First Bites

Asador 5 Jotas Delights With Northern Spanish Cuisine

Situated in the gray area between Coral Gables and Little Havana, the new Asador 5 Jotas offers a delicious take on the cuisine of northern Spain. With walls lined by Spanish wines, whole serrano hams hanging like ornaments in the dining room, and a menu full of tapas whose mere names will make your mouth water, this casual space is destined to become a neighborhood favorite.

Opened this past December 4, Asador 5 Jotas is the first restaurant for owner Javier Eseverri, a native Spaniard. "The food is Spanish, but mostly from the north of Spain, from parts like Pamplona and San Sebastian," says Ana Alvarez, one of the restaurant's servers and herself a Barcelona native. The name, which translates to "Five J's," is a typical phrase in Spain used to denote high-quality ingredients and service.

The menu reads like a greatest hits of Spain, with a focus on carnes a la piedra (meats cooked on hot rocks), hence the asador in the restaurant's name. Alvarez and another server rave about the chuleton de buey, a two-pound dry-aged rib eye that's finished tableside over hot stones and served with roasted peppers. Other meats, including lamb, pork, and even chicken, are all cooked over hot rocks and served with a variety of roasted vegetables.

Recommendations aside, the star of the menu may be the variety of tapas, which range from $6 to $16, though none of the portions we tried was small. On a recent visit, the croquetas de bacalao ($6), creamy fritters stuffed with silky mashed potatoes and flaky cod, broke with the gentlest tap of a fork. The traditional tortilla española ($6), an egg cake stuffed with soft potatoes and a hint of paprika, made for a great start to the meal.

Other tapas, for which we'll soon return, include grilled Galician-style octopus ($15), shrimp-stuffed piquillo peppers ($12), and the always-popular patatas bravas ($6). Add a side of freshly sliced serrano ham, and the options are nearly endless.

"We're getting going little by little. As you can see, more people are coming," Alvarez says of the nearly full dining room. "We're doing pretty well."

Inside, the ample dining room is divided in half by a wall of Spanish wines. A chalkboard in the center of the wall lists the daily tapas specials, while TV sets above the bar glow with European soccer games.

Asador 5 Jotas is located at 1148 SW 27th Ave., on the corner of SW 12th Street. The restaurant is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., when breakfast options are featured as well. Daily lunch specials run about $9 to $14, including entrées like mustard-braised pork loin and roasted lamb, each served with two sides. Pair one of those with a $3 Mahou on draft, and you have yourself a solid lunch.

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