Years ago, in the beginning, Azur's patio was bare. Now, awnings shade diners, and the surroundings are green with foliage, accented by a riot of spiky orange lilies and puffy balls of pale hydrangeas. In this idyllic setting, executive chef Jeremy Ashby is due to roll out, perhaps by this review's publication, the first nearby farmers market for residents of this area of Lexington. What a guy.
Although Azur's modern blue interior has always spoken to me, I used to find myself out of sync with community opinion, shrugging at the kitchen's seemingly ordinary offerings. Not anymore.
Maybe I have changed, maybe the restaurant has, or maybe both, but Azur is now among my favorite lunchtime spots.
If you're going to linger — and you should — order an appetizer. The luxurious lobster crepes serve two. The pancakes are perfectly supple, and the creamy scallion filling, studded with lobster, is rich and delicious, making the little pools of herbed olive oil and sweet guava sauce, along with slightly wilted greens, virtually unnecessary. Or start on the lighter side with bruschetta: four pieces of soft grilled bread starring fluffy bean dip, like hummus but thinner, a somewhat watery "relish" of chopped tomatoes and olive, and artichoke hearts.
Salads are always reliable at Azur, whether a crunchy Caesar or something seasonal. At one point, the mixed-green salad included a splendid mini "napoleon" of beets, apples and soft cheese.
For many, lunch is the day's big meal. The menu's healthiest entree is the Asian-inspired salmon fillet brushed with hoisin sauce. It is topped with slivered almonds and bok choy. Tangy tangerine segments, slivered fennel, snap peas and fantastic shiitakes are tucked beneath the fish. This complex medley of flavors and textures was all served on stunning, pale-green coconut milk with lemongrass, lending an exotic dimension to the beautiful plate.
Sandwiches here are the downfall of the indecisive, because they are all delicious. The Dominican pork shoulder is the ideal blend of flavors and textures: tender slow-roasted meat, crunchy lemon slaw, sweet yellow mustard, piquant banana peppers and rich Swiss cheese. A bit more pork would have been welcome. The beef burger is ground in-house, and I have not tasted a better lamb burger anywhere. My only gripe is that the kitchen has a hard time getting the Kilimanjaro of shoestring fries to arrive piping hot. When they do, however, they are impossible to resist; I always get beyond base camp 1.
The dessert menu is small but tempting. Save room.
A duo of mousses recall Neapolitan ice cream — one white chocolate, strawberry-spiked, another milky chocolate — and resemble puddings in chocolate cups. Or lose the filling altogether and simply indulge in a single decadent dark-chocolate truffle.
But I could give both up for the blueberry sour cream cake, fresh from the oven, studded inside and out with blueberries. It's buttery rich, crusty with cooked sugar, with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. It is the perfect portion for two and the perfect end to a lovely lunch.
Azur has arrived for me at last. It is the ideal place for a midday meal on a languid summer afternoon south of New Circle. And if you time it right, you can pick up locally sourced produce in the bargain.
Wendy Miller is a Lexington-based food and spirits writer and critic.