Azur Restaurant and Patio in Lexington, Kentucky (by Doug Roberts)
All of my friends know me as the guy who knows where to eat in just about any major North American city. I frequently get a phone call, email, or text from a friend saying, “I’m going to [name the city] and I need to know where to eat.”
However, most of my friends also have learned to take my enthusiasm with a grain of salt, as I tend to over sell a place I really love.
My current favorite out of town restaurant is Azur Restaurant in Lexington Kentucky. It’s hard to oversell, as I have brought many clients and friends here and none have been disappointed.
Although we are blessed with many great chefs in my hometown of Nashville, as well as Louisville, where I spend a great deal of time, none top Jeremy Ashby, who in my book IS top chef.
Jeremy Ashby artfully combines flavors and executes unique twists on familiar dishes for perfect balance, consistently amazing foodies like me.
There is nothing pretentious about his creations; they are hearty and satisfying, very much the way Spinach Tiger cooks.
Chef Ashby of Azur Restaurant & Patio creates many dishes based on local fare, often incorporating Kentucky bourbon.
He will take a traditional Italian dish and localize it, like his Hot Brown Gnocchi with smoked cheddar mornay, prosciutto, roasted chicken, scallion and confit tomato. It was awesome.
The restaurant is unassuming from the outside, sitting in a simple strip center in between a Super Cuts and a UPS Store. Had they not been on Open Table and located walking distance from the hotel I usually stay at in Lexington, I might have never discovered them.
However, as soon as you walk in, you immediately notice the beautiful decor, modern, and comfortable. There is a good mix of tables and booths and there are ceiling clouds to help diffuse the sound, so in spite of hard wood floors, the noise level is tolerable, even when there is a full house.
There is a small bar in the back that is nearly always packed and the vibe is fun an vibrant, but my favorite thing about this place is the patio. The large patio, surrounded by plants and flowers, is the place to be when the weather is nice, though they do have plastic walls and heaters so you can eat on the patio year round.
They also have a wood-fired pizza oven on the patio where they make true Italian style pizza, although it is only fired up Thursday through Sunday during the warm season. They unfortunately do allow smoking on the patio, and that is not likely to change since at least one of the owners is a chain smoker and hangs out there almost every evening. However, the patio is large enough that I have always been able to avoid the few smokers and their fumes.
The wine list here is not large but it is excellent with a very nice selection of bottles at varying price points. The by the glass selection is very small, one of each main varietal, but well selected. Bourbons line the menu, naturally, this is Kentucky.
Azur Restaurant & Patio features a Winning Bourbon Cocktail.
I enjoy bourbon cocktails, and particularly liked the Bluegrass Sunrise, Azur’s twist on an old fashioned that was the Kentucky Bourbon Festival Mixed Drink Challenge winner in 2011.
The Menu is divided into Starters, Salads, and Entrees. There are also daily specials and, in the warm season, a pizza menu. In addition to a glass of wine or cocktail, I will typically either order a salad and entree or a starter, salad, and desert, and will stay in budget and leave satisfied. If you order from every category as well as a drink and desert, you are going to drop some cash, as the entrees are mostly in the $30’s. The one exception is the pizzas that usually run from $12-$14 and are very filling for one person.
The menu changes frequently and there are always unique daily specials, but there are some things that stay constant, such as their Woven Shrimp or the Super Food Salad, which I almost always order.
Here is a sampling of other dishes I have eaten on my many visits here over the last three years:
Salads at Azur Restaurant
Super Food Salad
It will change slightly with the season but it is typically baby spinach, edamame, blueberries, carrots, apples, almonds or pistachios, with a green chili peach vinaigrette. Super healthy and delicious.
Warm Brussels Sprout Slaw
with applewood bacon, shaved heirloom beets, crumbled goat cheese, warm cherry mustard vinaigrette. Very hearty, satisfying, and delicious. This along with my pork taco starter filled me up.
Starters at Azur Restaurant & Patio
Sausage and Corn Dip
with house made sweet potato and corn ships. Hearty, smokey and substantial with white cheddar cheese, andouille sausage, and other yummy stuff I couldn’t identify. The house made corn chips were great and went perfectly with the dip. The Sweet Potato chips were exceptionally light and delicious by themselves, but I did not think they paired well with the dip, which not only was too heavy to use with the chips but also took away from their flavor. I ended up just eating the last half of the dip with a spoon… it was that good.
Pork Starter Tacos
These guys know how to do pork. These are perfect when looking for something a little lighter than an entreé.
Chorizo Won Tons
with Veracruz sauce and mango chutney.
Brick Oven Pizzas at Azur Restaurant
A simple classic, but they do it very well here. You can’t go wrong with this.
tomato puree, mozzarella, pepperoni, sausage, prosciutto, and banana pepper.
Kentucky Pizza with beer cheese, sweet corn, sausage, and smoked honey. Although this has some savory notes, it could easily pass as a desert. Very unique and delicious, its worth trying, but probably not something I would order a second time.
Entrees at Azur Restaurant
Potato Gnocchi with fresh tomato, spinach, and goat cheese.
Gnocchi Cremosa with lump crab, corn, scallion, cilantro, and poblano lemongrass cream.
I love gnocchi, but this was just over the top with a perfect blending of flavors, creating something unexpected and amazing.
A dining partner had this and absolutely loved it.
A signature dish and a menu constant.
The preparation constantly changes, but they are always excellent.
Desserts at Azur Restaurant
Country Ham Fried Ice Cream with crispy film
I haven’t tried this, but it just sounded so unique, I had to mention it.
Nutella Panna Cotta
This was great and unique.
The only negative I can say is do not get the coffee. They haven’t managed to do that well; but get everything else!