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


(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


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:









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






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:







New York




In NYC, where are the best...?






Bread basket


Brunch cocktail


Cheese enchiladas

Cheese plate


Chile con Queso dip

Chips & salsa

Chinese "tapas"

Chongqing Chicken

Cinnamon rolls

Comfort food


Corn bread

Creamiest caffe latte made with *skim* milk


Creative egg dish

Croque Monsieur



Drinks with a killer view

Dumplings (Chinese)



Free bar snacks

French fries/frites

French onion soup

French toast

Frozen margarita




Greek salad

Grilled cheese sandwich 


Hidden gem

Homemade sausage



Latkes/potato pancakes


Mac & Cheese



Most breathtaking space


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


Pate d' Fruit

Peanut butter indulgence


Pizza pie


Queso fundido


Salted-caramel ice cream




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


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