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Welcome to The Lunch Belle, a NYC based food and travel website that views various dining scenes and destinations through the lens - and belly - of a highly opinionated thirty-something.

xoxo, 

Lindsay

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Entries in My favorites: Restaurants + bars + hotels (9)

Thursday
Sep172015

(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

...

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.

.

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 websiteWith 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. 

.

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.

.

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. 

...

Aloha and until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Wednesday
Apr092014

Worldwide Favorites: food & shelter

When people initially learn that I blog about the New York City dining scene, they always ask me what my favorite restaurant is. Unfortunately, I don’t have one spot that satisfies my every whim, taste bud or desire. In my experience, I’ve found that in order to create the perfect meal from start to finish (bread basket, appetizer, entrée and dessert), I would have to stop in to four separate NYC restaurants (whom I feel excel in each category). In the five years that I’ve lived here, there have only been three occasions where I truly had a flawless meal from start to finish: Pylos (August 2007), Peter Luger Steakhouse (January 2008), Dhaba (March 2009). This got me thinking: If NYC is one of the top “food cities” in the world, why is it that I don’t have more “perfect meal” experiences?

I decided to create a list of my favorite restaurants outside of the Big Apple. In doing so, I realized that while NYC excels at many different cuisines/techniques (Italian, molecular gastronomy, French, Japanese, pastry, Asian fusion), I’m still a Southern girl at heart (for the most part) on a quest to find the Mexican and comfort food that I grew up eating (1000 miles South of Manhattan). So until the Yankee’s get it right, or I open a restaurant of my own, I won’t ever be (OK, rarely be) 100% satisfied.

Now if you ever find yourselves in one of the cities listed below, check out some of my favorite restaurants/treat shops (use Google to find specific addresses, menus, reviews, etc.) Without further ado:

~

Arkansas

California

China

France

Hawaii

Ilinois

Massachusetts

New Hampshire

New Mexico

New York

Rhode Island

  • Cafe Zelda (...make sure to order the unique, delicious "Chicken Fried Lobster," and ask for a side of lobster gravy)  Newport

Singapore

Tennessee

Texas

Washington

~

Now that you've seen a list of my most favorite restaurants, here's a lineup of my personal picks for the best places to rest your head:

California

China

France

Hawaii

Mexico

Nevada

New York

Peru

Thailand

Sunday
Mar252012

In NYC, where are the best...?

Appetizer

Bacon

Bagel

BBQ

Biscuits

Bread basket

Brunch

Brunch cocktail

Burger

Cheese enchiladas

Cheese plate

Chilaquiles

Chile con Queso dip

Chips & salsa

Chinese "tapas"

Chongqing Chicken

Cinnamon rolls

Comfort food

Cookies

Corn bread

Creamiest caffe latte made with *skim* milk

Create-your-own-salad

Creative egg dish

Croque Monsieur

Cupcake

Desserts

Drinks with a killer view

Dumplings (Chinese)

Entree

Falafel

Free bar snacks

French fries/frites

French onion soup

French toast

Frozen margarita

Gelato

Gnocchi

Gnudi

Greek salad

Grilled cheese sandwich 

Guacamole

Hidden gem

Homemade sausage

Horchata

Hummus

Latkes/potato pancakes

Lasagna

Mac & Cheese

Macaron

Meatballs

Most breathtaking space

Mozzarella

Onion rings

Osso bucco

Overall restaurant experience  a kick-ass meal from start to finish, dine-in only and service excluded

Pan-fried pork dumplings

Pastrami

Pate d' Fruit

Peanut butter indulgence

Pie

Pizza pie

Quesadilla

Queso fundido

Quiche

Salted-caramel ice cream

Sandwich 

Sangria

Service

Side dishes / small plates 

Spanish rice

Stuffed pide

Tex Mex-style taco   fried outer shell, shredded cheese, shredded iceberg lettuce, chopped tomatoes

Tuna tartare

Whole wheat pizza

Monday
Feb282011

NYCs best TexMex-style tacos

Believe it or not - I wouldn't have believed it until I was dragged there for a birthday dinner, recently - Arriba Arriba's Hell's Kitchen location has the city's best TexMex-style tacos.  Why?

