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