Shane Mitchell, the owner of Asador, on bringing the art of barbecued food to the city and his current take on the food scene here.
The open grill is one of the features of Asador – does this add pressure or an extra buzz to those in the kitchen?
A little bit of both! The Asador is the ‘living, breathing heart’ of the kitchen. We use it for 95% of the dishes across all of our menus. The grill plates are raised up and down by a large stainless steel wheel on the left hand side of the barbecue. This makes a bit of noise during service and is a familiar sound emanating from the kitchen on busy evenings. It can be tricky to add the different hard woods during service as our chefs are at full tilt plating up right in front of the Asador. It is vital that we maintain those high temperatures however, so the guys tend to find a way through to keep the fire going!
You also cook all your meats and seafood over fires of oak, apple and lump wood charcoal – how important is this to the flavouring process?
The use of hardwoods is key to delivering that unique barbecue flavour and colouring you get when cooking over fire. We have experimented with charcoal only, charcoal and hard woods, and hardwoods only, over the past five years. We find that using mostly high quality hard woods imparts the best flavour on our signature steaks and seafood. Our chefs are now expert at balancing the heat from the asador and the smoke from the hardwoods to ensure we are complimenting the great produce we bring in to our kitchen. The aim is not to overpower these wonderful ingredients.
How have you embraced the world of social media and what are your thoughts on recent so-called ‘influencers’ looking to barter free meals for positive coverage?
We were ‘late adopters’ but we got there in the end! We have recently discovered Instagram (see late adopters) and we have a large Twitter and Facebook following. Social media is an excellent way of connecting with your customers and keeping them informed of what is happening in Asador. It is also a great way to add value and thank our guests for their loyalty through competitions and complimentary offers.
As for the social influencers debate, we are not biting on that one but suffice it to say it is not something we have historically embraced!
What are the greatest challenges facing the restaurant industry?
Access to highly trained chefs and professional front of house staff. The shortage of qualified staff is well publicised and the RAI have been doing some good work on this front.
Competition; there has been an explosion of new restaurants opening over the past 18 months. We do not have the critical mass of cities such as London, Paris etc so it is hard to see how all of these new entrants, and current operators, can survive and make a profit in a limited market place.
Access to capital. Whether it is for expansion purposes or reinvestment in the restaurant, finding funds is beyond tricky for the restaurant sector. We are lucky in that we are now over 5 years at it and we have built up a good reputation and trust with our lenders but it is never easy to raise cash for projects.
Who else is exciting you on the food scene in the city at the moment?
The guys in ETTO do a super job and are opening a second venture this year. Heron & Grey in Blackrock is an unbelievable experience. Dax on Pembroke Street is an old favourite of ours too, an excellent restaurant. Cirillo’s on Baggot Street has to get a mention too for a great vibe and excellent pizza, pasta and risotto. The Old Spot is a favourite for some great pub grub too.
1 Victoria House, Haddington Road, Dublin 4.