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Seasonal produce featured at Azul

Chef Orion Balliet of Azul La Jolla lists all the ingredients that are at their peak every month - and he features them on his menu. Talk about taking advantage of the best and freshest items in the market!

But it’s not just what he uses that sets chef Balliet apart, it’s the way he assembles the ingredients to make memorable dishes. For example, for pumpkin and squash season, he created a pumpkin cheesecake and used toasted pumpkin seeds in his roasted butternut squash and caramelized apple soup. The results are spectacular, so if you can still find them on the menu during your next visit, be sure to give them both a try.

The same theory applies to his use of seafood, meat and poultry. Since local spiny lobster was at its best in October, chef Balliet created a spiny lobster etoufee and served it over roasted pepper basmati rice. Cranberries and quince got the same special treatment on the October menu, as did Muscovy duckling, Iowa pork and Queensland lamb.

We started our dinner with baked Humboldt fog in thousand layer pastry ($14), and it was divine. The cheese was soft, the pastry paper thin, and the Grand Marnier soaked golden raisins, candied walnuts and 25-year balsamic reduction was the frosting on the cake. What an appetizer.

The caramelized quince and walnut salad was another spectacular homage to the season. It featured young lettuces, gorgonzola cheese and raspberry vinaigrette ($12).

The entree selections include a wonderful mix of seafood, pork and poultry. We loved the champagne scampi-style prawns ($30). The prawns were served over angel hair pasta with heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic and caper berries.

You never tasted a more succulent pork dish than the hickory smoked pork tenderloin ($29) at Azul. The full-bodied flavor of the pork is complemented by sweet potato-apple bread pudding and promegranate molasses. Brown butter brussel sprouts and onion hash complete this fabulous dish.

The chef is justifiably proud of his Muscovy duckling with pistachio confit quinoa, truffled spaghetti squash and cranberry reduction ($30), and vegetarians will adore the autumn grilled vegetable risotto ($27). It celebrates autumn with grilled Portobello, eggplant, summer squash, heirloom tomatoes and caramelized onions and peppers.

The ocean-view restaurant boasts spectacular vistas of La Jolla Cove from just about every table - and you can really appreciate the views during lunch. Azul offers lunch from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

The most exciting lunch deal is the lunch buffet (served until 2:30 p.m.). For $17, you get an assortment of breads and spreads (including Azul’s tasty roasted red bell pepper hummus, tapenade, and truffled crab and artichoke dip,) along with an assortment of wonderful salads, tapas and hot dishes. The chef even includes a light dessert and fresh fruit with your buffet.

The restaurant has a spacious and striking interior to match the drop-dead gorgeous views from the picture windows. Service is as outstanding as the fare, and you’ll be impressed with the wine list.

The chef calls his cuisine “California fusion.” But whatever you call it, Azul is the perfect spot for a leisurely dinner or an exciting lunch - and you really can’t beat the panoramic views from the restaurant.

Azul is located at 1250 Prospect St. For more information contact them at (858)454-9616.