What else can be said about AZUR?
No, seriously. Everything that can be said about AZUR and it’s executive chef Jeremy Ashby has already been printed, typed, blogged, written and tweeted.
For me, AZUR represented a new challenge. The food is intimidating; not in a “mystery meal/what the hell am I eating!?” type of way, but rather in insecurity in myself to do it justice.
You see, while every restaurant (hopefully) puts plenty of preparation into their dishes, much of the other places I’ve reviewed can’t necessarily be called “fancy”. “Fancy” may be a subjective label, as for what I may consider fancy many could consider “relaxed”, and vice versa.
However with AZUR’s presentation, I’m a long way away from paper plates and cups. Not that there’s anything wrong with either of them, mind you.
When I received a gift certificate to AZUR and checked out their menu online – followed by a few reviews – I knew I was in for a treat and a test. (Note: I received the gift certificate through my company – NOT from anyone associated with AZUR)
On our first visit, Kat and I decided to try their daily appetizer special, which was lamb with some seafood wontons. Trust me – I’m not going to do this plate justice, as it was much more elaborate than I’m describing. However, I will say this: the lamb was so delicate, so juicy and tender that it basically melted in my mouth. While eating it you felt awful, not from the taste but because there was now one less piece for you to savor. My only wish was that there was more of it, but then I would have ruined my dinner.
That would have been the true travesty, as I had ordered the berkshire pork chop. Served with goat cheese macaroni, brandy apples and walnuts, the pork chop was – and this isn’t hyperbole – the best I’ve ever had. With a slight char and perfectly seasoned, the pork was delightfully savory. Kat had ordered the mozzarella chicken (prosciutto wrapped, mozzarella stuffed chicken breasts) and after the first few bites we just gave one another a look which we both understood as “This is too good”. Our waiter was elusive, but we didn’t care as the food was so distracting.
The dessert – butterscotch banana pudding – was fine, but we couldn’t stop talking about the dinner. My pork chop was worth more than the $26 price tag, as I would have gladly paid $30-35. It was that good. A perfect meal, while eating by candlelight and listening to live music: a fantastic way to spend a Saturday night with someone you love.
We went back the following Tuesday to try their lunch, hoping to get something on par with the pork. For starters we ordered the truffle fries, which are shoestring fries with truffle oil, romano cheese and herbs. Enjoyable, especially since they incorporated the whole dish with the herbs and oil, which is something that so many places fail to either consider or execute.
For our entrees, Kat ordered the caprese sandwich and I had the wild boar bolognese. Kat said her sandwich was delicious, if slightly heavy on the vinegar. I wasn’t a fan of the bolognese as I found it kind of bland. Overall we were kind of disappointed, especially after our experience a few nights earlier when everything was divine. Also this time we were seated at a booth instead of the tables, and there is way too much room between the seat and the table. I’m a big guy and even I had room to spare.
After that meal – and also because we were the only people there eating at 1pm – we figured that perhaps AZUR is more of a dinner spot, focusing their best efforts for the heavier traffic. Also we always go to a place at least three times (except in one instance) before we review it, so why not go back at dinner where we had such an amazing experience the first time?
On this third visit, we tried another special appetizer for the day: a pizza with garlic, oil, arugula, mozzarella, a sunnyside up egg (a nice nod to Chef Ashby’s radio show, “Sunnyside Up”) and dried beef on home-made dough. Perfect! We devoured the pizza in about five or seven minutes, using the dough to soak up the left over egg. Honestly, it could have been our entire meal itself and that would have been fine.
For dinner I ordered the brisket with a sausage and potato hash. I loved the sauce and the brisket was brilliantly cooked, however my favorite part of this dish was the hash. A simple sausage, potato hash with carrots, onions and celery and yet it was divine. I’m not really sure why I enjoyed it so much, but those ingredients just worked, especially when dipped into the horseradish aioli. Kat ordered the macadamia crusted salmon with a roasted garlic risotto. She enjoyed the salmon, but said the risotto was bland. I tried some and had to agree. Outside of the pizza and hash, the best part of this trip was our waitress, who was engaging and attentive.
It’s a shame that we didn’t enjoy our subsequent visits as much as our first, and perhaps it skewed our expectations. While the later meals were good, they couldn’t compare to what I ordered on our first trip, when I had one of my favorite meals ever.
Do yourself a favor and go down to Beaumont’s Lakecrest Circle on a Saturday night and try AZUR for yourself. It was an experience I’m glad I had, and one I will undoubtedly have again soon.
Overall – B+/A