#212: ASR Restaurant & Lounge

Last night I wast joined by my friend Eric to check out ASR Restaurant & Lounge.  This spot opened about a month and a half ago directly in-between John’s Incredible Pizza Co. and the Automall in a building that once was home to a Mexican restaurant, long enough ago that I wasn’t even aware of it while it was there.  They are open from 11a everyday to midnight during the week and 2a on the weekends.  They are arguably one of the more higher-end places in Roseville and has a menu rivaling Ruth’s Chris in price.

We arrived via Uber just before 7:15PM.  Both our drivers there and back mentioned that they have been taking a lot of customers to and from ASR.  The parking lot was packed.  Eric stepped inside to put our name in as I took a couple photos outside.  I learned that we had a 30-45 minute wait and we took a walk around the bar area looking for a spot.  We didn’t find anything and ended up standing in a kind of square alcove with a narrow counter for drinks lining it.  While they were definitely busy, we were the only people without a place to sit, so it wasn’t hugely crowded.

We ordered a couple of drinks from the bar, a Firestone Walker IPA [$6] and a Knob Creek neat [$9].  The Knob Creek felt slightly high in price but once I saw the bartender give a good sized pour I was happy. We stood around for a few minutes and then asked if there was room on the patio to wait.  One of the hosts checked to see and then brought us out a moment later.  There was a fair amount of people in the center of the patio, at tables, eating.  As far as the cabanas and other misc seating around the outside though, those were mostly empty.  We were shown the one of the corners where we took a seat on a big semi-circle couch.  On our way through the patio we passed a water/fire feature in the center.  The patio is well isolated from the parking lot and street and you really don’t feel like you’re sitting just off of N. Sunrise.  It’s done pretty nicely.

We were greeted by one of the three patio-specific servers, Brandon.  He saw that we were good on drinks and showed us the two other servers should we need anything.  We hung out and chatted while we waited on a table.  At one point someone checked on us and asked if we wanted waters or bread.  We passed on the water and opted for bread only.  Apparently he forgot about it because it never came.  Another server got Eric a new beer not long before the host came out to collect us to be seated.  Total wait time was just over 45min.  We were lead back inside and upstairs to one of three tables set up, each with a balcony view.  The balcony goes all the way around and is lined with booths and low tables for drinks.  We were told that they swap out these three tables with more booth seating depending on the time of day.  Also upstairs is a second smaller bar and a banquet room for private parties/events.  It was a pretty nice spot for dinner where we could see most of the place from our little balcony.

We were greeted shortly by our server Rebeca.  Another server assisted her for a little bit early on, removing the extra place settings and glasses and getting a beer menu to us.  I had just finished my bourbon and ordered a Guinness, which we shortly found out they were out of, so I went with a Newcastle [$6].  This was brought out in the bottle with a frosty glass.  Soon we ordered a couple of appetizers, the Artisan Cheese Plate (Daily selection of artisanal cheese accompanied by fresh fruit compote, candied nuts, honey and grilled sourdough bread)[$12] and Duck Egg Roll (Tender duck confit, sweet onions, brie cheese and shitake mushrooms wrapped in a crisp egg roll wrapper and served with a port wine sauce)[$12].  These took a little over 10 minutes to come out.  Shortly before them came a plate with bread and butter.  The butter was very soft and molded into a flower.  The bread was also quite soft itself, with exception of the crust which had a nice crunch.  Pretty good for bread and butter.

The appetizers arrived together just after we finished with the bread.  The duck egg rolls were really good.  Crisp and flaky shell with lots of flavorful duck.  I didn’t notice the Brie but everything else was quite good and the port wine sauce was very rich.  This goes up there with my other favorite egg roll appetizer, the avocado egg rolls at BJs or Cheesecake Factory.

