Asador El Cielo
The Thrill of the Spanish Grill
April 29, 2016
Food & Drink
SPECIAL PROMOTION — When I was recently invited to check out a relatively new Spanish-inspired restaurant in Roppongi—a district synonymous with the multicultural scene in Tokyo—I instantly imagined hearty plates of paella, slices of dry-cured chorizo seasoned with pimentón (smoked paprika), and of course, the perfect excuse to mix and match small, savory tapas with copious amounts of Spanish wine. What definitely didn't cross my mind was indoor grilling done on a grand scale with cuts of lean yet succulent topside beef. And that, my friends, would describe the dining experience at Asador El Cielo, where I indulged in the thrill of the Spanish grill, with dishes hailing from the restaurant’s main attraction—the in-house Josper grill.
After making your way down the stairs from Asador El Cielo’s outer entrance, you immediately enter a dining space that possesses a cool interior of brick-lined walls and low, intimate lighting that is reminiscent of a typical bodega or a wine cellar. Elliptical archways that exude Spanish-style architecture separate the dining spaces—ranging from the cozy bar counter to rustic communal tables. The restaurant’s ambiance also alludes to Spain’s Basque region, where the slow-cooking steak culture has been adopted by Asador as its gastronomic theme.
The buzzed-about Josper grill could be described as a match made in kitchen heaven, with its creation being credited to a cross between a charcoal grill and a broiler that makes the concept of outdoor cooking surprisingly upscale. In other words, you get the best of both worlds and some major grill envy from neighboring eateries and rival Spanish restaurants in Tokyo. Unlike conventional grilling methods—from meat searing on direct heat until it displays those perfect sear marks, to thicker cuts cooking low and slow under a closed lid—the Josper grill’s dual functionality enables this culinary marvel to smoke, sear, and grill meat (or fish, vegetables, and even fruit) at a ridiculously high temperature of 500 degrees Celsius. The end result of cooking with a charcoal sealed oven is a succulent mouthful of meat brimming with the unparalleled flavors of food that has retained its natural moisture.
While Asador El Cielo’s menu offers bigger-than-bite-sized tapas, colorful salads and cold cuts of jamón ibérico (Spanish cured ham), and boasts an extensive selection of cocktails and Spanish wines (available by the glass or the bottle), as its name implies (the Spanish word “asador” meaning “barbecue”), you cannot forgo the highlight of eating meat grilled to medium-rare perfection. So now, let’s allow for my taste buds to do the talking!
Out of the large selection of tapas, my ravenous friend and I chose to try out three seemingly authentic dishes—with what we thought would be the least appealing Spanish appetizer actually ending turning out to be the most palatable to both of us. While the jumbo mushroom and grilled chorizo (¥480 per piece) and sautéed oyster and spinach pancetta cream sauce (¥1,380) sounded tastier on the menu than in our mouths, I was surprised by my affinity towards the canapés of octopus and mashed potatoes eparuti (¥980 for three pieces). Although the first two starters give restaurant-goers a straightforward description of the main ingredients, I had never once heard of the culinary terms “canapés” or “eparuti”—and I’m still wondering if “eparuti” is a menu typo due to my inability to render any hits on various search engines. Nevertheless, the bite-sized baguettes topped with piped mashed potatoes and morsels of marinated octopus were the unanimous favorite tapas of the night.
However, once Asador El Cielo’s culinary centerpiece arrived at our table, it was indisputably one of the best grilled steaks my dining companion and I had ever put in our mouths. Each blissful bite of melt-in-your-mouth Ishigaki beef—browned and lightly charred on the outside, cooked a vivid medium-rare on the inside and marbled with clear white fat—delighted our taste buds and awakened my inner carnivore. Since the steak platter was going to be split between two people, we selected the 300-gram serving of Ishigaki beef topside steak (from ¥4,980) and were relieved when the portion proved to be large enough to share, especially since a bed of roasted potatoes accompanied the top-notch meat. Also available off the Josper grill menu is a 200-gram serving of Ishigaki beef sirloin steak (from ¥6,980) and a whopping 450-gram U.S. t-bone steak (¥4,500) to delight serious steak connoisseurs.
We concluded our meat lover’s dream dinner by ordering the homemade baked cheesecake (¥580) and the seasonal grilled fruit served with a side of vanilla ice cream (¥760), which delightfully happened to be grilled apples drizzled in honey with a touch of cinnamon. Overall, while Asador El Cielo’s Josper grill (a.k.a. the “holy grill”) stole the spotlight from more traditional Spanish dishes served up in the kitchen, the succulent topside steak was hands down, a memorable gastronomic experience worthy of a culinary quest by any self-proclaimed carnivore.
Address: B1 Kazuyuki Building, 4-8-5, Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Open: Mon–Fri, 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. (last order 2 p.m.) and 5:30 p.m.–3 a.m. (last order 2 a.m.); Sat, 5:30 p.m.–3 a.m.; Sun & hols, 5:30 p.m.–11 p.m.