Consistency is a difficult characteristic to find in a restaurant and that’s why we love Azurea at One Ocean Resort. This restaurant stands out as one of the few consistently delicious restaurants in the area. We’re confident that we can visit Azurea on any given night and receive high-quality, fresh food, which is served in a creative manner. This is the kind of restaurant you take your parents or wife for a special occasion because you know it’s going to be good. That’s why there’s such a toss-up between Azurea and Bistro Aix for the top spot on our list of the best restaurants in Jacksonville. Bistro Aix has a lot of great qualities. However, when it comes to true fine dining, Azurea is clearly the best in Jacksonville. If you’re looking for a prix fixe menu with the best local ingredients in an oceanside setting then Azurea is the place to go.
We recently visited Azurea on a Tuesday and had a great experience sampling the dishes on the new fall harvest menu. The full menu is available in pdf form on the One Ocean Resort website. Some of our favorites, like the the Cast Iron Seared Jumbo Blue Crab Cake ($16) have remained on the menu. This delicious morsel is our pick for the best appetizer in Jacksonville and we’re glad it stayed. However, there are numerous new items on the menu, most of which have a distinctly seasonal feel.
We believe the best way to try the new menu is by ordering The Adventurous Palate prix fixe tasting. This menu is excluded on Friday and Saturday and permits the chef “to take you on an artistic journey” through the best items on the menu. Lots of prix fixe menus limit diners by requiring them to choose from a few, oftentimes undesireable options. Not at Azurea. The Adventurous Palate allows the chefs to take the reigns to provide the best dining experience possible. On our last visit, we tried the seven-course meal with wine pairings ($95 for food and $40 for pairings per person). There’s also a five-course meal available for $75 and an additional $25 if you want wine pairings.
Chef Nate Lindsay was in attendance for our meal and he provided a brilliant mixture of fresh fish and wild game that left us fully satisfied. Our best description of the meal: it was like a modern take on the best Thanksgiving dinner you’ve ever had. Without further adieu, let’s talk about the food.
The meal started with a light ceviche with mango and cilantro. This wasn’t our favorite dish of the night, mainly because we don’t typically enjoy cilantro. However, the fish and fruit was very fresh and it made for a nice palate cleanser for the delicious food to come.
Also worthy of mentioning was the candied pecan and goat cheese flat bread crisp that came at the start of the meal. This paired well with the berry compote spread, which was presented along with other dipping options. The crisp was delicious and definitely one to try.
Course #1: Roasted Beet and Sweet Grass Dairy Goat Cheese Salad ($10 *prices in bold are a-la-carte)
The first course of the meal provided an excellent example of why Azurea is so good. The ingredients in this dish were extremely fresh and it made a noticeable difference in taste. The goat cheese in this appetizer comes from Sweet Grass Dairy, located in nearby Thomasville, GA. This goat cheese mousse was the smoothest we’ve ever tried, and it had a consistency similar to that of whipped cream. Beets were used as a shell for the cheese and baby arugula was placed in the middle. Walnut vinaigrette was used for the dressing to produce a refreshing beginning to the meal.
Course #2: Pacific Ahi Tuna Carpaccio ($14)
Chef Nate and Peters’ creativity showed forth in this dish, which is best described as a carpaccio/sushi roll hybrid. The outside of this appetizer consists of a thin layer of ahi tuna wrapped around large pieces of lumb Blue Crab meat. Also inside the roll is mango, Thai basil, chilled sesame citrus nage, and piquillo peppers.
The presentation of this dish was also noteworthy. The plates were brought to the table French-style with silver dome plate covers. Depth was added to the appearance of the plating with a base dish and folded napkin in-between the bowl. It was clear that some thought went into the presentation of this dish and it was well-executed. This appetizer was likely the best carpaccio we’ve ever had.
Course #3: Grilled Georgian Bob White Quail ($14)
Here’s where the meal really started to kick into gear. This small dish was the best of the night because it was unique and reminded us of Thanksgiving meals of years past. We’re new to quail but enjoyed it thoroughly. The bird itself was similar to a cornish hen but with more flavor. Chef Nate educated us on the dish and admitted that it was one of his personal favorites. The tastes of cinnamon and other familiar fall flavors broke through in this appetizer and we strongly recommend you give it a try.
Course #4: Atlantic Hog Snapper: ($25)
The snapper was fresh as always and delicious. This wasn’t one of the dishes that really stood out but it was a nice one to keep the meal going with something light. This entree from the “Simply Grilled” portion of the menu is paired with Everglades Hearts of Palm and Citrus Ceviche. Mushroom risotto were also served on the side.
An intermezzo or food “intermission” marked the halfway point of the meal. This break in the action consisted of a delicious palate cleanser of mango and lychee sorbet with candied ginger.
Course #5: Eden Farms Roast of Pork Tenderloin ($26)
As seen in the slideshow below, the Eden Farms pork was creatively presented on an “L” shaped plate. The large tenderloin stood at the base of the L and the Nueske’s Smoked Bacon Lentil Cassoulet was spread out down the length of the L. The pork was wrapped in bacon and stuffed with sausage. This created a powerful taste, which was somewhat salty but expected from such a pork dish. The meat was tender and, of course, very fresh (notice a theme here?).
Course #6: Maple Farms Duck Duo ($28)
The final dish before dessert was another one of the highlights of the night. The plate came with a generous portion of duck breast that was glazed with a brown sauce. Alongside, there was a crimini mushroom spoon bread that will please the mushroom lovers at the table. The dish was completed with a smoked duck spanakopita, which was similar to corn bread or a dense stuffing. The spanakopita was another creative way that Chefs Lindsay and Peters invoked the flavors of the fall season in a creative way.
Course #7: Dessert trio: Banana and Caramel Creme Brulee, Key Lime Creation, and Sweet Potato Pie
The first dessert was a creamy creme brule, which was crispy on top and delicious. The carmelized bananas on the rim were a highlight. The key lime that came next was an interesting take on key lime pie. The consistency of the key lime dish was comparable to a firm gelatin. The final dessert was a classic sweet potato pie and our favorite of the three. The pie was slightly sweet and had a crisp crust.
As you can see, this was truly a feast of epic proportions. Fall flavors were prevalent throughout the meal and the dishes were well-executed and delicious. The fall menu at Azurea is truly a must-try for the fall season. Thanks to Chef Nate, Assistant Manager Joe, and our waiter Josh for a fantastic meal with outstanding service.
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