Capturing Hearts With Valentine’s Day Dinner

Cover Story Features

February 3, 2013

Story By: Kyle Galdeira |

As it continues to live up to its reputation as the ultimate special occasion restaurant, Azure Restaurant at The Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort, serves as the ideal destination for celebrating Valentine’s Day Feb. 14.

With the iconic pink palace and picturesque view of Diamond Head serving as backdrops and gentle breezes passing through the open-air setting, diners take in the sights and sounds emanating from the glittering ocean and golden sands of Waikiki Beach while enjoying a host of tantalizing creations prepared by executive chef Jon Matsubara. Visitors from around the world continue to flock to the renowned locale, and local residents are encouraged to make the short trip into Waikiki to enjoy the flavorful foray.

“When you come to eat here, you’re sitting in King Kamehameha’s kapu vacation spot, which he cherry-picked back in the day,” explains Matsubara. “You can just sit and relax, and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells. You can’t beat the overall ambiance, especially if the sun is setting and you’re with your loved one, there’s so much to look forward to. We also offer impeccable service to complete the experience.”

Matsubara crafted the special four-course Valentine’s Day menu ($125 per person, $160 with wine pairing) and coupled the offerings with wines selected by general manager and sommelier Mike Swerdloff with the goal of presenting “really good food and special items” that complement the luxurious setting. Diners start the evening with Chilled Hamachi served with marinated ikura opal shiso, Japanese horseradish and yuzu, and may pair the appetizer with Taittinger la Francaise champagne. The appetizer is followed by Tiger Prawns served alongside Hamakua Springs tomato, fresh mozzarella, sea beans, Nashi pear and Japanese pickled plum.

“The starters offer very familiar flavors, but with a different presentation and a new take on some of the flavor profiles,” Matsubara explains. “We grill the prawns with a garlic marinade and top them with a white wine and butter sauce.”

Photos courtesy of Azure Restaurant

The entree course allows diners the option of selecting from one of three tantalizing dishes. The Grilled Prime Rib Steak is served with smoked bacon and sweet corn, Japanese horseradish and creme fraiche potatoes along with a sauce Bordelaise, and is paired with L’aventure Optimus 2010. Those craving seafood are invited to reel in Kona Lobster Linguine with a spiced and roasted lobster sauce, brandy and saffron Thai basil, abalone mushrooms, baby spinach and marinated tomato, which pairs with Qupe Bien Nacido Cuvee 2010. Hawaiian Fresh Fish with Chinese flowering cabbage, Hamakua Coast shiitake mushrooms, Alaskan crab potatoes and an aromatic bouillabaisse rounds out the main course selections, and is paired with JJ Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese 2007.

“When people go out, we want to offer something for everybody to enjoy,” says Matsubara when describing the vast array of flavors presented in the entree course. “One of my favorite dishes is the lobster linguine. The flavors are so good that I wanted to showcase it for Valentine’s Day. You can’t go wrong with the steak, and we also offer something lighter with the fresh fish.”

And, to complete the evening, the Valentine’s Day feast is capped with a trio of delectable desserts. The sweet sensations include: Mini Pavlovas with Tahitian vanilla-infused whipped cream, marinated Kula strawberries and strawberry sorbet; Waialua Estate chocolate mousse dome with crushed Chambord-marinated raspberries; and Lilikoi Chocolate Tart with passion fruit pearls. The final course is paired with Peter Lehmann Botrytis Semillon 2010.

“Azure is a special event restaurant, and this Valentine’s Day menu was created to satisfy the local palate — it’s not complicated, but it’s well-executed food that I really like to eat, and local customers will enjoy,” Matsubara says.

Guests are encouraged to reserve their tables for the special Valentine’s Day experience as soon as possible, as the event will undoubtedly sell out.

In addition to the special Valentine’s Day menu, Matsubara dazzles guests at Azure Restaurant with his culinary wizardry on a nightly basis. The acclaimed chef has crafted a menu that features local flavors and ingredients while also incorporating The Royal Hawaiian and Starwood Hotels & Resorts’ mission of incorporating sustainable practices.

The dinner menu includes savory seafood selections, such as Smoked Swordfish poached in aromatic duck fat and served with Kahuku Sea Asparagus and Hamakua Tomato ($36) and Kona Lobster ($20), which is paired with Big Island avocado and sauce carotene.

Diners also may delve into other chef-recommended entrees, including Crispy Breast of Duck ($36) served with a taro brandy puree, duck fat-charred Brussels sprouts and a port wine gastrique, and Hawaii Ranchers Butter Poached Filet & Foie Gras ($29), which is served alongside Hamakua mushrooms and a black truffle Madeira sauce.

“We’re right on the beach, and you are able to watch Waikiki unfold before you,” says Swerdloff. “It’s very romantic, and as beautiful a setting as you can get when the sun is setting. The atmosphere allows you to relax at the end of the day.”

Customers are encouraged to take advantage of free validated valet parking at the Royal Hawaiian while dining at Azure.

Azure Restaurant

The Royal Hawaiian
A Luxury Collection Resort
2259 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu
Open daily, 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Honolulu, HI 96815

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Hawaii's Best