Grind Time: Azure showcases Moët and Chandon
BY JASON GENEGABUS / email@example.com
Honolulu Star-Advertiser ‘Ilima Award-winning restaurant Azure hosted the latest installment of its Restaurant Dinner Series on Thursday, partnering with Moët and Chandon to present a luxurious meal just steps from the waterfront at The Royal Hawaiian in Waikiki.
Azure has continued to impress with quality ingredients and masterful technique since current Chef de Cuisine Shaymus Alwin replaced his predecessor, Chef Jon Matsubara, who departed in 2013. But the dinner series allows Alwin to venture even further from his restaurant’s established dinner menu and experiment with different ingredients and techniques.
“This is completely different from what we normally do,” Alwin explained during a break from the kitchen to check in with his guests. “Our team gets to have fun and bring in some fun products.
“The big one for me was flying in some truffles fresh from France this morning. They just came in off the jet. I’ve been walking around the hotel with my bag full of truffles like it’s my child!”
As Alwin and his staff did their thing, Southern Wine & Spirits of Hawaii’s Adam La Cagnina and Pacific Wine & Spirits of Hawaii’s Caitlin Farr expertly led the dozen or so guests in attendance through the five different wines featured that night. The Moët and Chandon offerings ranged from the affordable Chandon Limited Blanc de Noirs Brut ($19.99 in stores) to a 2004 vintage Dom Perignon ($179.99 in stores).
First up was a glass of the Blanc de Noirs, served with fresh bread to prep our palates for the dishes to come. It’s technically not Champagne — Chandon produces this from pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes grown in Northern California — it’s made according to the same French standards and, according to the company’s website, is the “bubbly served at all White House receptions.”
“The grapes for this Blanc de Noirs come from an area just south of Napa,” said La Cagnina. “They benefit from the cooling effects of fog rolling in from San Pablo Bay. While it gets warm during the day, fog blankets the vineyards at night and cools them.”
Once we were seated, the first course was served. Small bowls of decadence made their way from the kitchen — Japanese chawanmushi, silky smooth with a Peterson Farms deviled egg, king crab and caviar just begging to be devoured. Jerusalem artichoke, Waialua asparagus and nasturtium completed the dish, which was served with a glass of Moët Imperial Reserve.
The Imperial Reserve has been available in the United States since 2009 and is made from batches of one- and two-year-old wine several times a year to ensure availability. At $45.99 a bottle in stores, it’s a nice middle of the road bubbly with a fresh, fruity taste that complemented the richness of the chawanmushi and its tasty garnishes.
Thursday’s second course was my favorite of the evening — yes, even more than the truffles that came later! Alwin procured Kusshi oysters from Washington State and paired them with foie gras, Meyer lemon preserve, shiso oil and white soy mignonette.
I’m not the biggest raw oyster fan, but the ingredients that accompanied it in this dish made it spectacular. The Kusshi oysters were salty as one would expect, but an underlying sweetness paired nicely with the Meyer lemon and shiso flavors. The foie gras was prepared using the French torchon method, which includes freezing the duck liver before cubing and placing it atop each oyster.
That frozen foie is what put these over the top for me, with a chilled creaminess that helped each oyster melt in my mouth amidst the citrusy zest of the lemon and mignonette. Following each bite with a sip of Moët Grand Vintage 2006 only elevated the experience. More than a few people in attendance that night asked if there were any extra servings left before they had even finished what was in front of them!
The opulence continued as we were presented with glasses of Moët Imperial Brut Rosé to accompany a plate of uni and saffron pasta with snap peas, sorrel and a champagne sauce. Alwin mentioned the uni was so fresh, it had just arrived at the restaurant by plane from Japan earlier that day.
After two substantial courses, guests were given a short respite via an intermezzo of watermelon champagne gelee.
And then it was back to business, as Alwin’s highly anticipated truffle course made its way out of the kitchen.
Perigord truffles, generously shaved atop a confit of hamachi served with apple, celery and potato puree and braised fennel.
Just as the salty-sweet taste of the Kusshi oysters paired with the creaminess of the foie gras made the second course shine, the combination of complementary flavors provided by the umami in the truffles and the delicateness of the hamachi kept chatter to a minimum during this course as guests focused on the food in front of them.
“It’s decadence upon decadence with a little bit of sweet,” said Alwin. “It’s meant to make the truffle pop with the Dom.”
You could tell he was pretty excited.
The meal concluded with a Paris-brest with champagne mousse, as Azure staff poured refills for guests who wanted more of a specific bubbly.
The Azure Restaurant Dinner Series takes place several times per year; the restaurant is located inside The Royal Hawaiian, 2259 Kalakaua Avenue. Call (808) 921-4600 for more information and reservations.
“Grind Time” is always looking for the latest places to get your grub on. Email Jason Genegabus with restaurant, bar or any other food/drink-related item at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter and Google+.