  • Their taco shells are *FRIED ON PREMISES*
  • They use moist, shredded meat (beef was my protein of choice)
  • ...which sits atop a mound of melted, shredded, cheese
  • and is finally crowned by crisp, fresh lettuce and tomatoes
  • Arriba Arriba also has really good salsa for dipping and dunking
  • With every bite you take, a hearty blend of juices grease drips out from the opposite end

Now, for all of you fellow Texans out there, I want you to give this taco a try and report back to me.  I'm willing to bet that you, too, will fall in love.  For NYC, this is pretty damn good.

See for yourself!  GET. HERE. NOW.

~

Read it & eat,

The Lunch Belle

Tuesday
Jul132010

A mid-summer night's fling

Since there are so many small treasures that I'm crushing on this summer, I thought that it would be best to consolidate everything in to one list.  From cocktails and bites to hair accessories and beach bags, these are a few of my favorite things:

Headbands, bandannas, and scarves: I love how a simple headband or bandanna - or Pucci scarf - can completely transform an outfit.  A bold pop of color will breathe life in to any all-black business suit.  And in my case, these hair accessories aid in lengthening my rather-large, heart-shaped face.  Wouldn't you agree?

Sour-cherry bellini at ABC Kitchen: I ordered this brunch cocktail while I was waiting for two of my girlfriends to arrive.  Sour-cherry puree, brandy-macerated sour-cherry juice, and champagne was delicately blended together, creating an orgasmic trinity of effervescent flavor. 

Since ABC's market table and ingredients frequently change with the seasons, I would advise going ASAP, as this cocktail masterpiece makes ABC Kitchen destination-worthy.  *As embarrassing as it is to snap photos at restaurants, I'm kicking myself for not capturing this beverage.  Sorry, folks!

Shopstyle.com: what doesn't this website carry?  From Christian Louboutin heels to the swankiest interior decor for your home, you can't help but spend hours skimming through this amazing website.

My Other Bag is Hermes: can't afford a Birkin?  Well, neither can I; so instead of maxing out my AMEX, I chose to save $6,430 by picking up the next-best-thing at Colette.  Hell, for $70, let everyone think that "my other bag really is Hermes!" 

City Limits Magazine: a bi-monthly investigative journalism publication on (New York) city-wide civic issues

Esperanto's spiced oil: served alongside freshly-sliced bread at Esperanto, I fell in love with this bold and fragrant spice-infused oil...so much so, that I purchased a bottle to take home.  I use it so often that once the bottle becomes half-full, I refill it with my own olive oil.  My favorite things to make using Esperanto's oil include: sauteed scallops, fried eggs, Brussels sprouts, and drizzled over sliced avocado.  Click *here* to purchase your own bottle of this liquid gold!   

Sour Patch Kids Fruit Salad: now if there's one candy that I never tire of, it's these sweet n' sour morsels.  The original SPK's are tasty, but trust me when I say that the "Fruit Salad" version reigns supreme.  Unfortunately, if you're located outside of NYC, they're pretty hard to find, at least in my experience.  Luckily, Amazon.com sells 5-lb. bags!  

Ben & Jerry's Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream: if you've been following my website for a while, you may recall how devastated I was when Haagen Dazs decided to discontinue their "Reserve" line of ice creams.  The departure of my beloved "Fleur de Sel Caramel" was a blow on par with breaking up with someone.  I wasn't quite sure if it would ever become replaceable.

While strolling past my grocer's freezer with baited breath, I decided to "man up" and give another ice cream flavor a try.  And there it was, Ben & Jerry's Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream.  I was surprised by my choice because a) I rarely purchase anything from Ben & Jerry's because they use so many preservatives and additives, and b) I typically shy away from fruity ice cream. 

Imagine rich and creamy, strawberry-laden, not-overly-sweet ice cream swirled with salty/sweet ribbons of graham cracker.  Even texturally, this dessert bomb will do numbers on your tastebuds.  And I promise you this: you will finish the pint in one sitting.

Monday
Mar082010

"The Best of New York 2010," according to New York Magazine

Click *here* to read about the winners in each category