There are any number of reasons why a restaurant can become and remain successful. Many times, it’s because the establishment is giving its customers what they want. Then, there’s AZUR Restaurant & Patio, which has done so by offering guests what they don’t expect. This contemporary bistro, part of the bustling Beau- mont Centre on Lexington’s south end, has been ex- panding the city’s palate one customer at a time for the past six years. That has always been part of owner and executive chef Jeremy Ashby’s vision. Having worked in culinary hot beds like Miami and Charleston, SC, before becoming the creative culinary operations manager for popular Lexington restaurants like the Merrick Inn, Ashby and his culinary staff bring a mix of innovation and reverence to the purity of each dish they craft. While AZUR prides itself on being a farm-to-table restaurant that uses as many Kentucky Proud ingredi- ents as possible; what it does with those ingredients isn’t exactly indebted to Bluegrass State tradition—far from it. But before you get to your first bite, you’ll be trans- ported to another locale by the restaurant’s atmosphere alone. The European-inspired minimalist interior is curvaceous, dominated by light wood tables and walls with bold blues and various hues of green. With weather heating up, the restaurant’s expansive and well-manicured patio area is sure to attract a crowd on its own merits. Now, let’s get to the food, which is the fun part for not only the diners but for the cooks composing these delectable dishes. Ashby said his menu, along with the specials he and his staff concoct, knowingly push diners out of their comfort zones. Want to try a burger at lunchtime? AZUR is leaving the cow alone and instead using lamb, with feta cheese, roasted red pepper, field greens, buttermilk chervil ranch and a side of sweet potato fries. In the mood for a slider appetizer? No problem, except they are duck meatball sliders with an Asian kick on Hawaiian bread. You probably won’t find the common cuts of meat at dinner time, so you may end up seeing if you’re game for some, well, different game; i.e., elk, boar or rabbit. Whether your choice is safe or exotic, what the restaurant does to it is what makes AZUR a standout. The salmon tiradito appetizer combines fresh, delicate and lightly seared salmon with the salty crunch of fried scallions, mustard miso sauce and toasted black sesame seeds. A savory starter is the lobster crepes, with creamy scallion filling and no shortage of lobster meat given a sweet smack in a pool of guava sauce and some earthiness from truffle oil. Some of AZUR’s mainstay entrees will give you a chance to see the kitchen’s unbridled creativity un- leashed. Take the woven shrimp, whose presentation could pass for modern sculpture. The filo crust is sliced into thin ribbons and wrapped around the shrimp, which is fried and topped with a coconut sweet corn risotto and red chile glaze. Throw in some radicchio and a bit of avocado relish (a personal touch for this visit) and you’ve got one stylishly plated and flavor-packed prawn. (Side note: I was also enjoying a Bluegrass Sunrise—an award-winning, reconstructive take on the typical old fashioned. Just lets you know that experimentation doesn’t exclusively reside in the back of the house.) One of my final culinary curveballs came when I was told I’d be getting a ribeye. If you’re like me, when you think of a ribeye, a certain image pops into your head. What I got, however, further showcased AZUR’s tin- kering with the common dish. Utilizing only the tender “lip” of the ribeye cut, it was stacked perfectly on a strip of fried potato and served with dots of horseradish and Ashby’s homemade steak sauce. It’s little surprises like this you’ll enjoy if you ask AZUR about one of their multi-course tasting menus. Ashby said that AZUR Restaurant & Patio seems to have really hit its stride. Granted, it’s a stride that seems like it could go in any direction, with its emphasis on changing its menu to follow food trends and capitalize on seasonal ingredients. But no matter its choices, the focus on creativity with the confidence and ability to deliver tasty and contemporary cuisine will keep AZUR a stylish stop for Lexington food fanatics. 859.296.1007 | 3070 Lakecrest Circle Suite 550 |
Posted on 2012-04-01 by