Joe Graffeo, Dallas Renaissance Hotel’s Executive Chef for their acclaimed farm-to-fire restaurant, Asador, has been a resident of Red Oak for the past two years. Chef Graffeo says he has lived in this community long enough to find a favorite local restaurant, the Lonestar Burger Bar on Ovilla Road in Red Oak.
The chef grew up in Bethel, Connecticut, and says he first developed a love for cooking as an eight-year-old in his grandmother’s kitchen. Chef Graffeo said his favorite thing she taught him to make was Sicilian Rice Balls, a jumbo arancini stuffed with meat sauce, peas, and fresh mozzarella, then breaded and fried.
Graffeo’s passion for cooking led him to attend the Culinary Institute of America, where he especially enjoyed learning to create fusion foods. He worked in hotel kitchens in New York, Arizona, and Pennsylvania before moving to the Renaissance Dallas. A master of hydroponic gardening, the Chef spends his free time making his own chef knives.
Lunch at Asador
My husband and I recently met Chef Graffeo for a delightful lunch at Asador when we were invited to sample their spring menu. For starters we tried Homemade Smoked Pineapple & Nuskee Bacon Guacamole (a very different Guacamole than I’m used to, but a lovely combination of flavors) priced at $18. We also tried Oaxaca Queso with chopped 44 Farms Brisket ($16), fire roasted tomato salsa and la Nortena tortillas. The Queso was also uniquely different, but so good it could be addictive.
Next we tried the Charred Romaine salad ($8) with tomato jam, fried capers, beet chips, ricotta Salata, evoo, and fig balsamic. The zingy fig balsamic dressing is the secret ingredient that makes the salad pop to life.
Award-winning Shrimp & Grits
The Chef said his favorite dish on Asador’s new spring menu is Chipotle Honey Shrimp and Smoked Gouda Grits. He took first place in the World Food Championship’s hotel chef throw-down with that dish, scoring a 99.5 out of 100. So I couldn’t wait to try the shrimp & grits, served with butternut squash, poblano and chorizo, $35 on the lunch menu. Asador’s shrimp and grits is very flavorful, and is easily one of the best I’ve tried. I could happily order their shrimp and grits every time I visit.
Running a close second for my affections, though, were Asador’s Truffle Parmesan Fries with truffle aioli ($12). These fries were so good I took some home for dinner that evening, and “forgot” to share with my husband. He was raised on a farm in West Texas, so my husband showed his meat and potato lover roots by ordering the 44 Farms Ground Brisket Cheeseburger ($18). He said the meat was spiced and cooked perfectly, and the burger will probably be his go-to dish any time we visit Asador.
For dessert, we tried Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler with almond crumble, Tahitian vanilla ice cream, and micro mint ($11). While I didn’t believe it was possible to eat anything else, I changed my mind after one taste of Chef Graffeo’s cobbler.
Asador Features Local Meats and Produce
Their breakfast menu is also very varied and features some unusual selections. I had breakfast with a friend there recently, and we both loved the goat cheese frittata. Dinner at Asador also sounds great, but I haven’t tried their evening menu. Some of the more interesting items on the menu are Seared Scallops with beet and goat cheese grits ($18); Chipotle Honey Crispy Pork Belly ($18); and Tuna Poke Tostada ($18).
Dinner entrees include Surf & Turf with filet mignon and crab cakes; and 44 Farms Filet Mmignon and Ribeye. A 413 Farms Smoked Pork Chop, Verlasso Salmon, and Lemon Pepper Tagliatelle Pasta with shrimp, scallop, and octopus are also featured. My favorite Shrimp & Grits are also on the dinner menu, so I’d have a tough time ordering anything else. Dinner entrée prices range from $35 to $75.
The Asador, led by Executive Chef Joe Graffeo, is dedicated to using Texas-based, fresh ingredients from renowned purveyors throughout each of their unique, seasonal menus. They purchase local produce and also meats from local farms, including the 44 and 413 Farms mentioned above. The Asador offers complimentary self-parking for their guests. Reservations are recommended by calling 214.267.4815.