Getting Satisfaction from a Stones-inspired Menu

Digest Foodie Fare

February 20, 2011

Story By: Dining Out Team |

Iknow it’s only rock ‘n’ roll, but I like it. And apparently so does the crew at Azure Restaurant, because the legendary music of The Rolling Stones is the inspiration behind “Beggars Banquet,” the third in a series of quarterly culinary-themed events scheduled at 6 p.m. this Wednesday at the award-winning Royal Hawaiian restaurant.

  • The Rolling Stones
  • The second course of Wednesday's "Beggars Banquet" features oysters Casino-Fella, featuring roasted Pacific oysters topped in apple-wood-smoked pork belly, sake-braised spinach and bearnaise sauce.
  • Jon Matsubara eighty-sixed a promising law career for the allure of a chef's life.
  • Start Me Up
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“It should be fun,” says Chef de Cuisine Jon Matsubara, who collaborated on the four-course food-and-cocktail pairing with master mixologist Joey Gottesman.

“At cocktail pairings, there’s a lot of interaction, and Joey, he’s a master mixologist, but he’s also a comedian. So when he takes the helm and he describes his drink and he talks about The Rolling Stones, he’s very entertaining, and that takes care of half the dinner experience,” Matsubara adds. “It’s different from wine dinners, which are ‘been there, done that already’; it’s something inspiring to do and different from the daily norm.”

Straight from the 1981 album Tattoo You is a first course ready to Start Me Up: Roasted Kona lobster slathered in green garlic butter and Parmesan and served over a bed of Hamakua Springs tomatoes, tarragon and fresh mozzarella. The dish is paired with a Sage and Honey cocktail, a fresh blend of lemon, blueberries, sage, Hawaiian honey and Bombay Sapphire.

“It’s very light, but it’s very luxurious, very simple and elegant,” Matsubara says. “I wanted to start with a bang.”

The second set is an Oysters Casino-Fella inspired by the song Casino Boogie from 1972’s Exile on Main Street, along with a Spiced Yuzu and Chiso Martini made from TY KU soju, yuzu, serrano chili and garden-sourced chiso leaves.

“I wanted to do a cross between a Clams Casino and an Oysters Rockefeller,” the chef explains of his modern take of two perennial classics. This version takes roasted Pacific oysters and tops them with applewood-smoked pork belly, sake-braised spinach and bearnaise sauce.

For the main course, Matsubara pays homage to two smash songs from 1965 — Little Red Rooster (The Rolling Stones Now) and Get Off of My Cloud (December’s Children (and everybody’s)). A Shelton Farms chicken is braised in red wine and brandy and sits atop a “cloud” of whipped Yukon gold potatoes with Italian black truffle. The Coq Au Van is paired with an elixir of Gentleman Jack, kiawe-smoked Fiji apple, sweet vermouth and bitters.

Closing the show is a Waialua chocolate dessert sure to give diners Sticky Fingers (1971).

“We’re basically making a little cake, putting a little ganache on it and stuffing it with a ruby chocolate filling and sprinkling it with macadamia nuts,” Matsubara says.

“We use the best ingredients and do very little to it to really bring out the natural flavors of the food and the drinks, and it really makes a difference.”

The “Beggar’s Banquet” dinner-and-cocktail meal costs $99 per person and is sure to leave diners singing in satisfaction.

On the Side

At Azure Restaurant, it is clear that the meal is as much about the all-around dining experience as it is about the food.

“For me, the restaurant is not only about the food, the restaurant is not only about the service, the restaurant is about the experience, so what kind of experience can you create,” says Chef de Cuisine Jon Matsubara. “I think everyone has a memory of kickin’ back with some great friends, listening to tunes, eating great food and having really good wine or really good drinks and just enjoying themselves. And it’s a combination of all those different experiences that create the whole.

“I think you remember something like that just as much, if not more.” Listening to the passion with which he speaks, it’s hard to imagine the award-winning chef even considered doing anything else with his life. However, Matsubara, who has worked at acclaimed restaurants Roy’s, Canoe House, Restaurant Jean Georges, Tabla, Bouley, Alan Wong’s and Stage, originally had no intention of going into the culinary arts.

“I was in law school, and I was in Civ Pro one day and this guy next to me was called upon and was reading the case study, and I was just looking at him thinking, ‘Wow, how come this guy is so excited? Did we read the same thing, ‘cuz I read it and it wasn’t that interesting.’ And it was then that I realized that, you know, I can never be successful in this genre because how can I compete against someone who’s so passionate about it,” he confesses.

Shortly after his realization Matsubara found himself in a restaurant kitchen in San Francisco.

“From that moment on I was hooked,” he says with a laugh. “There was kitchen language I didn’t understand — 86 all day, all this kind of things — and they had fish all in rosemary and oil and they were grilling and they were moving and they were yelling … There was a feeling like, this is exactly what I want to do with the rest of my life. And I just followed my heart. From there, I knew I wanted to create these experiences and be a part of having fun.”

Today Matsubara displays his talents each night with a menu centered around freshness, quality and, above all else, the experience.

“Cooking should be fun,” he says. “Food is so dynamic, it can never get boring because you can always re-create something, you can always put your own twist, and it’s always evolving.”

Diners can choose between a traditional a la carte menu, which features the best of the day’s fresh-caught fish and wide selection of sides, or a five-course tasting menu that can be paired with wines hand-selected by Azure’s in-house sommeliers ($69 per person, $89 with wine pairing).

Reservations may be made after 4 p.m. daily, with the latest reservation available at 8:45. Seating stops at 9.

Azure Restaurant

  • Where
    • The Royal Hawaiian
    • 2259 Kalakaua Avenue
    • Honolulu, HI 96815
  • Call
    • (808) 923-7311
  • Hours
    • Open daily from 5:30 p.m.
  • Website
  • Notes
    • Valet and four-hour complimentary self-parking available.

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