Tuesday, September 22, 2015

(Honolulu) Reviewed: Azure

Restaurant: Azure
  • Cuisine: Regional American
  • Location: The Royal Hawaiian (Hotel), 2259 Kalakaua Avenue - Honolulu 96815  
  • Pricing: $$$
  • What's delicious: Everything
  • Perfect for: Al-fresco dining, date night, small groups, foodies, views
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For someone who has grown up vacationing in Oahu, my family and I have amassed quite a number of special haunts and go-to eateries over the years.  In Kailua, we love Island Snow for shave ice, Saeng's for Thai, and Buzz's Steakhouse for Mai Tai's - ahi poke - and the freshest local fish.  And in Honolulu, no trip is complete without a visit to Tanaka of Tokyo for the best teppanyaki this side of, well, Tokyo.

Prior to spending this past Labor Day weekend in Honolulu, I realized something: This would be my first time visiting the island without my family in tow!  With a limited number of dinner reservations to plan, would I set one night aside to making a pilgrimage at Tanaka of Tokyo?  Or, at 35 years old, was it time for me to make my own culinary footprints and memories in this land of nostalgia?  
Ultimately, I never ended up dining at Tanaka of Tokyo.  However, I'm happy to report that I corralled a pretty solid list of my own go-to eateries.  One that particularly stands out is Azure at The Royal Hawaiian.  Not only was it the best meal of my trip - it's the best meal I've had in recent memory.
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Amanda and I arrived at the sprawling pink resort just before 8pm - post the Hilton Hawaiian Village's weekly fireworks show/extravaganza (held every Friday night at 7:45PM) - and meandered our way to the restaurant through the property's lush courtyards and richly-appointed public spaces.



Upon arrival at Azure, Amanda and I could not help but be taken by the restaurant's stunning, Spanish-Moorish interior decor and tranquil aura.  With breaths taken and mouths agape, we were promptly ushered to our lovely two-top, located merely feet from the sand of Waikiki Beach.

 
Photo captured via the restaurant's website

With menu prices on the steeper side, Amanda and I decided to gorge on the (gratis) bountiful bread basket, split an appetizer, each order an entree, and drink our dessert.
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For an appetizer, we chose the Azure Sashimi.



First, Hawaiian yellowfin ahi (tuna) was blanketed by a slice of Japanese hamachi (of equal size).  Prior to being rolled like a pseudo burrito, a dollop of guacamole crowned the raw fish.  Served as a set of three, the sashimi sat atop a shallow pool of fragrant ginger vinaigrette.
From the freshness and quality of each ingredient (namely the seafood) and the overwhelming success achieved from the melange of contrasting flavors (guacamole and ginger vinaigrette) - to the fried pineapple frond used as a garnish - every aspect of this dish married magnificently together, thus creating the pinnacle of culinary perfection.  It was, unquestionably, one of the best seafood dishes that I've ever experienced.

For my entree, I chose the "Black Magic" Spiced Moonfish (Opah).




Artfully perched atop a generous helping of Nozawa Farms' sweet corn-pudding were two moonfish filets, liberally rubbed with the Azure's "Black Magic" spices.  Black and white sesame seeds, micro greens (providing for, if nothing else, a fabulous color contrast), and ginger/sesame vinaigrette completed this gorgeous plate.
Another solid win/slam dunk for Azure (and my taste buds)!  I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the "Black Magic" spices did not completely overpower the incredibly flaky, delicate fish.  How that was successfully achieved, I would love to know!
"Amanda," I gasped, "do you realize that we've not spoken to each other once since our entrees arrived?"  She returned my inquiry with a puzzled gaze before looking down at her plate and smiling.  "Lindsay," she chuckled, "the conversation can wait, girl!  This food is too delicious to be interrupted!"  She was right.
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If you find yourself in Honolulu in the near future, you absolutely must pay a visit to Azure.  Having dined all over the island, I can confidently say that this is one of Oahu's best restaurants (and restaurant experiences) and my personal favorite.