the same flavour. I opted for the sticky caramel and chilli with a pot of garlic mayo as I thought I would just use the chicken as a vessel to mop up the sauces. I also realised that they had bottles of chiptole ketchup and the hot habanero sauce near the cutlery anyway so really I got to try them anyhow.

I was under no illusions that this wouldn’t fill me up so it would of been rude not to order a side of mac n cheese for an added bit of carbs to help fend off the hunger pans till bed time.

There were a couple of people who ordered before me so there was a slight wait but nothing too drastic it was probably just the fact I was sat there with my beer flight like billy no mates that time just seemed to slow down.

So the wings arrived accompanied by a spiderman mug filled with the creamy mac n cheese, which was a nice touch. The first thing i noticed about the wings was that the sticky wings were not so sticky wings. I think they forgot to add the caramel and chilli glaze as they were bone dry but I’d poured a liberal helping of the chiptole ketchup and the hot habanero sauce,teamed with the pot of garlic mayo on my tray ready to slap with my crispy chicken wings.

I think the mild flavour choice was a good call as a plate full of the hot habanero would of overpowered everything and with the dip on the side you can apply to your taste it was just a shame my chicken didn’t seem to have the caramel and chilli glaze making them sticky as I think they must of forgoten about it before plating up. Never the less the chicken was morishly addictive with a smudge of garlic mayo then alternating swipes of the chiptole and habanero sauce with each bite.

The mac n cheese was something else too. Creamy and strong cheesey taste with a kick of mustard lingering on in the mouth after each mouthful I didn’t want the mug to end. It would of been 10/10 with a sprinkle of crispy bacon nuggets on top mind but were delicious without.

It did fill a hole although the glutenous me inside had wished i’d ordered the chilli cheese fries just to try too but I was eating alone and that would of just been greedy!

The Verdict

It’s a thumbs up from me for Wing Wednesday from me at Small Bar and can see me popping in again sometime soon on a Wednesday and this time I’ll get to try the chilli cheese fries too. A bit dissapointed my chicken didn’t arrive as I’d pictured based on the description as they were supposed to be sticky wings and were missing the glaze I would of expected but the Gingerbeards sauces available with the condiments made up for it. Mac and cheese was spot on but as mentioned earlier a bit of crispy bacon or something greazy and crunchy on top would of taken it to the next level.

My good friend Dewi working behind the bar is always on hand to offer some well informed recomendations about what’s on tap on the day and also informed me there is 2 for 1 on pizzas on Mondays. Having sampled the spizy pork calzone the last time I was in I’ll definitely be sampling a pizza there some time soon.

The beer flight deal they have on at Small Bar is always worth a punt too as £7.50 gets you 5 x 1/3 pints of anything 7% and under. But fear not you crazy beer guzzling lunatics, you can top up a £1 per drink for anything over 7% so you can still sample something under the Crazy Shit options on the menu. It’s now my go to option whenever I’m there now as I get to sample so many different drinks in one sitting plus it works out miles cheaper too. I love that they always have a sour beer or two on the go at any one time too as it’s my new favourite tipple.

Saying that the 13% 3 bean stout I sampled in my flight was such a good drink. Some of the stouts and porters on the higher end of the abv scale tend to be so intense they’re unpalatable but this one from Lervig had so many levels of flavour with coffee and vanilla notes coming through.It was so satisfying and a great drink to end on especially as I hadn’t ordered dessert.