Fresh, modern, Hawaii: Azure Restaurant's new tasting menu

Upscale tasting menu is the first from the new chef de cuisine
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It's a new era at Azure Restaurant, The Royal Hawaiian Hotel's signature seaside restaurant where new chef de cuisine Shingo Katsura has just launched his first tasting menu. It's all about Hawaii, its cultures and its bounty of ingredients, and it is luxe.

Shingo Katsura is the new chef de cuisine at Azure, and this is his first tasting menu for the restaurant. - Photo courtesy Azure

Katsura grew up on Oahu and headed off for a California culinary career that started at the Bay Area's Michelin-starred Madera. Now that he's back, here's his nightly five-course feast. (Scroll on for food photos; you'll have to imagine the sunset views and the sound of waves breaking on the beach in front of your table.)

Ahi poke toast with squid ink tonnato, pickled mango and crispy bonito

The starter features poke made with fresh ahi and flourish of squid ink that’s reminiscent of calligraphy. It’s served with Palmer Champagne NV to kick things off on a light, bubbly note. 

Dinner also comes with a bread basket of lavosh, baguettes and highly addictive cheddar biscuits. 

Warm bread with spreads: butter with sea salt and clam dip with bacon bits
Chilled Twin Bridges asparagus bisque with prosciutto, a variation of local citrus and ginger agro dolce

Katsura's chilled asparagus soup is creamy and light, and you’ll immediately taste the crispy ginger. The Meullenhoff Riesling pairing amps up the refreshing factor. Micah Suderman, the hotel’s director of restaurant and bars and a certified sommelier, explains that the crisp wine is akin to the spritz of lemon that brings out different flavors in seafood dishes. 

Pan-seared onaga with squash noodles, Kauai prawn, Vietnamese herbs and pho broth

The beef pho in this course steals the show. The onaga is moist and flavorful, and the broth gives the dish a surf-and-turf feel. The order of dishes is intentional — courses this like this one are designed as palate cleansers. It's hearty yet light, and it whets your appetite for the meaty dish that’s coming next.   

Snake River Farms wagyu ribeye with pommes puree, truffle creamed kale, Alii mushrooms, pickled shallots and Bordelaise sauce

Katsura didn’t want to launch his first tasting menu without this specific wagyu steak. Traditional Japanese wagyu is more fatty; this generously portioned U.S. wagyu's lower fat content makes it a better balance for the accompaniments. The truffle creamed kale is not unlike an indulgent spinach; each bite leaves you wanting more. Pommes puree are like a heavenly potato cloud. The dish is paired with Livio Felluga Vertigo, a merlot-based wine blended with cabernet sauvignon and selected for its earthier flavor that complements the steak. 

White chocolate mousse with bananas Foster filling, honeycomb and toasted honey marshmallow 

End on a sweet note with this elegant white chocolate mousse paired with Saraco Moscato d'Asti. The honeycomb's crunch balances the creamy mousse, and the airy bananas Foster filling makes you feel less guilty about indulging. The toasted honey marshmallow stays on the brain and make you wish every S'mores came with this. 

The five-course menu is $105 per person, or $145 if you opt for Suderman's artfully selected wine pairings. Tasting menus are limited to 25 customers a night and available every night. Reserve online at Open Table or call the restaurant at 921-4600. On Friday nights, you get the added bonuses of Waikiki's weekly fireworks show and live music performances starting at 8 p.m.

Azure Restaurant (inside The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort)
2259 Kalakaua Ave.
Daily 5:30-9 p.m.
Four hours of free parking with restaurant validation