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Westin La Paloma’s Azul

November 20, 2009

China Blue Martini

So tonight was the big grand opening of the new Azul Restaurant Lounge in the lobby of the Westin La Paloma.

I was looking forward to checking them out, so Kristine & I set out to see what they had going on. The invitation said that we could expect, “…a contemporary, upscale cocktail and dining experience surrounded by dramatic blue lighting, deep lounge music, and the truly instinctive, personal service you have come to expect.”

Cool, yo. It sounded hip and swanky – kinda like me (ok, not so much). I like the Westin La Paloma, and so I was thinking it was going to be good time.

Now here’s the disclaimer. I was a little cranky with a few things when we were getting ready to leave, but it all worked out and there was a happy ending. Just bear with me.

Kristine started off with her favorite microbrew (ok, it was really a Bud Light, but she’s too sweet to hold that against her), and I ordered the China Blue Martini, thinking that I would keep to the blue theme. The martini was Beefeater gin, St. Germain ginger liqueur (who knew they make a ginger liqueur??), blue curacao, and candied ginger in place of the olive. It was served in an individual cocktail shaker, and overall was tasty – a little on the sweet side, but I was expecting that.

Calamari and Zucchini Galettes

We ordered two of the 50% off appetizers (check their website for some good specials the pan-seared zucchini galette (homemade zucchini cakes, pine nuts, feta, tomato, and cherry pepper salad, with tzatziki and lemon) and the calamari fritto (tomatoes, roasted garlic, parsley finished with white balsamic honey reduction with spicy cherry pepper sauce). Kris enjoyed the zucchini, and I thought it was fine (don’t tell anyone, but I’m not a huge fan of feta, so I knew it wasn’t going to be my favorite thing ever). Calamari is something like our litmus test, though. We have it pretty much anywhere new that we go, so we opted for that here. I thought the flavor of the sauce was good, although not quite what I was expecting from the description. The texture of the breading was a little gooey, which I could see with it being in a reduced sauce, but the squid itself was rubbery. Kristine didn’t think it was as overdone as I did, but I stand by it being too chewy.

About me being cranky – all the servers appeared to be women, and they were all wearing black cocktail dresses. There were quite a few who were circulating around the tables with drink samples and what looked like raffle tickets. They skipped over us every single time they came around. It was like we weren’t even there. My pet peeve as far as service goes is being ignored, and we were totally being ignored – which was hard, considering that we were sitting in the exact middle of the lounge. Grrr.

As we were getting ready to head out, Bill, the general manager, came over to us and asked what we thought. I’m pretty sure our friends from Many Hats sent him our way, since he referred to me as ‘that food guy’.*

I told him that I had mixed feelings about things and explained why. It turns out that the young women who were ignoring us actually work for one of the alcohol companies and not Azul or Westin. It’s too bad that they were wearing basically the same thing as the waitstaff, because it tainted our feelings towards the actual Azul servers (who were doing a fine job). They needed a logo or something to set them apart…

Final thoughts: when we got there, we didn’t get the whole blue lighting thing. As it got a little darker, though, the effect was a lot better. The ‘deep lounge music’ was cool – sort of thumping bass and the occasional horn. And stuff. Look, I’m not a music guy – I’m a food guy.

I’m really happy that Bill came over to chat with us. If he hadn’t we would have left unhappy instead of walking away with a generally positive experience as far as Azul goes. I think we may have just had an unfortunate batch of the squid, and I’m pretty sure we’ll give them another shot. Or two.

If we’re hip and trendy enough, that is.

* I’ll admit it. I kinda liked being pointed out as ‘that food guy’.

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