August 22, 2012
2259 Kalakaua Avenue Honolulu, HI | www.azurewaikiki.com
Azure water, sandy beaches, and cool trade wind breezes – All elements of an idyllic island vacation in Hawaii. Growing up in Hawaii I grew accustomed to these conditions, admittedly taking them for granted at times. Moving away from this setting to the northern Midwest came with a drastic change in scenery. And so, when planning our visit back home this past July I wanted to have at least one dining experience with a view of the ocean. This desire led me to Azure in the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.
One particular draw of this meal was the private cabana seating, available for only two tables each night. With this seating you are provided a private table at the edge of the restaurant’s patio, which fronts the white sands of Waikiki beach and features views of Diamond Head. The sides of the cabana can be drawn for the utmost privacy. The first several meters of beach are roped off for the hotel, so your view is not obstructed by public beachgoers.
In addition to the private, picturesque setting, a degustation menu available only to the cabana tables also drew my attention. Chef Jon Matsubara is the culinary mind behind Azure, who brings with him a wealth of culinary experience, previously working as a chef at Roy’s, Alan Wong’s, Stage, and Jean Georges (NYC).
After being seated and spending a few minutes taking in the views and enjoying the cool breeze, our server stopped by to let us know that our courses would begin.
While waiting for the degustation menu to begin we snacked on a selection of house breads. While not hot and fresh out of the oven, the breads were nicely done and the accompanying spreads were flavorful.
Our first prepared plate was this bite of chicharrón and avocado. The chicharrón was thin, crispy, and full of salty pork flavor. The crispiness of the chicharrón paired nicely with the creamy avocado. The sweet, slightly tart flavor of the shooter was a nice pairing with the saltiness of the chicharrón.
This plate was presented covered with a cloche filled with smoke, which infused the Wagyu beef with a charred, smoky flavor. The intense beefy flavor from the torched Wagyu was offset by a savory bite from the manchego cheese and the tartness of the granny smith apples. Adding the wasabi salt introduced a kick of spice and a saltiness which magnified the other flavors.
The brightness of the citrus corn salad and Thai basil worked very well against the sweetness of the roasted lobster tail. The lobster tail was succulent and fresh, and roasting it brought forward its sweetness. The anchovy and marrow butter work to add a richer, saltier flavor to the plate.
This beautiful presentation of Hawaiian red snapper was one of my favorite courses of the meal. Crusted in a layer of crispy potato, the fish was perfectly tender and flaky. The aromatic broth added delightful savory flavors and the kaffir lime provided a nice brightness to the whole plate. The slight taste of anise and licorice from the fennel were welcomed compliments to the broth.
Fork tender butter poached beef tenderloin and foie gras make this the most decadent course of the degustation. The plate is filled with rich and hearty flavors from the foie, beef, egg, and truffle. Each bite contains the luxuriousness of egg yolk and foie combined with the fattiness of the tenderloin. While the mushrooms do their best to add a varying earthy flavor to the plate, I did feel that my palate would have benefited from an additional element of sweetness or acidity to cut the richness. This minor note aside, the course was certainly delicious.
A simple yet enjoyable plate of cheese, fruits, and nuts comprised our final course before dessert. The melon, mango, and granny smith apples provided varying levels of sweetness to complement the salty cheeses.
For dessert and our final course of the night we were presented with a dark, rich chocolate cake. The cake was moist, sweet, and decadent. The heavy nature of the cake was offset well by a slightly tart gelee and the sweet yet light gelato. Marcona almonds added much needed texture to the otherwise softly textured plate.
It was refreshing to find the degustation menu at Azure contained a few preparations and courses that I wouldn’t normally expect in Hawaii. The influence of Chef Matsubara’s time in New York City comes through each course and in the progression of the meal. The arc of the degustation was well conceived and paced properly; It moved from an amuse to awaken the palate to lighter courses, and then concluded with bolder flavors.
The ambiance and privacy of the cabana seating are welcomed assets for a romantic meal. The oceanfront setting , despite being on a stretch of the ever busy Waikiki beach, is quiet and peaceful. The service and attentiveness of the staff were top notch, perhaps operating at a higher level due to our special seating – although that is pure speculation on my part.
2259 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815
Tagged with: Azure • Chef Jon Matsubara • Fusion • Hawaii • Honolulu • Tasting Menu • Waikiki