Tuesday, June 27, 2017 This Week's Paper

In The Kitchen: Asado

With its talented team of chefs, a unique menu, and the claim to fame as Tacoma’s only Argentine restaurant, Asado has become a hit – and for good reason. Even though the smell of roasting wood chips might follow you home (without leaving your clothes for some time – this, I know from personal experience), the flavors and creative cuisine is well worth the dry cleaning bill.  
Asado – which means “roasted” in Spanish – grills its steaks over imported mesquite wood, creating a unique, intoxicating aroma. Although the restaurant is best known for its steak, the extensive menu also features a variety of seafood options along with high-end vegetarian options, as well. 
Executive Chef Joel Mertens takes a team approach when it comes time to develop new menu items. “It’s great to have the opportunity to get our sous chefs involved in the process,” he said. “We always stay within the boundaries of South American food, but we enjoy developing seasonal menus as a team.”
Mertens has been cooking since he was 14 years old, and eventually went to culinary school before landing jobs in restaurants throughout Seattle. Locally, Mertens gained experience as a chef at the Lobster Shop in Tacoma before joining Asado two and a half years ago. 
In his role as executive chef of Asado, Mertens also oversees the culinary operations at Masa, the high-end Mexican restaurant by the same owners located across the street. 
On a day-to-day basis, the Asado kitchen is led by Chef de Cuisine Tasso Zambaras, who is no stranger to the kitchen. Although he has had little formal training, he spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen as a child – but not necessarily by choice at first. “I actually spent a lot of time in the kitchen as a kid because I was grounded pretty often,” he admitted. “But, it gave me an interest in cooking and great experience.”
After delivering produce to restaurants throughout Tacoma for 15 years, he decided to put his experience in the kitchen to the test by pursuing a cooking job. “Cooking is something I was always interested in, and I knew I wanted to work in a kitchen, eventually,” Zambaras said.
One of the most unique aspects of Asado is that, unlike other similar restaurants of its size, each dish is completely made from scratch. “Many of the bigger restaurants out there are not making homemade dishes using fresh ingredients like we are,” Mertens explained. “We make everything from veal stock to shrimp stock completely from scratch. Ninety-nine percent of everything we offer is completely homemade.” 
Try Asado’s home-cooked creations for yourself at 2810 6th Ave. Make reservations online at or by calling (253) 272-7770.