The cheese plate was pretty typical at first glance.  On it was some blue cheese and, we think, a Brie, along with the toasted bread, fruit, nuts and honey.  Whle the cheese was good, we decided that the introduction to this plate was missing a great deal.  Usually when you get a cheese plate you get a little explanation of everything that’s on the plate, often with some background on the cheeses – where they are from, what kind of milk was used, etc.  That didn’t happen here so we had to guess at the cheeses.  Clearly easy with the blue, and the Brie ended up being relatively obvious.  Later, Eric jumped back into discussing the cheese plate and his disappointment with it.  He felt (and I can’t really disagree) that two cheeses do not make a cheese plate.  You should have a variety to taste and compare, and that blue cheese and Brie felt far too ordinary for a place like ASR.  Having been to House of Oliver just last week where I ordered their cheese board, these criticisms felt very valid.  Oliver’s cheese board came with 4 very different cheeses and a proper introduction and, I would add, a much lower price.  While ASR’s menu notes that you can add cheeses at $5 a pop, to match Oliver’s board you’d be spending $22 vs Oliver’s $14.  This could use some improvement.

In-between appetizers and dinner the manager came by to introduce himself (I think his name might have been Will?), see how we were doing so far and we had a little laugh as he complimented our beer vs wine pairings with the cheese plate.  He took one of the empty app dishes and also got me a new Newcastle a bit later.  Sometime before the main course they attempted to dim the lights but had a lot of trouble, almost certainly because they were using compact fluorescents.  They would dim slightly and then go off entirely (CFLs, even the dimming type, don’t really dim that far before shutting off in my experience).  We had the lights go off and on a few times before they settled on off and then brought us a candle for a little bit of additional light.  It was pretty dark.  Photos get a little rough from this point on.  They actually offered to turn the lights back on for me but I didn’t want to bother anyone else and I figured I could take a reasonable decent photo using the candle.  Recommendation to ASR: ditch the CFLs and either go LED or tried-and-true incandescent.

We only ordered our entrees midway through our appetizers as we were in no hurry, so these were about 30 minutes after we had finished the apps.  Eric ordered the pork tenderloin (Wrapped in house made bacon and served with a port wine sauce and white cheddar fritters)[$26] and I the Beef Wellington (Tender Filet Mignon wrapped Wild Mushroom Duxelle White Truffle Butter and puff pastry served on a bed of Truffle Madeira Sauce)[$36].  I’ve never had beef Wellington but it sounded ridiculous and I felt like splurging.  At this point I have to refer mostly to my own photos since my night vision never really had a chance in the dark with a bright big screen just down below in the center of the downstairs area.  Eric must have enjoyed his because he was done and the plate was gone when I was only halfway into my own.

I only had a (somewhat sharp) butter knife to work with, however the beef Wellington was incredibly tender and was quite easy to cut through.  The puff pastry was flaky, crisp and light.  Underneath was the Duxelle which was intensely rich with the white truffle butter.  The filet mignon looked to be cooked on the rare side.  I ordered medium-rare, but I’m actually very happy with rare as well.  It was wonderfully flavorful, both on it’s own as well as with some of the truffle Madeira sauce.  Served with it was some super pureed carrots, so light they were almost like a foam, also some asparagus  and what I believe was a brussels sprout and I’m not sure about the last item.  The sprout was good as was the asparagus, which had a good snap to it.  Overall I was extremely happy with this dish and would definitely order it again.

After dinner the chef came out to introduce himself and see if we enjoyed everything.  With the check we were given a couple of chocolate dipped strawberries and some sort of nut-based sheet thingy.  I have no idea what the deal was with that but it was pretty good and the strawberry was great.

ASR was a good experience.  I rarely feel the desire to dine at nicer restaurants, but it does happen occasionally.  I would consider ASR next time.  The drinks/appetizers/hang-out lounge side of things is super chill and enjoyable and dinner was very good in a cool (albeit darker than I like) setting.  Our server and all the support staff were on their game, checking on us frequently but not too frequently.  They seemed to appear whenever we needed something or when they were delivering food.  All were very professional and friendly.  While there were a few things that could use some work, notably the cheese plate but also the lighting and the patio servers never bringing the promised bread, I felt that overall the positives vastly outweighed the negatives.  I’d recommend it.

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